I remember my Great Aunt Bessie. She was in a nursing home that was a Victorian home in Connecticut and it was shared by 4 ladies who each had their own room and a 24-hour a day nurse. It was not that expensive either. The focus of this home was the residents and their safety and their quality of life. My Aunt Bessie lived out her later years with relative peace and happiness. These women formed bonds of friendship too and that was a comfort to all. It was truly a joy to visit her.
I talked to a nurse that I know who worked in a nursing home when she was a teenager that was similar. The priority was the care and happiness of the residents and it was small so that attention could be given where and when it was needed.
My Grandmother-in-law lived in a nursing home in Maine about the same time and from what my husband tells me, it was not a bad place. The pictures show a warmly lit yellow room and my husband’s grandmother smiling contentedly.
So, what happened? I am sure that there were cases of neglect and even abuse back then but I think they were less prevalent and dealt with more quickly and thoroughly. But like this?
There are probably several reasons for this downward spiral. For example, the increase in cases of senility in all its life-robbing forms makes quality care more challenging, but doable, I need to add. There are more elderly people now as the baby-boomers age and face the results of pollution, unhealthy living, and stress and their ravages on our health. But really, I think something else is the main culprit in this loss of our humanity on all fronts not just with the elderly. “Cancerous materialism.” is the bottom line in my mind. In this day our society so often chooses the dollar over the human being. In fact, the human being is used for profit. Look at our prison system, our educational system and so many other systems that are set up to create more wealth for the wealthy and the first people that get used and abused in these systems are the vulnerable populations. The children, the ill, the culturally and racially diverse, and the elders of our land. This is just wrong. Plain and simply wrong. There is a soul sickness in our country that denies our humanity, our spirits, our souls as surely as if we were drinking poison. I think it is the fact that all of this is done without the awareness of the majority of good and decent people. We trust those that have not earned our trust.
How can we revolutionize this situation? Several insurance companies in the US are trying to improve the quality of life for their insured. Here where I live there is a program called Choices and it was what got me home. It provided the choice of a nursing home, group home (I hope they are like the one Aunt Bessie lived in), or home health. The fact is that doctors are usually the ones that decide what someone needs and where to get those needs met without being informed as to what other options are available. Who better to decide between those many options than the person or their family? I think what is required is to be found at the grassroots especially in the family which, unfortunately, puts even more burden during a time of stress but in the long run will be so much less stressful knowing that the highest level of quality of life has been achieved for their loved one. Often we are in the hospital when we are told that we or our loved one needs more care and a 24-hour nursing facility. They usually assign a social worker to find that facility and they are hurried because of insurance companies threatening to stop payment if the bed is not emptied. I recommend that families take on the task of finding a place but to do so with care not to ruffle the feathers of hospital administration. It can be done while they are looking if you insist on having the final say so that while they are looking, you are too. Then you can suggest that they take a look at the one you found.
What it comes down to, often is that we have to take certain things into our own hands nowadays and really we are beginning to. For example, home births, home deaths, natural healing, etc. We are empowering ourselves to make the choices that we are capable of making for ourselves and our loved ones.
Disclaimer - I am in no way advocating any choices that have to do with a life-threatening illness or an emergency situation. Always listening to our doctors is important and necessary but we have to know the boundaries of our realm of choices.