The Tragic Death of H.R. McMaster Sr Highlights the Need for Better Elder Care

The father of former national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, died after a fall in a nursing facility in April.

As someone caring for an elderly parent, and also someone who has worked in the nursing field, this story enrages me on a level I can’t begin to voice.

To recap, back on April 13, former national security adviser H.R. McMaster got the heartbreaking news that his dad, H.R. McMaster Sr. had passed away.

The elder McMaster, a retired U.S. Army officer, was a resident at the Cathedral Village retirement community, in Philadelphia, PA. He died about 8 hours after apparently falling and hitting his head. The Philadelphia Medical Examiners office filed in their report that the man had died of “blunt impact head trauma.”

I’ve worked in nursing homes. I know you have to be very careful with the elderly residents. In many cases, that’s why their families put them in facilities such as Cathedral Village. They need to be monitored and cared for.

Someone failed to do their duty with Mr. McMaster. Somebody has to answer for it.

After an investigation was launched, charges were brought against 30-year old nurse, Christann Shyvin Gainey.

Surveillance video showed that Gainey failed to conduct a series of neurological evaluations of McMaster as required, the Pennsylvania attorney general's office said. Prosecutors say she falsified documents to make it appear she had.

Lazy. Corner-cutting. Irresponsible.

I’ll say this about the time I spent working in nursing homes: It was not for me. Many of those who work in these facilities are stretched out to the max. They’re overworked, sometimes they’re on their feet, constantly.

I’ve actually worked many 8-hour stretches without even an opportunity to stop for lunch.

The worst part, however, is seeing these people, some of them stuck in these facilities and almost forgotten, with only an occasional visitor, if any, and then thinking about who they were before the ravages of age overtook them.

The best part for me was listening to their stories, those who could still tell them. I lingered, because they wanted to talk. It didn’t seem right to rush through a particular service, whether it was changing their linens, bathing them, feeding them, or checking their vitals, then pop back out.

It got me in trouble a lot, actually. It’s why I decided against nursing and went into Psychology and counseling.

It’s also the reason that when my own dad was stricken with dementia and lost the use of his legs, that I had a violent reaction to a hospital resident’s suggestion that he be put in a facility.

It’s hard work, but my dad will spend his last days, however long that may be, at home, surrounded by his things and his family.

With all that in mind, I’m going to guess Ms. Gainey was trying to shorten her workload, a move that resulted in tragic consequences for the McMaster family, as well as Gainey, herself.

There needs to be oversight. In a case where there has been a fall like this, someone needs to check behind the nurse in charge of that patient, to assure everything that can be done has been done.

Based on what I’ve seen and experienced from the inside, as well as a host of similar stories to that of Mr. McMaster, care of the elderly needs to be more of a team effort, with 2 nurses or nursing assistants assigned to the same patients, per shift. Expecting one person to do all the checks, all the items of client services over the course of 8 hours, when they’ve got ten or more clients is too much. It leads to situations where something might be left out or somebody suffers.

Nursing care facilities also need to do more thorough background checks, and don’t be afraid to check those Facebook pages, to get a sense of who this person they’re considering hiring may be.

Character matters.

All of that means nothing to the McMaster family now, and I can only imagine the grief of knowing that they could have had more time with their dad, if only someone had done their job.

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You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.'"


You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not bear false witness, honor your father and mother.'"