The human cattle yards for aged care and dementia are playing on my mind again. As many of you know, my father in law has moved into another residential care facility because he now needs high care, one with a brand new private room (rare in high care in SA), in a brand new wing. This morning, after his first night there, he said they have locked me in prison. I tried to reassure him he was not in prison, and that we needed to move him because the other facility (which he also used to try to escape from, so must have felt like it was a prison) didn’t have an area with an available bed suited to his needs. I have so many questions of myself, and of humanity in the 21st century. Is this the best we can do for our loved ones? Why aren’t we prepared to make sacrifices for our loved ones any more? Is it because we have become far too selfish and needy of the trappings of a good life, or simply need the sense of self that comes from working outside of our families? The activities, the day room, the dining rooms, all full of people, who all seem to be suffering from what Martin Luther King calls a sense of nobodiness as they are herded together to allow facilities to work more efficiently, and to ensure the provision of better care as they say! Apart from the small private bedroom, these places are also set up for the masses, with minimal ability for individuality. I have just had a call to tell me he has had a fall as he tried to get up with out assistance. Another visit from the ambulance paramedics, as I am told doctors don’t treat aged care residents at that level, so another $300 bill, and no medicare rebate available for ambulance/paramedic call outs. He did (and will soon again) have private Ambulance cover, but that is another long story. The nurse told me Dad has a right to get up on his own, but that it is important we realise it is unsafe for him to do so. We already know this, as he has been having numerous falls each week for over three months. Even in high care (where we felt forced to move him) they still do not have enough staff to ensure his safety. I feel like going back to a recent blog. WTF WTF WTF are we doing, or rather not doing, for the elders in our own families and communities? Speaking out, writing about this, is all I can do to change this, even in any miniscule way. Send me your stories if you are up to it; perhaps by becoming a more united global voice together we can achieve more. Following my request on the More on PCC blog, I have had many blogging friends send me some amazing information and insights, so it seems there are many people working in isolation trying to bring about positive change (not exactly alone, but perhaps within one organisation or state) and bringing everyone together seems the right thing to do. It will strengthen our power and voice, as well as help us feel more engaged and less like we are trying to change this part of the world on our own. People working in these areas need to remember to human-ness of the clients in their care, and more importantly, the government and owners of these service providers need to loosen the purse strings to ensure there are more staff. As I see it, the staff need enormous pats on the back, as they are working under extreme stress with low staff levels and almost no medical support to back them up, and I want to publicly thank them for what they do.
The excerpt below is from Jane Sherwin, approximately the first third of an article she wrote about her own grandmother. It arrived in my Inbox today, and it seemed appropriate to publish this part of it, in light of what I have written about above.
“I’d like to tell you about two characters. The first had the following descriptions in her various files: arthritis, cataracts, congestive cardiac failure, periodic urinary tract infections, difficulty sleeping at times, needs a prompt to take medication, never owned a house, can’t drive and never has, hardly goes out, uses a wheelchair to lean on and push around at home, can’t get in and out of the shower over the bath, cannot shower herself, trips over her own feet, losing interest in cooking and eating, is not entirely safe with the gas stove, can’t hang out the washing, can only do light cleaning, can only stand for short periods without leaning on something. If asked what the probable lifestyle of this person would be, many professionals would advise medical procedures for the various bodily complaints, a day service for her social isolation, a respite service to give her family a break, an in-home support service for her personal care and that eventually she would need to move to a nursing home.
The second character lived through World War 2 and the Depression, raised six children, is a grandmother, great grandmother, senior citizen, is a lover of crochet, gardening, TV game shows and Canasta, voted Labor all her life, is the Patron of a large hockey club, plum pudding maker, and her grandchildren describe the delightful smell of Johnson’s baby powder around her and that she is wonderful to hug. Anyone asked to think about what would be a desirable lifestyle for this person is likely to say such things as that she would grow old in her own home, maintain her centrality in the family, maintain her roles, be surrounded by the comings and goings of family, be part of all important family rituals, be encouraged to do much for herself, be surrounded by the things that mean something to her, maintain her interests, keep healthy, maintain her connections to old friends even by phone and that she would have a reason to get out of bed each day.
Interestingly, these two identities are one person: my grandmother, known affectionately by her extended family and often by their friends as Nan.”
Sherwin, J. (2010) A person centred response: keeping Nan at the centre of her life. social JUSTICE. Brisbane: UnitingCare Centre for Social Justice. (5) 1, 8, 9.