The one thing we can be sure of, if we live long enough, is that we will be unable to care for ourselves.
At that point, someone will be forced to decide about our care. Grown children often agree to take on the responsibility of caring for their aging parents. That is, if the person agrees to it.
We were not allowed that opportunity because my mother made the decision to put herself in a nursing home, refusing to let one of us care for her. I think, in her mind, the decision was her way of saying that she was still in control of her life and still capable of making important decisions on her own.
She was never going to be okay with one of her children bossing her around. She was one feisty, independent lady.
Others are not so lucky as we were.
Every year, children must make the painful decision to place a parent in a nursing home.
Nobody wants to be faced with the challenge of making that choice. It is hard to accept that your parent’s needs are something you are unable to provide. After all, they looked after you before you were able to do so. It almost feels like a rite of passage to care for them as they did for you.
However, millions of people must tackle this tough decision. More than one in three Americans over the age of 65 will probably require nursing home care at some point.
Doctors suggest people need assisted living or nursing home care when they pose a danger to themselves by falling or when they cannot function independently by preparing meals or personal hygiene.
Making this tough decision often comes with conflicted emotions such as guilt and regret, but also a feeling of relief that their needs will be met.
There is no relief, however when the care they receive is not acceptable.
The state of Louisiana was recently ravaged by Hurricane Ida. The storm destroyed electrical grids and tore down poles and transformers. Residents were battered by 100 mile per hour winds and torrential rain and flooding.
During the storm, residents from seven nursing homes were evacuated to a warehouse for safety measures.
Except they were not safe.
Louisiana officials announced they are investigating after five of the residents died while at the facility.
Health officials say they have received reports of residents laying on mattresses on the floor, not being given food or changed. Social distancing guidelines were reportedly ignored by not spacing out the beds.
When a team of health inspectors arrived to examine the conditions, the owner told them to leave immediately.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has promised there will be a full investigation.
Let’s hope he is a man of his word and holds someone accountable for such despicable treatment.
This is not the first incident involving abuse of vulnerable adults and will not be the last.
Unfortunately, we live in a society that has a casual dismissal of elderly people. They have decided that an entire demographic is not worth the trouble.
Somewhere along the trail, it has been determined that older adults are expendable.
Studies show the natural progression of aging is often used to dismiss any complaints when the elderly seeks medical treatment.
Some of us who have reached the age of 65 and beyond are already experiencing some frustration when we do seek medical help. My least favorite two phrases now are, “well, for someone your age” or “as you get older” blah blah.
I get that the aging process is not kind to our bodies, but sometimes, we just want to hear the diagnosis and not be reminded our bodies are beginning to fail us!
Ageism has become a common form of discrimination in this country and has entrenched itself into the minds of some responsible for elder care.
According to the American Society on Aging, ageism has a “profound influence on the type and amount of care offered, requested and received” by the elderly. A recent analysis found that one in five adults over 50 experience age-related discrimination in health care settings.
Other studies found that compared with younger patients, older adults were less involved in their own health care decisions and doctors were less tolerant, less respectful and less optimistic.
According to statistics, by 2035, adults 65 and older are expected to outnumber children in the United States for the first time.
That means there will be a whole lot of us seeking care.
We can all agree that as we age, care becomes more complex. Being treated like our health and well-being are still important is not a lot to ask.
Treat us all like we still matter. Because to someone, we do.
Anita McGill is a former publisher of The Sentinel. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.