July 18th, 2010 at 10:06 pm
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Where are Those Eldercare Advocacy Voices?

by Isabel Fawcett, SPHR

Some folks wish or pray for world peace. Others have different social causes for which we become advocates. I readily admit that my heart is mush when it comes to eldercare stories.

Eldercare Advocates: AWOL

The military dubs it Absence Without Leave, or AWOL, when their military personnel go missing without prior approval. AWOL comes to mind when I consider the circumstances some elders face alone. The eldercare stories that make my heart bleed are stories where I perceive little or no advocacy on behalf of a chronically ill elder.

One such story is breaking my heart right now. It is the story of a family friend who is a generational contemporary of my 85-year old mother. Our friend lives out-of-state now, closer to family, yet further away from eldercare advocacy it seems. Any day now, she will be medically discharged from acute care to long-term care. The decision to place her in nursing home custody is medically and ethically sound although it breaks her heart and mine.

Our friend’s mind is sharp. Like any other individual, she has her upbeat days and days that scare her silly. Then again, so do I. The difference is that I retain a measure of control over my life. No one talks around me as if I were invisible. For our family friend, decisions about her health and care swirl around her.

She has been moved from one hospital to another for various reasons, including one instance when the nursing unit to which she had been assigned was closed by the hospital. That hospital sent her packing to another hospital somewhere within city limits. How difficult it must be to be a day older, sicker, and sent packing–to another hospital!

Hanging in There–Just Barely

I talk to our friend as often as I can. Each time we speak, I wonder whether it will be the last time I will hear her voice and be able to encourage her to “hang in there.” What else could I possibly say? There are no words.

She has a future appointment with her [former] physician fixed in her mind. Between now and her scheduled medical appointment anything goes. She is not even sure whether he is still her physician. We both concur that “there are so many doctors involved.” So many doctors, yet, not one solid eldercare advocate in our friend’s life in a system that is larger than life. No one helps her make sense of what all is happening to her. There is something wrong with that acute care picture.

While some pray for world peace, I continue praying for real eldercare advocates. Each one take one–please.

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