4 Instances of Nursing Home Abuse In Happy Gilmore

happy gilmore nursing home abuse

Nursing home residents have the same rights and freedoms as anyone else. Yet, the institutional setting they live within combined with the disabilities that placed them in the institution can result in a loss of dignity and the absence of proper care. In 1987 Congress enacted the Nursing Home Reform Law which acts as the underlying policy nursing home rights.

Despite reform, nursing home abuse still occurs in Louisiana. In fact, 97.5% of Louisiana nursing homes were found to have health inspection deficiencies and 90% of nursing homes were insufficiently staffed. While nursing home abuse is no laughing matter, the 1996 golf comedy, Happy Gilmore, does lightheartedly touch on nursing home abuse. Today we’re taking a look at the abuse that occurs in the movie and what Louisiana nursing home residents should know about their rights.

The Nursing Home In Happy Gilmore Isn’t So Happy

For those of you who haven’t seen Happy Gilmore in some time or have never seen the movie, Happy starts playing golf to save his grandmother’s home which is facing seizure from the IRS because of a large sum of unpaid back taxes. Grandma Gilmore is temporarily forced to move into a retirement home until Happy can come up with the $270,000 owed.

From the very minute Happy and his grandma drive up to the nursing home you can tell something is off, but as the movie progresses four instances of nursing home abuse actually occur. The abuse is perpetrated by a sadistic orderly, Hal who’s played by Ben Stiller. The first instance of abuse occurs in Grandma Gilmore’s first interaction with Hal.

1) Nursing Homes Can’t Enforce Bedtimes


Shortly after Grandma Gilmore gets settled into her new room Hal enters the room to inform Happy that it is now resident nap time. Once Happy leaves Grandma Gilmore requests a glass of warm milk before bed to which Hal replies, “You can trouble me for a warm glass of shut the hell up! Now you will go to sleep or I will put you to sleep.”

In reality nursing home residents have the right to decide when they wake up and go to bed and Hal’s nursing home would be in the wrong for enforcing a nap time. Residents, not nursing home staff, get to determine their hours of sleep. The abuse continues as the movie progresses and things only get worse.

2) Nursing Homes Can’t Exploit Unpaid Labor


This should be glaringly obvious, but it’s illegal for nursing homes to use residents as slave labor. In another nursing home scene Hal uses his residents to make quilts during arts and crafts time which he then sells for a profit. When one of the residents refuses, Hal sends her off to maintain the lawn.

Assuming Hal wasn’t even using his residence for labor, he’d still be committing abuse just for making them do something they don’t want to do. Residents have the right to choose activities and determine how they spend their time. A nursing home cannot unwillingly force a resident into any activity.

3) Nursing Homes Can’t Invade Resident Privacy


Happy visits the nursing home on several occasions to check in on his grandma. In many of these occasions Hal is hovering over the two to make sure that Grandma Gilmore doesn’t say anything unfavorable about the nursing home.

Again, Hal has infringed upon nursing home resident rights. Residents have a right to privacy when family and friends visit. Nursing homes should have areas for residents to receive private visitors where no one can intrude. Additionally, these rights to privacy extend to all aspects of care including communication with others via telephone and email.

4) Nursing Homes Can’t Make Life Threats

Finally, nursing homes cannot make life threats. Moreover, no one can make life threats. Threats to take a life are illegal and can be a felony. In one particular scene when Happy visits, Hal appears in the distance using his hand to represent a gun, implying that he would kill Grandma Gilmore if she said anything about Hal’s abuse.

Nursing homes can’t make threats. In fact, residents should be free from reprisal in exercising any of their rights such as the freedom of speech. Residents have the right to be assertive and identify problems within the nursing home. Similarly, nursing homes have the duty to assist residents in both raising and responding to concerns.

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