Saturday, September 09, 2006

99 Guest speaker on Nursing Homes

My friend Patty, who lost her dad to AD this year, asked me to post this. Please visit her site and her blog as well.


How do we address the care of our elders, before they die but after they've lost their independence?

One things for certain, we'll all have close personal knowledge at some point with death. We'll experience it in as many different ways as there are people on the planet. But before death comes, many of us will be cared for in nursing homes as our elders are today. What is that like? How little we know and how much we need to learn - now! - while we have the time and the opportunity to get it right! For instance, how many of us can answer the following questions?

  • How does it feel to not sleep beside your spouse?
  • How does it feel to be unable to communicate your needs?
  • How does it feel to be dressed and undressed by a stranger?
  • How does it feel to be fed, not when you're hungry, but when it's "time"?
  • How does it feel to be fed what you don't like to eat?
  • How does it feel to not drink when you're thirsty?
  • How does it feel to be really thirsty, offered water through a straw you don't remember how to use, and have the water taken away because you're"not thirsty"?
  • How does it feel to need to use the bathroom but have to use a diaper?
  • How does it feel to wait for a stranger to come in and change your soiled diaper?
  • How does it feel when you have to wait for hours?
  • How does it feel to wait overnight?
  • How does it feel to holler for help and be ignored?
  • How does it feel when you can't bathe yourself but have to wait for your twice weekly bath by a stranger?
  • How does it feel to want to hug your child but you can't move.
  • How does it feel to cry and be ignored?
  • How does it feel to be hollered at to believe in Jesus when you're Jewish?
  • How does it feel to be cold and not pull your blanket up but instead have to wait for someone to notice, in the middle of the night?
  • How does it feel to be placed in a wheelchair for hours in a room full of strangers in wheelchairs with no music, no sound other than the CNA talking on her cell phone?
  • How does it feel to never go outside in the fresh air and sunshine?
  • How does it feel to know you won't get past the front door until you die?
  • How does it feel to be talked about as if you weren't in the room?
  • How does it feel to know you're spending down your life's savings to pay for this care?
  • How does it feel to not get your teeth brushed for weeks?
  • How does it feel to have your skin tear when you're pulled?
  • How does it feel to not move and develop bed sores?
  • How does it feel to not have them heal because you're only bathed twice a week?
  • How does it feel to have them spread?
  • How does it feel for your children to not see them because they're on your bottom, under your diaper, under your clothes?
  • How does it feel to hear the nursing home won't install web cams because they want to protect the privacy of their employees?
  • How does it feel to be old, incontinent, with Alzheimer's, in a nursing home in America?

These are all ordinary, everyday situations that our parents in nursing homes all over our country face on a daily basis. Don't believe me? Ask around - you'll hear the same heartbreaking stories coming from all over the United States. Ask your legislators if they know what's going on. And if they're shocked ask them if they would dare do something about it.


I have an idea but I need 12 brave legislators to take a leave of absence from their posts for one week. Preferably the ones who have campaigned as strong advocates for the elderly. And since Florida leads the country in aging, that would be a great place to "host" this event.
I propose they take up residence on one floor of a hotel, set up to follow ordinary nursing home procedure. This will be there "pod." Theyagree to be diapered, and unable to walk, bathe or feed themselves for one week. They rely soley on one statistically-average aide - no education other than CNA certification, unverified background check, questionable documentation, no
experience - to do all of their care. This aide will make only $8 per hour. There will be one aide only - reflective of the acceptable staffing ratio in most nursing homes - 1 CNA to provide ALL the care for 12 residents.
These "residents" must not talk, they must not move, they must not read, they must not verbally or physically communicate, they must not do anything but lie there. They can moan, they can cry out, they can grab the hand of someone walking by, but they can't articulate their needs, no matter how dire.
They can't propel their own wheelchairs, they can't lift themselves up, they can't roll over in bed, they can't get water when they're thirsty, they can't get aspirin when they have a headache, they can't use the phone, they can't go outside in the sunshine and fresh air, they can't do anything for themselves. They can do absolutely nothing.
They have to exist as the patients of nursing homes exist, entirely dependent upon others for their care.
When the week is over, we'll have the information we need to address the nursing home system as it exists today. Maybe it will be great, maybe it will be awful but either way these 12 elected officials will know first hand what they're legislating about, care of the elderly. If everything is fine, we won't have to change a thing. If everything needs to be overhauled, these brave 12 can lead the way for the rest of us who just don't know what it is we're in for.
I believe that experience will change the laws in the state of Florida within one week. And if this one-week experiment is conducted nation wide, it will transform the way we care for our elderly.
The men and women who swear to lead us, to govern us, to protect us, should know first hand that the golden years have turned to lead in our country. The men and women who campaign tirelessly to attain their elected office should be willing to give us this one week, just seven days, to see firsthand how shamefully the nursing home system, as it's structured today, is failing our elders.
Without that knowledge, how can they honestly say they know of what they legislate? WITH that knowledge, they'll have the power to pass the most sweeping legislation in our history.
Our mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, ARE these elderly people. For once and for all, 12 legislators can transform this haywire nursing home industry by participating in this challenge. All they'll have to do is nothing. When has it ever been possible to accomplish so much by daring to do nothing.
Thank you for your consideration.
Patty Doherty
PS. Oh, and one more thing, these 12 legislators will have to pay $1500 each for their care - the average cost of one week of average care in an average nursing home for an average Alzheimer's resident.

Here's my idea, Patty. I'm going to write to the producers of 30 Days and see if THEY will take this challenge.


Marilyn said...

If there was anyone that would do it, they would certainly get my vote! Your points are very powerful and any of us that have even visited in any sort of facility don't have to look far to see the reality of your words.

Paula Martinac said...

Thank you for this post. The questions are very powerful - and very familiar, as my dad is currently in a nursing facility. And the "Dare" is brilliant. But it seems as likely to find 12 legislators to take the dare as to find 12 legislators willing to send their own sons and daughters to Iraq.

Anonymous said...

Well, your points are very valid. I not only experienced this with my grandfather, but I work for a Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center as a Marketer. Not all centers are as you describe. Advice I can give to anyone is to tour unexpectedly, visit unannounced and know before you go. Do your homework. Ask questions. If the person you are speaking to has no clue or shows no compassion or desire to listen to your story....get up and walk out. This industry is a PASSION industry. It's not 9-5. You really have to LOVE your job. In the centers I am responsible for I tell my teams, "our patients don't live where we work, we work in there home". Show respect and dignity, speak softly, smile and talk to them whether they know it or not. Some us love to take care of the elderly as if they were our family.