Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Aged care

is back on my mind again. 
I had to visit a nursing home again yesterday.  I went to see two people. One is a mentally lively and physically frail woman who was, at the age of 98, wanting a little help with her computer. She loaded a new program over the weekend to help her with her "research" ("much too fancy a word though dear") into her family  history.  It was a little confusing but we worked through it together and I left her happily researching records from the other side of the world. 
She has made the best of life wherever she has found herself. The staff like her. It's just as well. She has no family left here but she talks to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Skype and she is hoping for a great-great-grandchild towards the end of the year.
The other person I went to see is thirteen years younger. She's had a stroke and her days are spent mostly staring blankly into space or weeping, wailing and lashing out. She can't speak. I know she's frustrated, frustrated and frightened. I knew her before her stroke and she was an active, abrasive and often abrupt woman. Her family avoided her. She wasn't able to see that her behaviour was the problem. Now she is in the nursing home nobody comes to visit unless I look in. Sometime the home will call me, as it did yesterday, and ask if I can come and try and work out what the problem is. It can take time - something the staff don't have - and patient questioning. 
I didn't have a lot of time yesterday either. I wanted to help the 98yr old. Who knows how much time she has left? I knew I needed to help the 85yr old even if it was just to make life easier for the staff.
I think I got to the root of the thing that was worrying her and one of the staff gave me a hug on the way out.  She's a tiny Asian girl who still  has a bruise where this woman lashed out and hit her.
In her culture the elderly are still respected. I wonder how she really feels about the way we isolate so many of the elderly in places with dreadful names like "Resthaven" and "Sunset Lodge" and more. They smell of cabbage and disinfectant and they are, all too often, empty of meaningful activity. 
I came home to the Senior Cat. He had been having a catnap and was now sitting at the kitchen table reading a political leaflet left in the letter box.
      "Won't  be voting for him," he tells me of an "independent" candidate.
I glance at it. The leaflet is short on policy detail.
I think of the major parties. All of them are short on policy detail when it comes to caring for our oldest citizens. 
It seems we don't really care about aged care. 

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