I have been a nurse for over 30 years. I have had a wide variety of experiences in a wide variety of positions within the health care setting. Much of what I have experienced has been rewarding and fulfilling. I have been grateful for each new experience. I would have preferred to remain on the "inactive" list of nurses for yet another 7 years or so, and not ventured back into active work in the Nursing field while I yet have children at home. But, that has not been an option for the past few years. As I have written before, being a Stay-at-Home Mom is my preferred role.
Recently, I began working for a facility as opposed to doing Home Health Care. The labor required for home health was minimal. ( I would work NIGHTS! SO the most difficult part of the job was to stay awake and be alert all night, while also trying to be Mom to all my own throughout the day!) But, working one-on-one with a pediatric patient was relatively easy, rewarding and FUN! SO, after the past few days, I wonder why I have consciously chosen to work so much harder! You see, I am now working at a Care Center. It is also a Rehabilitation Center so there are a wide variety of patients. But, there are those who are not going to leave the facility; they will not recover and there will be no return to their former healthy, independent life. Their lives that were so cruelly interrupted by tragedy, will be lived to a conclusion within the halls of the facility.
Yesterday, as I was taking medications to a resident, she hesitantly asked if I would like to see her "home"; the home she had to leave behind. Then she quickly added, "I am so sorry, you are so busy, I am sure you do not have time to see my pictures." I replied, "Of course I have time to see your home!" I leaned over as she gently turned the pages of her small photo album. Here was the beautiful home in which she had to abandon. Here were pictures of her children, at all stages of life; photos of her husband and of her! Lovingly she touched each page, her eyes moist, with a far away look. I told her I was so grateful she would choose to share such treasured photos with me. How odd to me, that she would choose to share those treasures with me. I was a complete stranger to her until that morning, when I announced I would be caring for her that day. It was not a particularly stellar day for her....she was unable to keep her breakfast down! To my knowledge, she had had no visitors, just her care-givers! I guess that is why we do become a surrogate family to these precious souls.
I thought about these residents all the long drive home. Tears quickly spring to my eyes whenever I think of their plight. To me, it is a tragedy, the grief from which there just is no way to find consolation. These individuals once had families, homes, careers, hobbies, purpose. Now, they must make all their most precious possessions fit within the tiny confines of one tiny room. Often, it is a room that must be shared with another resident. Gone are the days when they had any form of self-determination. Now, they are told when they will bathe and use the restroom, when and what they will eat and so on....for those who are mobile and able, some autonomy remains. But for those who are less fortunate, and have lost mobility, they are subject to OUR schedules. It breaks my heart. I find that there are NEVER enough hours in the day to care for all those assigned to me. The money just is not there for the facility to hire the staff that it would require to meet ALL the wants and needs of each resident. SO, we must prioritize and do our best to meet the needs, and pray to meet some of their wants as well.
I am so sad that our society has chosen to do so little to care for the aged and the infirm. It is not a health-care issue in my mind, it is a value-system issue. We value and support financially some things that are not critically relevant to our culture, to our becoming a moral people, full of character and just plain being good.
We have so many searching for causes. Searching to find meaning, searching for a purpose! Often, we hear of those who go all over the earth seeking out those in need, often finding much to do in third-world nations. I say, we do NOT need to search any further than our own cities! There are so many of our OWN that go without! THERE are SO MANY NEEDS, SO MANY WE COULD DO and SHOULD provide FAR BETTER CARE FOR--- OUR AGED and OUR abandoned! I am certain that there is enough and to spare if we still want to seek out those not within our borders. But, how can we ignore the needs of our OWN? AND, WHY are we paying athletes such outrageous premiums, when they provide ONLY ENTERTAINMENT??? Has entertainment become our "GOD" and have we become so morally bankrupt that we can so easily turn our backs on the elderly that have so many urgent needs? This may seem an unrelated thought, but, to me, it is all part of where the resources go. THAT money frittered away on entertainment is so desperately needed by the elderly. I am NOT advocating a redistribution of wealth. I wish there was a way to encourage those with an abundance, to share with those who have nothing, comparatively. If there was a way to implement a program to encourage those who have the means, to spend that excess on caring for those in need. NOT a hand-out situation, but, a networking and matching the needs with those who can and who choose to provide for those needs.
ONE DAY, we too will be OLD! One day, we will know what we have been neglecting and it will be too late to effect a change for ourselves. BUT, rather than make these changes out of that selfish motive, let us make the changes urgently needed NOW for those who NEED IT NOW! Then, hopefully we will be responsible for making this imperative shift in focus for those who are suffering today! AND with luck those changes in priorities might just alter the kind of future our children will experience too!