I was just forwarded an article about a senior citizen who died under appalling conditions. She was under the care of a family member and was found to have been left in the same position for about six months. The authorities are investigating the family member for neglectful homicide.
I will be the first to admit that caring for a senior citizen with health issues is challenging and requires a lot of patience. If you can’t deal with all it may entail then this job isn’t the one for you. I’ll lay things on the line for you. You will need to help with medications, keep up on doctor appointments, encourage healthy eating and exercise, that’s the easy stuff. You will need to help with transferring from bed to chairs to toilets to shower chairs, support while walking, push wheelchairs, help dressing, help shower or bathe, help them clean themselves after toileting and eventually change their adult diapers. Then there’s all the common household chores to tackle with laundry doubling.
When someone I am caring for accidentally spills something or is incontinent I NEVER reprimand them, NEVER belittle them! I just look at them, smile warmly and let them know it’s OK. I would also NEVER leave them sitting in their own mess, that is inhumane.
The fact that someone spent six month sitting in a chair and was so covered by her own fecal matter that the EMT’s had to turn on high-powered fans to be able to handle being in the room while they prepared to remove her body is unthinkable.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for keeping a loved one at home and letting them live their days someplace they feel comfortable! I just don’t want to see that become an opportunity for abuse and neglect.
We need to find a better way to protect our senior citizens. There are civic organizations and citizen groups out there who are trying to help, but there needs to be more action.
When I heard about the poor woman left to sit in her own mess for six months my first thought was; it’s a shame no one was able to check up on the home situation for her.
My brain is a weird place … I hear of a problem, turn it over and over, weigh the pros and cons of all possible solutions, until I come up with a possible answer. I do this all the time.
So, when I was wondering about how this situation could have been changed I came up with this possible solution:
I thought to myself, “What if doctors asked their elderly patients if they lived at home or in some nursing facility?” “What if there was a group of specifically trained LPN’s and/or CNA’s who would work as a kind of social worker for seniors living alone or with family?”
In this concept in my mind it would work a bit like home health nurses who come out to a home to help with physical therapy or wound care. The doctor would ‘prescribe’ this type of ongoing home visit assistance.
This group of LPN’s and/or CNA’s would be tasked with visiting their charges at least once a month. They would spend some time visiting with the senior citizen and their caregiver. During these visits they would offer support and instruction on how to provide personal care as care needs change. They would help find the resources available to the caregivers and the senior citizens. They would also keep an eye out for signs of abuse and neglect.
As someone who spent considerable time caring for family members at home I can tell you that I would not have had any problem with someone coming to my home in this capacity. I would have appreciated the help.
So, let me know what you all think. Give me feedback on this idea. Perhaps if anyone out there is in an official capacity we could give the idea a run and see if it is an effective way of preventing elder abuse and neglect.