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Dignity For the Aged
By Sam Kukich

Have you visited a nursing home lately? I invite you to visit one – choose any one, there are many in our area. Ask to visit someone who doesn’t have family. They will be easy to recognize because he or she will most probably not look up or acknowledge you as you approach. Why? They have become accustomed to being ignored. Some can’t see very well, and other’s can’t hear. Many have given up hope and are waiting to die because life has become a daily routine of being told "what” to do "when.”

Are you aware that residents are often forced to wake up at 4 or 5 am? Why would a 94 year old be required to get up at 4 or 5 am you ask, because that is his or her scheduled shower time. Why does an elder resident have to shower at that time of the morning? There are not sufficient staff to ready the all residents in time for breakfast. Some Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) have 15-20 residents assigned to them. The only way all the residents can be assisted prior to breakfast is to begin the process early. Imagine this if you will. You are sleeping soundly at 4 a.m. the light goes on, someone says "Time to get up, time for your shower”. There is no time for anything, someone is taking your bedcovers off, forcing you to sit up and get moving! If you are not compliant at this hour, they call you "combative”. They bring you to the shower, and wash your hair that you just had washed and set the day before. It is shower day, that is all they say. Oh, did I mention that many of these residents are paying upwards of $8,000 a month for this level of assistance?

Three issues are of importance when it comes to caring for the elderly: Time, Staffing and Dignity. Without appropriate staffing, neglect and in some instances abuse occurs. There is not sufficient time to treat residents with the respect they deserve and for the hard-earned money they saved or our tax dollars provide to obtain that care.

Staff members have little time to hear or address your desires, needs, concerns or complaints. They have long since forgotten that you are an individual, you are a task that must be accomplished as quickly as possible. Once they have attended to you, they must move quickly to the next resident. If during the day or evening you push the call button for assistance it may be a long time before anyone comes. Sometimes the CNA will stop by to say, "I will be right back,” but they fail to return because another resident or residents have more urgent needs.

Knowing that staff may not be available and not wanting to become a nuisance, you begin to take risks: you get out of your bed without help, you dress yourself, you use the toilet without assistance, you attempt to walk to the nurse’s station to seek assistance, etc. You do any one of these things because there is insufficient staff until you are chastised for your actions or worse, you fall and injure yourself. The option of remaining in your bed, relieving yourself in your briefs, going without liquid refreshment, having your skin become dry and brittle or breaking out with sores or infections becomes just too much to bear so you take matters into your own hands despite the fact that you are not capable. This is a sad situation and all too often it is the norm in elder care facilities, even the better ones. This is happening, it is not something the elderly are imagining.

Dignity For The Aged was created to help provide the elderly a voice with regard to their care. We are currently working with Government and Elected Officials to change laws in the Commonwealth of Virginia to first and foremost establish specific 6 to 1 staffing requirements in all senior care facilities. The current law states that elder care facilities must provide "sufficient staffing,” but there are no ratio requirements as to what constitutes sufficient. The result is many CNAs cannot possibly reasonably attend to the number of residents they are assigned and as a result the resident suffers abuse, neglect and sometimes death.

We want residents to feel as though people still care. We want to assist family members in the proper care for your loved ones. Our volunteers welcome the opportunity to visit your loved ones in order to provide some quality person to person interaction. If you would like to join us to ensure that our elderly are properly cared for, send us a message on Facebook or visit our web page, we would love to hear from you. We have a Facebook page - Dignity For the Aged and a web site - dignityfortheage. org Join our team and help us give a voice to provide Dignity to the Aged.

 





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