I was at a meeting this morning of a community group involved in programs and services for seniors. The first speaker on the agenda was the head of a state agency. The topic was mental health services to seniors. One of the group members asked about services for people living in nursing facilities who might be suffering from depression. The speaker’s response began, “Well, who wouldn’t be depressed living in a place like that.”
That comment – just a reflexive, throw-away line – struck me hard.
Many of us have dedicated our careers to providing quality care for seniors living in “places like that” – nursing facilities and assisted living facilities providing care to elders.
We’ve spent hours training our caregivers to be gentle, loving and compassionate.
We’ve listened to families share their angst at having to move mom or dad from the family home, but having no other choices.
We’ve sat at bedsides – during our time off – reading to a dying resident and sharing tears with families who are grieving the loss of a loved one.
When my own beloved mother-in-law died recently she had lived in the care community less than 2 months. Yet the young man who cared for her most days cried as hard as any member of the family when she died.
Not one of us felt that it was inevitable that she be depressed.
Not one of us ever referred to the care setting as “a place like that.”
And yet so many in the public still have that perception: that a nursing home – and often any care setting – is to be avoided like the plague. It’s the last choice for any person, and be prepared to be very depressed if that’s where you end up living out your days.
We’ve come a long way personalizing care; but we’ve got a long ways to go. We need to continue to show the people in our community – including those running agencies for the benefit of people like our residents and clients – what we do, up close.
We need to continue to shout about the incredible way seniors are cared for, and the options available to them that not only support daily living but also enhance the quality of life for residents.
I feel sad for the speaker this morning if her mother or father should ever need nursing care. But most of all, I see this as a call to action to those of us providing care to let the world around us know that it’s not a depressing place to be. That life, right to the end, can be rich and meaningful, and that it’s our mission to help make it so for the people in our care.
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