I recently read an article on depression being rife in our aged care facilities. The article went on to say how medical researchers found that aged care workers working in the facility were unaware as to the extent that it was happening and that even elderly people are covering it up as they are somewhat embarrassed, feel that it is a part of getting older (which psychologically it is not) and did not want to cause a fuss.
We have a somewhat overworked health care system with overworked staff who at present from their perspective are flat out trying to do the best for the ever increasing demands of the elderly on our system. And it will get worse. All the baby boomers will get old one day, we know that it’s coming. However we do not have to be older, sick and depressed and these people need to know that they are not a burden and what they are going through should not be pushed into a corner. If you are elderly and reading this then please speak up! You have contributed to your families over the years, to your country and for those reasons alone, if not for many others, you deserve more than what you are settling for.
The article I read goes on to talk about more staff training and better care. Whilst this may be one of the factors that could assist I feel the article has missed the point somewhat. Let’s for a minute put ourselves in these people’s shoes.
Imagine you have led a full passionate life, you have had family, friends, partied, had some distinctions at work and made somewhat of a successful career but as you started to get older and a couple of illnesses developed here and there you found that you could not quite do some of the things you loved. Accepting that we are not 20 anymore when we have active minds is often a hard thing to do and those of us that have drive and determination often find it hard to just slow down – whether it be at work or play.
Now imagine you add to that the fact that your 3 kids have grown up and are married or living overseas or just away from home. They don’t call as often as you would like perhaps and sometimes you are calling them just to get the answer machine. Even if you still have your partner there is that empty nest syndrome and the Sunday BBQ or family day out, the times you drove them to footy games or just watched a silly DVD can still be sorely missed.
Add to this perhaps someone who has also lost their partner and can’t quite cope at home alone anymore. Someone whose grandkids even are teenagers and off doing their own thing so they don’t even have the pleasure of the little ones ‘ruining’ their home.
Now, after perhaps 65 or more years of a full life with all of the above you find yourself sitting in a room or villa with pale yellow walls (why on earth they paint anything yellow I don’t know), watching a TV show that you may enjoy, listening to others living a passionate life, visiting a dining room for meals where you do get company but often the people are also sad and sick and it becomes a time of exchanging ills. There may be entertainment but that is limited because you can’t disco like 20, your hearings a bit off, your digestion’s not so great and to top it off the income is not that great because you may be living off Centrelink and even if you have superannuation its nowhere near the amount of your once wages.
I know that this scenario does not fit many of the retirees who are well and having a wonderful life in their latter years but that is not whom we are talking about. We are talking about the ones that are left to sit and fend for themselves to some extent.
Given all of the above wouldn’t you, wouldn’t anyone be depressed? I know I certainly would. There is one factor that the medical training, the progresses in technology, the improvement of our health care system and nursing homes cannot take into account to assist these people in their depression. That factor is love.
If we want the people in our nursing homes to have a spark of life, despite their aging, despite their ills, despite their change of lifestyle we need to find some way to pass on to them the idea that they are still needed, that they are not a burden and that we value and appreciate their age and their wisdom.
It used to be in many cultures when grandma or granddad spoke the family listened. They listened to the experiences, to the wonderful stories passed on generation to generation about how to live a fruitful life. Our aged still have that wisdom but our youth have stopped listening. So if we are talking about changing the world, as many do, if we are talking about a better world, it starts with each one of us, at home base.
If you are reading this and you have a grandma or granddad my question is when did you last visit? When did you last call? Or even your mum or dad. They are getting older too. One day you will be sitting in that chair reminiscing about what your life was like. How would you like people to treat you then?
So let’s put a bit of life into our aged care facilities and into our elderly and give them the one ingredient that science, natural health or technology cannot give them. The ingredient is love. It can be from the aged care worker who stopped to say “hi” to Mr. Smith on her way out the door, or from granddaughter Julie calling from Holland or from a 20 minute visit to show you my new bag. The reasons not important, the call, the visit is important.
If we did this for one month, a couple of times a week and built up an atmosphere of how important these people are in our lives I am sure we will see depression and other health improvements that will befuddle science for years…..and love always has had a knack of doing that anyway, hasn’t it?