"So what's it gonna take? Silver shadow believer..." -Shiny Toy Guns

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nursing Homes- Nothing That "Homey" About Them, Homie.

WARNING: This piece is highly opinionated.
Let me tell you a little story...
Over the weekend an 82 year old little old lady was admitted to the hospital. She had trouble breathing and needed oxygen. She was supposed to be released a few days following but was considered "at-risk" and needed round the clock attention. Her insurance covered her to go to a nursing home; where she could be monitored 24 hours a day. By the way, the word "nursing home" to an elderly person who is still mentally capable, is code for "institution" or "dooms day." After spending some time in one, I now can see why.
The food looked like slop on a plate, you have to share a room with others- sometimes in far worse condition than yourself, there are moans and groans from all corners, you aren't free to come and go as you please- or do anything as you please, for that matter. It's dingy, smelly, and just plain depressing as all hell. Don't get me wrong, the nurses did care, but the administration people were complete sharks. They were very condescending and watched our interactions closely, paying attention for any little slip up. Their questions seemed to be doubled-edged swords. For instance, the phrase, "she needs help with that" could be easily misconstrued by them to mean, "She can't take care of herself." This is where the riddles begin, "What do you mean she needs help, are you saying that your grandmother is incompetent?" No, I am saying she's fucking old and really scared and could use some assistance, asshole!
I have a new found belief that once considered mentally or physically incapable you have about as good a chance of getting out of that system as you do the prison system. I felt like her lawyer a lot of the time defending her, trying to be on top of what she was signing, expressing time and time again to "the sharks" that this was not the place for her and that she was not ready for such nursing, reassuring her that I would "get her out"- by far the longest 48 hours I've spent in a long time.
Why is it, we forget about our elderly? Did they not pave the way for generations to follow? Did they not pay their dues? It makes me positively sick that there isn't more that can be done. Oh but there is, right? A 24 hour nurse is a possibility and yet costs a fortune; not everyone can afford such special treatment.
It broke my heart to see those people in there. I cried myself to sleep at the thought of her spending one single night there, let alone the rest of her life. I want to be clear here; by no means am I saying my grandma is too good for such a place- but in a way isn't everyone’s grandparents? Why can't these facilities be nicer? Less desolate and hopeless?
I got "old skinny" out this time, we won our case, but will we be able to prove her competence again later down the road. Tough to say. For now we've made other arrangements and hopefully we can get her care straightened out, so that she never has to go back to a place like that. I'm sure there are a few good ones out there. I think most nurses do their jobs and some even go the extra mile; I believe nursing to be one of the most commendable jobs on the planet. My rant is not only in defense of the patients in these homes but, in the staff's as well- having to work in such conditions. I know one thing for certain, I would never want to live, work, or even visit a place like the one I just did, ever again.

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