How to kill a care home

After years of working for others in social work, I sought to be on my own. I thought I could by running a home for mental patients. It would be for mental (not retarded) patients – men in their 20s and 30s, and it would be monitored by a county mental health dept. (the kiss of death).

I rented a home, furnished it, and called county agencies to get it licensed. In the rush away from anything ‘institutional’, social workers stressed making everything ‘homelike’. Dishes had to match; dining room chairs had to match, etc. No mention was made of what patients would do.

The county sent patients with the barest details, though required to provide a full report. I had to go through hard times to learn what was common knowledge. What I learned was vital, yet ther­apists and others were not interested. I sent my notes to them and called. After talking a while, they began to see the value of the information. Did they follow up? No. 

These frustrations outside the home made me determined to run things properly inside the home. I was gung-ho and . . . naive. I insisted the patients handle their hygiene, chores, and manners, and go to some sort of day program. The patients met these with lip service, minimum cooperation, and resent­ment. Responsibility was the last thing they wanted.

I held meetings about these matters as well as which of them was making noise at night, botching the dish washing, missing appointments, tying up the bathroom, etc. Everything was resolved, everything fine; next day, same nonsense.

There was no purpose having a home without these meetings; but some patients didn’t like them, rules, nor authority. They complained to their social workers, who believed whatever they said, and came right out to protest. They tore down meetings, rules, etc., but had no alternatives. They were good with theories, but had nothing for practical matters chores, part time work, manners, getting people up after l2 hours in bed, etc.

Enter one resident who would not complain to social workers, because he rarely talked. He would not cooperate on simple matters. I cut his cigarettes down ? no cooperation. I cut them further ? still the same. I cut them off! He collected bottles for money and later got his first job in l2 years. Everyone was amazed. He went on to get other jobs. Much later he told me in the nine years he had been in the system, I was the only one to crack the whip. (You live to hear such things.)

County social workers taught patients arts and crafts when patients didn’t know household chores. They tried to recruit patients for college – extremely naive. They took the side of the patients in all matters, including assault, cheating, and swindling. They gave classes on how to run a home (though none had). (The classes had nothing on paper.) They didn’t get my patients the right pills l2% of the time, which caused serious problems, one of which was a patient putting himself and his mother in the hospital.

One patient had never gotten an artifi­cial leg replaced. I made a few calls and it was done ? one of the few good moments.

Another patient drove a stolen car without a license, landing in jail. The judge let him off because he was a mental case. His doctor sought to put him on a more restric­tive status. A jury trial over this was narrowly averted, and he was on the new status. What did it mean? Nothing. So why was he entitled to a jury trial? !

Much later he assaulted me over money matters. The police said not to press charges as the judge wouldn’t look at a mental case. A social worker twisted this, saying the patient ‘had to get the police to get his money’.

Matters were going downhill fast. I had accomplished a lot, but credit wasn’t given. Instead social workers picked away at rules, meet­ings, turnover, and using powdered milk. Without a hint they stopped sending patients and my business died on the vine.

All this was similar to what social workers did to Roloff’s Homes (seen three times on 60 Minutes). The homes didn’t want a state license nor the meddling by social workers. The homes were some of the best in the country. They were doing the government’s job, doing it better, and without government money. Yet government bureaucrats fought the homes 13 years, jailing Brother Roloff twice.

It is easy to get into this type of work and run a home which only warehouses people. But if one has traditional values wants to help people, this is not the place. Incompetent and idealistic, government social workers tie your hands, which allows patients to abuse each other, you, and your staff. It’s one of the worst ways to make a living. Like the other jobs I had in social work, there is more dignity in pumping gas.