Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Sad, Sad Truth

As usual, Ronni Bennett set me a-thinking. Her latest piece on elders and nursing homes left me in tears at first and now makes me angry as it is something that has grated on me for a very long time. According to her research, 90% of elders would do anything to avoid going in a nursing home. You can include me in that. Ronni covered very well the horrors and the isolation of the residents in such facilities. They call themselves nursing homes but that is pure misnomenclature. There is nothing homey about them. Most dogs are given better treatment than our elders and God forbid that one should be elderly and poor! We relegate our elders to places in which the caregivers are understaffed and underpaid.

I would rather drink hemlock than exist in most of the facilities available to elders for so-called care when they can no longer manage independent living which brings me to my point today. Over the past eight years since I left my marriage I have faced some very harsh realities and have formed some very strong opinions and thoughts as a result of my experiences. Two of the most important ones are these:

A very telling, sad truth about our society is how we care for our elders and our children. It demonstrates how much we respect our future and our past.

Living long is one is one thing; living long with dignity is another.

The workers in both the childcare and nursing home industries are grossly underpaid and over-worked. They don't have time to give their charges the necessary care and attention needed. The operators of such facilities decry that they are unable to keep good workers. I contend that paying them better and hiring sufficient staff to ease their burden would help greatly. I know people who have left positions in both industries because of their difficulty in supporting themselves (and often, their families) and their inability to give proper care and attention. And those who work in nursing homes say they would never, ever put a relative in one. One of my best friends on this planet. who spent many years working in such facilities as a nurse, has promised her children that should they ever place her in such a facility that she will come back and haunt them for all eternity after she dies. I can't help but agree with her.

I also believe that the problem is going to get worse unless some drastic steps are taken. People are living longer and babies are still being born so the need for changes and improvement are crucial to our future. I have no answers but I think it would behoove us as a society to seek them. As for me, I have little or no hope of being well-taken care of when I reach that stage where I can no longer care for myself. The women on both sides of my family live a long time. My grandmothers lived to the ages of 85 and 97; my mother is healthy at 81 so I figure I'm due to be around a long time. However, since I suffer a handicap already and need a little help with some things, that the day will come when I will need a lot of help. I just hope there's someone like Dr. Kevorkian around to help me to meet my Maker. I'd rather die with a modicum of dignity than relegate the rest of my life to maltreatment and neglect.

Kay Dennison

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