Thursday, July 28, 2011

Respect For The Elderly

It has been a crazy couple of weeks here in the Kelly household. As of a week ago, we have a new member in our family. Lucille Kwiatkowski is 94 and 3/4 years old and a feisty and independent lady. Two weeks ago today, her roommate of the past twenty years announced that she was moving out and going to her daughter's home. Lucy K as she is known by many was frantic. Her worst fear in the world is going to a nursing home, and for the past year as she has watched her roommate's health decline, she has expressed this concern many times. The roommate and her daughters had been quite disrespectful to her, and she feared they might "put" her somewhere. You see, because Lucy had no close relatives, the roommates daughters had held her healthcare power of attorney and had been co-signators on her checking/savings accounts.

About 8 months ago Lucy came to me and asked me if I would be willing to take responsibility for her healthcare decisions and help her manage her finances and accounts, as she no longer trusted the daughters to do this. They had forbidden her to drive any more and were refusing to take her to doctors and stores when she needed to go. I agreed to do the same and told her that as long as I was alive and well she would never end up in a nursing home. You see, as a retired Home Health Care Registered Nurse, I had seen frequent abuse and disrespect of the elderly. I was frequently frustrated by by inability to help those whose families and friends starved, beat and stole from them!

After waiting several months and much discussion, Lucy and I went to a local attorney and had a Durable Power of Attorney, and Healthcare Directive drawn up. We also went to the bank and closed her accounts and opened two new ones, with only her name and mine on the accounts. We had a lot of small details to attend to including visiting the Funeral Director where she had prepaid for her final expenses, and sending doctors copies of the new healthcare directives. But, after a few months, all was settled. Lucy did not want to share this information with her roommate immediately because of her fear of repercussions.

Last week the information came out and Lucy's fears about how the roommate and her daughters would act were realized ... and it was terrible. They even tried to force her to change her bank accounts to their names by loading her up in a car in driving her to the bank. She did not change her mind. When I discovered what was happening, I had a discussion with both her roommate and Lucy. I also attempted to speak with the daughters, who were extremely aggressive and rude. I explained to the roommate that nothing had to change; I would still take she and Lucy to church on Sunday, to the doctor and to the hairdresser and store. I would still continue to make their meals as I had been doing for the past year. I hoped that this would keep things from coming to a boil!

The very next evening the roommate told Lucy that she was leaving, and she had already called the Landlord to tell him so. Lucy and my husband and I had a discussion, and we all agreed that the best solution would be for Lucy to move in here and we would care for her. She is a joy, and we love her. She will be well fed, and well cared for here. We moved all her bedroom furniture into the front Master Suite and she has her own private bath. We will be making a few minor adjustments, but she is extremely happy here.

Do you know people who are being neglected and/or abused by their family or neighbors and friends? Have you ever considered preparing an extra plate of food for an elderly neighbor? Have you considered visiting with an elderly neighbor to make sure they are not lonely or don't need an occasional trip to the store for groceries? You don't need to be a Nurse to do this. In most other countries in the world, the elderly are treated with dignity and respect. For some reason, in this Country, we are failing our elderly and do not value their wisdom. They are frequently pushed aside and forgotten. I believe there is a lot to be learned from their experience and wisdom.

Lucy has lived nearly 95 years, and I tease her daily about having at least another ten because there is a gentleman in our Church who is 104! She may be occasionally forgetful, and she doesn't move as quickly as someone half her age, but she is wonderfully insightful and kind and has a lot to offer! Reach out to those elderly persons around you whether they are family, friends or neighbors...the reward will be yours!

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