Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Reflection on Shalom

It's almost midnight and I can't get my mind to shut off.

Today is St. Patrick's Day which I'm sure in most other people's minds is a cause for celebration. Being Irish myself, it's of course just another excuse for every single person to drink and say stereotypical things thinking they are Irish.

However, today is a cause for celebration because it's the first day since nursing school started that I've really had a full day to relax! Granted I still didn't do that, but it was a day to do so.

I was able to sleep in a little bit, had to run an errand to help my brother, and once back home I started organizing a few things and then got to work on some DIY-ing :-) Couldn't help it.

I watched a couple documentaries, broke the washing machine, you know, just the usual things ;-)

I have to work tomorrow and I went to bed awhile ago but unlike usual I find myself tossing and turning more than usual. I can't get my brain to shut off so naturally it goes any and everywhere.

It landed quite heavily upon reflecting at my time at Shalom Home. For our Foundations of Nursing class we had to do a 16-hour clinical that was basically meant to help those who have never before been in a clinical setting or ever taken care of someone the opportunity to get used to touching and talking to other people.

I don't think that going to a long-term care facility where dementia is prevalent is quite the way to do that but we all found ourselves in various long-term care facilities. I willingly chose Shalom Home as it has an underlay of Judaism, and that peaked my curiosity.

But it comes down to the geriatric population is the geriatric population. It's a special population within itself that has a lot of trials and tribulations. Taking care of kids is no easy task but I can say taking care of kids, in my opinion, is easier. The geriatric and pediatric population are similar in some ways. They are both highly dependent on the caregivers, need varying degrees of assistance, need a lot of direction. However, there is still a difference. Kids are naturally smaller and cuter. Kids have a positive energy and hope for a future. Not so much with the geriatric population.

A large majority of the time, those in long-term care are depressed, have dementia, are stubborn or mean, are altered, and are hard to work with. They aren't cute and cuddly like children. And it takes a special sort of patience to interact with patients who repeat the same sentence over-and-over-and-over.

With that being said, there is still a certain amount of humanity that comes in taking care of people. And I sit here reflecting on my time at Shalom, which is preceded by a large foundation of taking care of the geriatric population...from taking care of my dying grandmother, to working home health care, to working in an assisted living facility, including the Alzheimer's unit. There is a certain amount of respect, dignity, humanity, and compassion due each individual, no matter their health state. There is a certain way you treat and care for others.

What I find myself dwelling over are the many instances of things I didn't agree with. Call lights not being answered when the residents need assistance, telling the residents what/when they should be doing things (when that is in fact their home), sometimes imprisoning them in their chairs or beds, attitudes and words used. I reflect on the abuse and neglect that I experienced at the assisted care facility. And I find myself dwelling on how caregivers interact with patients.

I don't know anyone who willingly chooses to have their body and mind deteriorate to the point that they rely on others, sometimes without any form of communication to those who are caring for them. I don't know anyone who willingly wants to suffer in that manner. But I do know that as a caregiver/provider, it is within my power to maintain the sacredness of being human, and of relieving suffering, in many different manners.

To me, it is unacceptable that caregivers forget that these residents were once vibrant young people, like you and I, who independently made their own choices, dressed to the nines, raised families, had careers, hobbies, interests (outside of going to the dining hall). Therefore, when someone is completely reliant upon me, it is my duty to maintain dignity, respect, privacy, and maintain that connection to others.

I don't agree with nursing homes. My parents will never be put in one if it is at all within my power and doing. I can't imagine my parents being treated, neglected, or thought of in the way that a lot of these caregivers treat the residents. In fact, it breaks my heart to think about it.

But it also makes me think, what is in store for my future? My parents have me, a very passionate and compassionate person who is more acutely aware of the healthcare system and long-term care facilities. I don't believe they are at all the answer, in any way shape or form. I will be an advocate until the end for my parents. But what is in store for my future? As someone who has yet to have a desire for children, will there be anyone there in my future to provide for me if I start to lose my physical or mental faculties? Or will they put me in one of these facilities that I so loathingly hate? Or will I have anyone at all, if I never have children?

I hate being in them to take care of others, because of how flawed and awful the system is. I can already tell you one of my worst nightmares would be to wind up in one of them as a resident. Especially with how social and independent I am. And how particular I am about the way healthcare providers take care of others. What is in store for my future? And how can I make an impact in the current system? So many things going through my brain....

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