elderly in American Society. Using a book by Tracy Kidder called Old Friends the reader of this paper is given a detailed outline of what various elderly concerns are. Social relationships, doctors and patient needs as well as nursing home discussions are all included.
THE NEED FOR COMPASSION
Medical science has grown in leaps and bounds over the last century. Today, we are living longer than ever before and we are having a premium quality of life while doing so. Doctors are able to mend and cure problems that would have killed us even 50 years ago. With the increased longevity, comes a new set of problems for society as the geriatric population finds growing in numbers each year. While it is encouraging that we can now incorporate long-range plans for our lives well into our golden years, the ability to do so comes with its own set of trouble. Senior citizens are faced with limited incomes, failing health and the need to be cared for as the years advance. In addition, many of their social contacts disappear as their peers either die or move to other areas to be taken care of by their children. For the most part, longevity is a positive aspect of life, but with it comes a societal responsibility for those it affects.
Elderly people have an exclusive realm of things to deal with that the rest of the population does not face. In addition, humans seem to be preconditioned to not want to face these things, so we ignore or put off the inevitable, often times far longer than we should. And before we know it, in the blink of an eye, we are seniors and faced with some unique challenges. One of the biggest things that the elderly face is loneliness. As they age, their peers either die, or become unable to get out much, therefore their social life becomes limited. When this is coupled with retirement, an elderly person does not have many portions to pursue social avenues. There are programs and centers nationwide to facilitate the social aspects of the elderly but transportation issues, depression issues, isolation issues and health problems often circumvent those efforts.
In Tracy Kidder's book Old Friends we explore the situations that are often faced by the elderly and given an overview of the positive and the negative aspects of our longer lives. The story takes place in Northampton, Massachusetts and examines the lives of residents at the Linda Manor Nursing Home. The residents become very alive as they struggle with a world that is not quite prepared for lively old people and we are given the full understanding of what type of challenges the elderly face.
Lou Freed and Joe Torcio are two residents of the home. The book's main points drive home the forgotten elderly and the way that affects the hearts, minds and emotions of elderly residents. One of the most common problems with elderly residents in this nation is isolation. In Kidder's book these two men realize that separation from the life they knew before causes many residents to give up hope of ever being alive and happy again. The two men, who had not met until they entered the home and were placed together as roommates decide they are going to change this usual course of events. The book takes us on a fun but sometimes poignant journey in which we come to understand that the body grows old but the heart still craves recognition and love (Kidder, 1995).
One of the things we see in the story is the ability of two people to come together for the first time at 72 and 90 years old and form a lasting friendship based on commonality. Several things are faced when one enters a nursing home facility. For many it is the last stop and we know going in that the days will soon be numbered. It is hard psychologically to accept this final address when it seems like only last year we were in the midst of beginning our families and careers. This is one of the things that often lead to separation. The knowledge that it is the last leg of the journey can and often does trigger a depressive episode in which the victim simply secludes himself from the world.
In this book, however, we are not shown that side of life to often. Instead, Kidder chooses to focus on positive outlooks and outcomes generated by the efforts of the residents themselves. Delightful events, funny anecdotes and various uplifting ideas are derived when the residents refuse to take old age lying down (Kidder, 1995).
While the book is an uplifting view of what the golden years can be like, the reality is they don't always happen that way. Across the nation, there are thousands of elderly people who are in various states of depression, financial ruin and health breakdowns. In addition, the elderly often feel cut off from their children and their life long friends, which can create a resentment that harms any attempt to make new friends and form new bonds. Many studies have been conducted about the needs of the elderly and it is now commonly accepted that these issues must be addressed if the quality of life for seniors is going to make it worth the medical community's efforts to advance the average lifespan.
One of the most common problems among the elderly is depression. Depression can be triggered by many events and seniors have several things that are happening at once. Often they have spent their life either building a career, or raising children. When they reach a certain age both of those life functions come to an abrupt halt with a seemingly empty future looming in the distance. In addition, as we grow older we begin to lose cherish friends and family members to death, which not only causes further isolation, but it reminds us that we are getting close to our own mortality marker. In a recent study of depressed hospitalized seniors, 22% were dead within three months.
This study applied to medical patients, which would include those in a nursing home under a doctor's care. " They showed that at three months or less, 43% of patients were depressed, 22% were dead and 18% were well. At 12 months or more, 29% were depressed, 53% were dead and 19% were well. Thus, depression in this population seems to be a protracted condition with very low rates of recovery (Depressed, 1997)."
While finding quality care in a nursing home is a top priority it is often followed closely by the need to be able to qualify for the care. In private nursing homes residents write a check each month for their room, board and other stipulated care options (Gordon, 1995). Private homes can be very comforting as they are often set up like apartments or large dormitory facilities. However, the cost of these homes can be prohibitive to the common retired or ill senior citizen. For those seniors they are left with the task of locating state run facilities and then trying to meet the income qualifications to move in.
" Each month, Dorothy Crosser forwards $699 from her husband's pension and Social Security checks to a nursing home in the northern Minnesota town of Bigfork, where he has lived since suffering a series of strokes in the 1980s. The government insists that her 72-year-old husband, Joseph Crosser, be "impoverished" before the federal-state Medicaid program will pay for his care. Now, faced with congressional Republicans' plans to cut projected Medicaid spending by $182 billion over seven years, state officials are focusing more closely on spouses of nursing-home residents such as Crosser (Gordon, 1995)."
Medicaid cuts threatened 17,000 nursing homes in recent years (Gordon, 1995). This is disconcerting for the elderly who do not have the ability to begin new careers and build new financial portfolios. Funding and because the GOP plans would eliminate tough federal standards for the facilities adopted in 1987. "Sons, daughters and other relatives of nursing-home residents are worried that they will ultimately have to bear a share of the rising costs of care for their loved ones (Gordon, 1995). "
There are several steps to being admitted to a nursing home facility. The first step is to get a recommendation from a doctor. People enter homes for a variety of reasons including needing supportive care, total care or not being able to manage their health issues alone. A doctor makes the recommendation that starts the wheels in motion to moving to a home. Once the recommendation is secured then the nursing home evaluates the senior's needs as well as the financial position of the applicant. Once they move in it is often times going to be for the duration of their life, which can mean a short-term stay, or many years, depending on the physical abilities and the determination of the resident to be alive.