Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Life's Story: Trash, Treasure or A Box of Chocolates?

Life is like a box of chocolates, we learned in a movie. 

However, as one candy manufacturer realized, when people are given an insight, a map, of what's where with a description of each piece and its location, they sell more boxes of candy and the level of satisfaction with their product is increased.

And for more and more people, no matter how well we try to arrange and plan, life gets in the way and takes out all or most of the dividers, supporters and weakens the container. So while we would like to be "special" and "individual", we become like the box that's missing those special pieces providing the support and the ability to maintain the integrity and individuality of each piece.

Life is also like going out on the weekends to various sales labeled: Garage, Yard and Estate. And then there are the formalized Flea Markets, Consignment Sales and Antique Stores.

At a Garage Sale, the surroundings are usually just as they're labeled, outside of someone's home and either in the driveway or in bad weather perhaps inside the garage. A yard sale can be in the back or front of a house.  Pricing at both is usually in the cents and small dollar range with perhaps a few items of "greater value" -- lawn equipment, furniture, large pictures or some "treasures" priced a little to a lot higher, depending on the experience, knowledge and desire of the person to let go, get it out of the way or simply just "get rid of it".

An Estate Sale, however, paints a picture in the mind of the prospective attendee of cherished items now having to be "sold" or "parted with" due to need that can be financial or it can be simply due to moving or sadly, death. Sometimes "professionals" are hired to price, arrange/display and manage the entire procedure receiving a commission or fee. There is a level of service, even of knowledge and certainly of caring about managing the sale to benefit the owner and the prospective buyer.

What's the difference?  You can often find the same items at each of these places. Some may be in better condition that others but some may be exactly the same. 

Our Elderly are being treated like items at Garage Sales, Yard Sales and a few are privileged to receive Estate Sale status. It's all about how much you can afford and for how long. It can also about your willingness to change your life early enough to invest in a level of care that changes as your needs change -- with or without Long Term Care Insurance. It can also be about the challengs in life you face and how they deduct from the bottom line you've laid and the plans you've made. And, its about the willingness of families to support their members through providing levels of increasing care and support either in a separate residence or within the family home of the younger members.

Looking around our area, I see many more facilities that are Independent Living with a few also having Assisted Living. How they define their care is somewhat dependent on their State's Laws regarding these facilities but it's also dependent on how much money the individual has as to when they change the definition of care they're willing to provide -- or the physical condition escalates to where constant supervision and medical care are necessary.

My experience over the past half dozen years entering into this "nightmare" of eldercare using funds or support/assistance beyond what we could personally provide or my Mom could financially afford, has shown a high level of waste, want and need by people who are wasting away waiting for the end to come while trying to make the best of each day never knowing what level of care they'll receive.

Large groups of our most aged elderly, those 85 and beyond, are entering facilities where they are made more and more dependent on others.  In Mom's facility, within six months of entering, people went from a walker to a wheelchair and no real effort was made to strengthen their muscles, ensure their balance or oversee their needs so they could remain upright and walking. Mom's facility didn't provide one on one "movement" intervention; an occasional "activity" perhaps once a week, was there if you remembered, if you wanted to attend. Personalized Care might be in the directives of the State Guidelines for residents of Long Term Care, Skilled Nursing Facilities but no one really cares enough to ensure it's being provided.

WHAT A CHANGE.  We can't wait for a baby to take their first steps, to become independent and to take care of themselves. We spend years as parents getting them to be "competent" and "capable" and then take away their ability to move freely, make choices about when, where and what they'll eat or do and throw them in with a complete stranger who may have serious problems or just doesn't like "sharing" and so makes life very difficult.

NO CHOICES.  As a facility resident, you get what you're given. It's up to you or to your family or friends to make the area more "liveable" where the facility choses for you to live.  A closet with a high bar to hang your clothes on?  Well, you just have to "ask" someone to get what you want. It might take an hour or an entire morning, but eventually someone will answer the call button or remember to check to make sure you're dressed for the day

Marketing and advertising paint a picture of "gourmet" meals and show "caregivers" walking alongside, sitting beside and providing so much varied assistance and caring. Dare you to visit on a regular day when there is no special program, no expectation of family or friends visiting (no weekends, no evenings, no holidays or dates close to these times) and see the reality of Senior Care which is quite different from what is publicized.

TOO BUSY.  Some are definitely overworked due to understaffing by facilities that do not consider personal care needs important and base their "worker scheduling" on "medical needs".

Here's the reality of life in an SNC: You might not be able to stand and reach for something you want/need; you may need assistance getting on or off the toilet, getting into the "medicine cabinet" that's placed well above your head for a toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant or other items; you may not be able to see yourself in the mirror in the bathroom as well as you'd like while seated in the wheelchair because it's hung so high; you may not be able to maneuver your wheelchair in and out with the trashcan that's placed against the door to the bathroom to hold it open because it always swings shut without the weight of the can against it; you may not be able to remember where you put those personal care items you remember now and again you'd like to use; drop something under the bed and see how long it takes for anyone to notice; misplace anything and have staff tell you "they'll take care of it" only to never see it again.

JUNK. GIVEAWAYS. TREASURES.  How do you want to be classified when you need to live in a Long Term Care facility?


Most Importantly:  How are you going to ensure you receive a level of care consistent with your personal needs and beneficial to providing a life that's worth living?


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