Posted 28 March 2009 - 08:43 AM
As the old people of my family get even older, I'm getting a good look into the care of old people, the funeral industry, the nursing home industry, Medicaire, hospitals, insurance companies, drug companies, retirement communities. I'm also getting a good look at the inside of the minds of old people, what they want for themselves, what lengths they will go to to try to act fit long after they aren't, what operations help people who are beginning to lose their minds, what pitfalls there are to self-care.
Malnutrition, falls, incontinence, poor memory, poor hearing, loss of sight, arthritis, loss of mobility and drivers lisenses, dependeny, major illnesses, rehabilitation, Veteran's hospitals, emergency rooms, blood pressure machines.
I've been in lengthy discussions with the oldest members of my family to try and understand them and my family has been through lengthy debates, sometimes hostile, about what's best for them. I've taken turns helping to care for them, trying to keep them at home as long as they want to stay there.
When people get old, they start falling down. I didn't know this. There are different reasons for them falling, but one of them is plain and simple, their bodies don't keep up with their minds anymore. They turn too quickly. They overlook a last step because their memory is not as good as it was, because they don't process the information that there's one more step. They don't see as well. They don't pick up their feet. They act as if they were still young and forget that they have limitations they didn't have before.
The ongoing disagreement in my family has been whether to keep them safe, by moving them into a full care situation, or to accept the risk of them falling and allow them to live at home as long as possible.
The industry which cares for old people promotes safety as their primary objective. This is achieved through the restriction of movement, through drugs, and through structured activities. Basically, sleeping is encouraged, sometimes with drugs, electronic surveillance equipment is attached to anyone who might fall to ensure they can never walk again and the days are spent going from meal to meal with sitting hours in front of the television and with small entertainments in between.
When I wander the halls of the nursing home, it's painful to see that the home is gone. The ability to cook is gone. The chance to work in the garden is gone. Privacy is gone. The garage and the tactile sensation of tools is gone. Shopping is gone. A lot is gone.
What do you want for the old people in your family? How do you want them to spend the last years, months, days of their lives? What is the risk/safety factor in your equation?