Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Facility Fears.

We were sitting on the couch a few weeks ago watching TV and an ad came on for the eleven o’clock news. They were promo-ing a story about abuse in an adult family home (film at eleven!) complete with deep-voiced announcer warnings, quickly cut editing, and a short cut of a grieving widow.  It is only the latest of the media stories I’ve seen about dangerous facilities and abuse of our elderly and I find it so frustrating.  Not because I don’t think these problems, and many more, don’t need to be out there, in the public eye, growing awareness – because I do. 

I find it frustrating for two reasons: because we just see the problems, and nobody proposes any kind of fix or solution; it seems to be fear-mongering of the worst sort since we rarely hear about good facilities, and it can make a difficult choice even more wrenching.  It can be so difficult to make the decision to place your loved one in a facility; weathering your own guilt, the opinions and judgments of others, and the feelings of your loved one.  People tend to want us to believe that home care is the best and only option, which just isn’t true for many people.  I physically could not care for my father, and so placing him in a home with good care was my only option.  Even if I could have cared for him, I probably would have placed him anyway because there were things I didn’t want to do or see happen to him.

The next difficult part is finding a good place, out of the thousands that are out there.  I wonder every day of my life whether Dad is okay, or being treated right, or that small cut on his hand is from his fingernails or because of a caregiver.  In the end, I have to trust that I picked the right place, even while keeping an eye out and making sure their government rating is still good.  We must trust our instincts, our senses, other people, and our government in order to pick the right home for our loved ones.  Unfortunately, any or all of those things can be wrong or fooled, and sometimes the wrong place gets picked, and people get hurt.  Of course, this is sad.  But we are not psychic, we don’t know everything, and sometimes you just have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

While these stories tell us what to look out for, which is good, they may also paralyze people and make it difficult to choose a facility.  A few months ago, there was a Frontline story about a Seattle-based company that ran Assisted Living Facilities.  It exposed the numerous counts of abuse, wandering, resident death, and employee abuse that this company was responsible for.  It also included an interview of the CEO who strove mightily to absolve his company and managers from fault, although you could see his panic.  Families told stories of loved ones that disappeared, were hurt, or died and said if they’d only known the company’s history, they wouldn’t have chosen it.  Once again, good to have the warning out there about this particular company, but no balancing representation of the good companies. 

(Ironically, after I watched this story, I drove past the Assisted Living facility where Dad used to live; a bright, lovely facility where he got good care.  I saw on the sign that they had been bought out by the very company featured on Frontline and I had to laugh.  If I had left Dad there, would he have been subject to the same dangers as on the program?)

I think what I’m actually trying to say is that these stories are important and they need to be told.  These terrible caregivers and facilities need to be outed so that we can get better accountability and government oversight.  But I would also love to see some stories about good facilities and caregivers so families don’t feel there are no good choices or that they will be abandoning their loved one to the worst kind of hell, when in fact, there are great facilities out there.  Show us what to look for and how to look – show us what a good place looks like.  And finally, give us a fix, give us some options.  If facilities are bad and we can’t care for our loved ones at home, what should we do?  Don’t just show us the problems – show us some solutions.






 

 

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