It seems that those people with some of the sunniest dispositions have the shittyiest lives.
Yesterday there was a funeral service for a 68-year-old woman who was in care all of her life.
This woman was born with physical challenges. Her parents, using the term in the sense of genetic suppliers, immediately put her up for adoption. Her childhood and teenager years where spent in foster care. At 18, when she was too old for the foster system, she was moved into a long-term care facility.
For the last 46 years her world was a few hundred yards of hallway and occasional visits into the facility’s gardens. She was lucky in that she was in a well-run, compassionate facility where staff went beyond basic professional care to give her as much of a life as possible. They decorated her room and wheelchair for the seasons. They called her by her first name. They touched her, joked with her, talked to her. In short, they treated her as a person, not a patient.
One of the other residents at this facility was a man, who in his 40s suffered a stroke that confined him to a wheelchair. Unable to live on his own, he was warehoused in a facility set up to care for people 30-, 40-, 50-years older.
The particular facility is also the only long-term care facility in Atlantic Canada for high-needs children!
Their situations highlight the massive gap in our care system and philosophy. Our long-term care is built on warehousing people. What little focus there is is to move people out of expensive hospital care beds into lower cost long-term care beds. There doesn’t seem to be a policy, funds, resources or thought for rehabilitation and life enhancement. It’s just warehousing, providing the basics needs of life, waiting for death to open another space.
The current focus is to keep people in their homes versus expanding our bricks and mortar facilities. But many people can’t stay in their own homes. Many don’t have homes. Others are being abused in their homes – in Nova Scotia we have recent cases where the elderly have been sexually assaulted in their home by outside health care professionals, and where care givers have taken financial advantage of them by charging things to credit cards and raiding bank accounts. In terms of delivering home care we don’t know what other terrors take place behind closed doors. Plus, we have the challenges brought on by extreme winter storms from the interruption of the delivery of care to jeopardizing the safety of those delivering that care. (I know that not all visiting care givers abuse, but it only takes one rogue care giver to hurt, harm and abuse numerous others. Think of the abuse of children by rogue priests.)
What we’re doing now is based on false economy. With younger people going into care facilities geared for an older demographic we are spending money delivering a type and style of care they don’t need and which, given their ages, is delivered over longer time frames than it was designed for. A 70-year-old in care may have a decade ahead of them, while a 20-year-old could face 60 years of care. Do they both require the same type, style and level of care?
We need to rethink long-term care because it’s not just the elderly who need it. We have children and teenagers as well as men and women in the prime of life who are hurt in accidents or hit with catastrophic illness who need constant assistance or a different type of assistance than we currently provide. This is an opportunity to be innovative.
One woman who lives this has launched Independence Now Nova Scotia (INNS).
Once again, change doesn’t come from the professionals rewarded by the status quo, but from those who live it and truly understand how the system fails to perform.