Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Elder Care

Last week’s issue of the "Santa Fe Reporter" has a lengthy, informative and eye-opening article on nursing homes in New Mexico. I say eye-opening, although I’m fairly aware of the dilemma of nursing homes in the U.S., based on a couple of books I read after my mother died in 2007. Fortunately, our mother never had to endure the sad reality of nursing homes. The incidence rate of outright abuse and neglect in nursing homes is appalling and frightening. I find it especially so, considering that most of us don’t know just where we’re going to end up being cared for before we make an exit from this life.

Much of the problem in nursing homes centers around understaffing, poorly trained staff, and staff turnover. In New Mexico, the certified nursing assistant (CNA) turnover is about 100% annually. I get it. That means that the people doing most of the work completely turns over each year. In the two books I read by Dr. William Thomas—The Eden Alternative and What Are Old People For—How Elders Will Save The World—Thomas sheds a big old spotlight on the nursing home for-profit industry in the U.S. Further, though, and more important, he shines a light of hope on the efforts to change elder care. His work has led to a redefinition of elder care—the environment, the staff, everything that effects quality of life.

I recommend the current issue of the Santa Fe Reporter (SEE LINK BELOW), and I heartily recommend Dr. Thomas’s two books. Three years ago I visited an Eden Alternative elder care home in Olathe Colorado, which is on the western slope of Colorado. Although I was there for only a few hours, my spirits were buoyed to see that it can be so much better than the little I had witnessed before with regard to nursing homes. We had just lost our mother, and though she lived in her own home—thanks largely to the commitment and efforts of our oldest sister, Joan—I needed to know that for those who don’t have the luxury of family who are able and willing to take care of their elders, there is hope. Eden Alternative homes are a big part of the hope of the future for elders who can’t live on their own.

Blessings to each of you reading this message. And blessings especially to the friend who introduced me to the Eden Alternative in 2007.