Honor Thy Father and Mother: an Essay Concerning the Condition of Elderly Care in the United States
In the world we live in, we grow up and get older. It’s a sad and simple fact that we can’t be young forever. When we are growing up, we are cared for by our parents, relatives, and many more people. They care for us because at that point in our lives, we didn’t know how to take care of ourselves. As we grew older we learned how to care for ourselves and no longer necessarily needed the help of those other people. There comes a point in our aging process that we begin to forget how to care for ourselves or lose the means to do it alone. Usually what will happen is the family that you have left will either hire someone to care for you in your own home or move you to a nursing facility. Jean Marcusson is an 88 year old woman. She has three kids (one of which is my mother). In May of 2013 she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Shortly after it became apparent that she wasn’t able to care for herself in her own home. She was having trouble remembering who people were, where she was, and sometime she would forget what she was doing. There were instances where she turned on the stove to boil water for tea, but forgot to put water in the kettle. Abother, when she attended my graduation she didn’t know whose graduation it was. It’s tough for her family to help her when they all have their own lives to lead. Her daughters and son have spent a lot of their time this summer taking care of her, but it is growing old.
After a month of taking care of her for a month in her home, the doctors decided that she needed to be put in a rehab center. Immediately after that she was moved into the John Knox Rehab Facility. She was confused, nothing seemed right to her. Her first thought was that she was in a hotel. At that point we began to realize that she was suffering from dementia. She couldn’t tell the difference between her children or grandchildren. She couldn’t remember whether or not her husband was alive or where she lived before arriving at the rehab facility.
A few weeks into her stay at John Knox, Jean came down with very serious pneumonia. The doctors decided to move her back to Lee’s Summit Medical Center. Speculation led doctors to believe that she caught it at the rehab center. Once she got better, they moved her back into the facility. She seemed to be doing well, until there was a day when she was completely dehydrated and wouldn’t leave her bed. At first they couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My mom was sitting with her that night and found some pills on the floor. It became apparent that when the nurse brought her pills to her in the morning that she would throw them on the floor once the nurse left the room. The whole episode left her family very upset with the quality of care she was receiving. Another incident was when she decided to go to the restroom without alerting a nurse and fell on her way there. Being old and fragile, she bruised very easily and this fall left the right side of her face blackened.
The condition she was in at the rehab center left us to wonder how she could ever live by herself at her home again. Insurance only covered her staying in the rehab center until the end of August. For her to live in her home again, we would have to hire full time nurses that would be there 24/7 to look after her. That’s something that just won’t fly for her, plus it’s expensive. For a nurse to be at her house caring for her eight hours a day, it would cost $5,000 a month. So you can imagine how much 24 hours a day would cost. In my opinion, the rehab center didn’t help Jean at all. I would say it made her worse. Her anxiety developed when they made her leave her home and her dementia got much worse from there.
In the year 2000, two thousand nursing homes were studied. The findings reported that 44% said they had been abused. 95% said they had been neglected or had seen another resident be neglected. The National Center of Elder Abuse (NCEA) shows the majority of elderly abuse is physically, resident to resident, or psychological. Nearly 1 in 3 nursing homes have been cited for violating national standards for treatment of the elderly. Over 50% of nursing home staff has admitted to mistreating older patients through violence, mental abuse, and neglect, two thirds of those incidents
involved neglect. A survey of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA) found that 17% of CNAs had pushed or grabbed a nursing home resident, 51% had reported yelling at a resident, and 23% had sworn at residents. A U.S. GAO report to Congress states “Our work shows that nursing home residents need both stronger and more immediate protections. More should be done to protect nursing home residents.” Another issue I would like to discuss is abuse of the elderly by family or friends. There are some families in this world who have older people in their families who can no longer take care of themselves; to the family these people are vulnerable. The family will begin to care for the elderly person and expect compensation of some sort. Many drug abusers look to take money from the parents or grandparents and are the most likely to abuse a relative. 66% of elderly abuse cases are caused by adult children or spouses. 42% of murder victims over the age of 60 were murdered by their own offspring.
While we can all agree that abuse of the elderly is a despicable act. It is possible to slightly justify the actions of the abusers. Elderly people aren’t the most enjoyable people to take care of. I can provide a small testimony to that as I work in fast food and I am often given a lot of crap from elderly customers. Honestly, there is no good way to justify elderly abuse, while the actions of the abusers may seem justifiable to them, they aren’t. You can’t justify abusing anyone, but I understand that the abuser had a reason to do what they did that may have seemed right to them.
Jean Marcusson’s case is different though, the things she dealt with at John Knox might not have been on purpose. Even if they were, there is nothing we can do to prove it and it would be a waste of time to try. Ensuring that the people that made those mistakes are punished won’t make Jean any better. It severely disturbs me that a person can be okay with hurting a person, especially an elderly one.
It amazes me that our parents or other relatives raise us and teach us how to live. Yet when they become old and need our help some refuse because they think that you shouldn’t rely on other people to take care of you. What would have happened had our parents just left us to fend for ourselves and
learn the ropes of surviving in this world. We would probably be dead or much different than we are now, that is something I don’t want to imagine. Take care of the elderly as if you were in their position and wanted someone to take care of you. You’ll probably be in that position someday and expect someone to be there to help you.