Aging Independently & Doctors Know Best?

Standard

  Dorothy was born the day after President Calvin Coolidge declared the Statue of Liberty a national monument.  Dorothy has lived through Lindbergh’s nonstop flight across the Atlantic, the stock market crashing, the development of plastic, WWII, Pearl Harbor, the A-bomb, tv becoming the next big thing,  Alaska and Hawaii becoming states, the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s assassination, the British Invasion, hippies, a man on the moon, the endangered species act, introduction of the world-wide web, 9-11, and all of the moments in history in-between. 

     Dorothy was married.  She gave birth to 5 children, but was only able to raise 4 of them due to one passing away while being born.  In her 40’s Dorothy decided to stand-up for herself and divorced her husband who she believed was stepping out on her (a story in itself), this left her to raise her youngest child independently, he was 12 years old at the time.  Dorothy raised her children, worked full-time, maintained a home, was an active member of the community and a very independent woman.  Dorothy lived through the untimely death of her oldest son.

     After all of Dorothy’s children were raised and moved out on their own she became an empty nester.  Dorothy never remarried or even considered remarrying.  Dorothy spent almost four decades living independently after her children moved away.  Her youngest child always lived close and was able to help with tasks that she was no longer able to do on her own like putting the dock in and taking it out, mowing the lawn, shoveling the snow, fixing the roof and so on.  A few years back Dorothy slipped and ended up laying on the floor of her home for almost 13 hours before her son came to check-in on her.  She did not break anything, or even get hurt, but her son decided that for her safety she should live with him…this also helped him because their homes were almost 35 miles apart and fuel prices were on the rise.

     Dorothy lived with her son for a few months, she was doing well and slowly starting to adjust to her new living situation.  Not too long after that her son got married and the household became three (well, 4 with the dog).  Dorothy’s sons new wife had worked in health care for many years and having her help was very appreciated.  The home was large and everyone had their own space, so there was still a feeling of privacy and independence.  A year later Dorothy’s son got a job in a different state and Dorothy was offered the choice of finding a nice assisted living facility in the area or moving out-of-state too.  Dorothy had no interest in living in a facility and decided to move with the family.

     The new home in the new state was not handicap friendly.  Dorothy uses a walker and physically is unable to manuever stairs without assistance.  In the new home the three bedrooms were upstairs, so the family set up the livingroom as Dorothy’s bedroom.  Her bed, dresser, lift chair, television, everything in one convenient place…a living bedroom.  At first Dorothy seemed to be comfortable with the set-up, but soon her family found that she was spending very little time in her bed at night which was causing increased edema in her legs.  Dorothy’s mood slowly worsened and she overall seemed very unhappy.  Her family sat down and talked with her and Dorothy explained that she had been independent her entire life and that she wanted to have her own apartment and be independent again, she explained that lack of privacy from not having her own bedroom was really wearing on her. 

     After months of searching the perfect little affordable apartment was found.  The apartment was close to her son and daughter-in-law’s house so that they could stop in and “check” on her everyday (at least once a day).  Dorothy’s apartment was decorated with paintings that he father had done, antique family furniture, and other wonderful things from her past that made her happy.   Dorothy was happy to have her own bedroom and her family soon noticed that she was actually sleeping the whole night through in her bed, and even taking a nap now and then during the day in her bed.  The swelling in her legs decreased significantly, her mood increased significantly.  Dorothy enjoyed feeling like she was independent again.  After a lifetime of being fiercely independent, being able to have that feeling of independence back was exactly what Dorothy needed. 

     Everyday Dorothy’s family comes in and preps her breakfast and lunch for the next day, they make her a wonderful hot supper and spend quality time visiting with her.  They make sure her home is clean, laundry is done, assist her with bathing, do all of her grocery shopping, assist her with making sure bills are paid, and in assisting her with all of these things Dorothy has the belief that she is living independent.  Yes, she gets a lot of help, but loves having her privacy and alone time.

     Due to a different family member attempting to cause some trouble a few months back Dorothy has been being visited by a social worker monthly and has been forced to go have a physical.  Dorothy comes from the school-of-thought that if it isn’t broken don’t fix it, so getting her to go to a doctor’s appointment when she was not sick was like pulling teeth.  This last Monday Dorothy went to her unwanted doctors appointment.  The doctor was shocked that a senior woman of 87 years old was not on any prescribed medications, that all she takes is a daily multi-vitamin.  The doctor did a basic once over on Dorothy and encouraged her to get booster shots.  Dorothy agreed to the booster shots, but strongly refused to get the $300 shingles shot that medicare does not cover.  The doctor told her that she needed to get a pap-smear, mammogram and other tests and Dorothy immediately stood up for herself and told him “No, I don’t want those tests.”  The doctor spent less than ten minutes all together with Dorothy and during that time encouraged her to “move to an assisted living facility” at least four times, Dorothy was not pleased with his pushing and said “I am happy where I am.”

 

This gives you the back story and brings me to my points and questions.  I am the daughter-in-law who has worked in health care for over eleven years.  I’ve worked in group homes, nursing homes, hospice, in-home, etc. and the one thing that has rang true through all of my experience is that the majority of the people I have worked with have one long-term goal and that is to be INDEPENDENT.  Yes, in some situations there is no chance of the person living independently, but in other situations, like Dorothy’s, the person can have their own apartment and live mostly independent.  We believe that Dorothy currently has assisted living being that we help her with the majority of her daily tasks, but she feels independent because she has her “own” apartment and her family is coming over to “visit”…she would hate knowing that someone is getting paid to go in and spend time with her and help her.

As people age and become seniors they need to feel like they are still productive members of society and that they are needed.  When we take away their freedom of choice, their basic tasks that they are capable of doing and their independence, they will then feel useless and that is a feeling that none of us enjoy.  Look at the amount of seniors who get put in nursing homes and forgotten.  I’ve worked in a nursing home where you could see how depressed the residents were because their families had not called or visited in months, and when they finally would it would only be for about half an hour at a time…the residents would feel like they weren’t needed or wanted and that was why their family “stuck them in a home”.

If an individual is getting to a point health wise where they need the professional nursing care an assisted living facility or nursing home is probably a really good choice.  If an individual is getting to a point where they are a safety risk to themselves or to others an assisted living facility or nursing home will probably be the best bet again.  I personally do not believe that if an individual is in overall excellent health (for their age)\and is not a risk to themselves or others that they should be forced into a home.  It is almost like todays social service and medical system believes that once people reach a certain age that they should automatically be placed in state care of some sort, which I find ridiculous.  Why is it that the “system” trys to take seniors rights, choices, and freedom away?

Dorothy has been independent, strong-willed and a very private person her entire life.  She enjoys spending quiet time alone watching sports and doing puzzles.  She enjoys spending time with people when they come over to visit.  She enjoys feeling like a productive member of society.  She enjoys helping fold her own laundry.  She enjoys choosing when she want to go to bed or take a nap.  She enjoys choosing what she wants to eat for breakfast and eating when she is hungry, not when someone else tells her she is.  She enjoys going through her closet and picking out her own outfit for the day.  She enjoys being able to dress herself.  Now imagine if she was in a facility of some sort, where they schedule meal times, pick out and help you dress, and take those little freedoms and choices away?  Dorothy always says the same thing when the idea of a nursing home is brought up and that is “I will die before I go to a nursing home.”

Do you have senior loved ones that you’ve had to make the hard choice of finding an assisted living or nursing home for?  Did they get to help make the decision or was it made for them?

Do you have senior loved ones that you are caring for?

Have you thought about what you would want for yourself and your family when you become a senior and need assistance, both minimal and extensive?

Do you feel like todays seniors are getting their rights and freedom taken away and not having any say in it?

At what point do you think seniors should receive more assistance?

Is our medical system just out to make money?

Is our medical system recommending tests, shots, exams and so on that aren’t really needed?

Do you think that a doctor can know what is best for you or for your loved ones when he/she has only known you/them for less than 15 minutes?

How do you think our medical system should change to actually get to know you and your loved ones before they start making recommendations and choices for you/them?

What are some of the flaws you see in our medical system?

What are some of the flaws you see in our social services system?

Would you want your rights to be taken away once you become a senior?

Do you trust your doctor and their opinions?

When the time comes what living arrangements would you prefer?  Do you want to live in a nursing home or assisted living facility?  Do you want your family to care for you?

With the amount of abuse that you hear about on the news would you feel safe living in a facility or having a family member live in one?

Do you advocate for yourself?

Do you advocate for your loved ones?

Do you encourage your loved ones to advocate for themselves?

What changes can be made to our medical system to make it better?

How would you feel if your freedom, choices, independence was taken away?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s