Friday, November 9, 2007

Elder Care

The Wisconsin State Journal has run a week long series on the struggles faced aged folks in Wisconsin. The infrastructure that is supposed to care for the elderly is woefully insufficient. Nurses Aides don't make enough money, leading to high turnover and inconsistent care, and there is little government oversight to make sure that the facilities and individuals provide adequate care.

And it's only going to get worse as more baby boomers retire and need competent care. Hence today's cartoon.

The tornado metaphor is a bit of a cliche, but I think it works well when paired with the trailer park.

This is a somewhat personal issue for me. I was very close to my great-grandmother who died a couple years ago at the age of 103. She was a remarkable woman to the end, and while she could hardly walk, see or hear, she remained mentally sharp and competent. I distinctly remember the Christmas when she was 101 and told my father that she wanted him to take of her finances because she "wasn't as young as she used to be." Until that point, she had managed all of bills and bank accounts without any assistance.

But finding competent care for her was a constant struggle. She never wanted to live with my family and become a burden. She thrived off of her independence.

When we finally had to move her into an assisted living facility I was simply appalled by the rules that existed. For instance, the nursing staff was not allowed to help to the restroom (that would have taken too much time) they were only allowed to change diapers.

We ended up having to hire separate helpers, who basically walked my great-grandmother to the restroom, to save her from the indignity of being treat like an infant.

All in all, I think my great-grandmother actually received better than average care, because she was so friendly and agreeable to the aides who looked after. The aides' constant amazement with how kind and considerate my great-grandmother was, made me realize that working with the aged can be a trying and thankless experience.

I'm not sure how we tackle the entire problem, but it is high time we started paying the aides who work who have to deal the affliction of old age, with a descent salary, and stop treating them like baby-sitters.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just found your blog. I was deeply touched by perception and empathy for both your great-grandmother and her caregivers. Thank you for addressing the pending crisis in care and resources so eloquently.