Sunday, July 18, 2010


There are different buzzwords that you hear a lot when you start learning about the world of senior care. "Aging in place" refers to someone staying in their own home. "Cognitive impairment" is the newer polite alternative to saying someone is confused, demented, brain-damaged by stroke, or senile. And any discussion about where/how/who will care for old people is bound to include opinions about how to "preserve dignity."

It's an emotional topic for families. They are used to seeing Grandma or Mom as a capable woman, and know that she worked for years as a nurse, or teacher, or Air Force pilot, or whatever it is she did. And even though she may not really be that same woman anymore in many ways, they want to have the stage set as if she still is the same as ever, as much as possible. Some families are against the use of mechanical lifts for that reason, because they think they are "dehumanizing." Some dislike certain terms; I have one client whose daughter doesn't like me to call myself her father's Caregiver. She prefers the term "escort" which I hate because my job is this:

and is NOT:

All in all, I'm not very sensitive about dignity. The truth is, getting old isn't a dignified experience. You lose abilities you used to have, and rely on others more. Your body is deteriorating. But you know what? It happens to EVERYONE who lives long enough. So there's no point being embarrassed about it. I think we may as well just be practical and do things the way that's the easiest for the old person. It's more comfortable and safer for them to be transferred with a mechanical lift? Use one. They need to be wearing diapers/briefs? Get some. The dickering about what to call someone's caregiver or whether or not Grandpa should wear a life alert pendant is more about the families than the person, lots of times.

But this week, at my job, I turned into the one saying "That's not dignified!" And it surprised me. What finally pushed me into that camp?

My facility's new policy that when we change someone's disposable brief, we must write the date, time, and our name ON THEIR ACTUAL BRIEF. Now that's impractical enough, but add to that the fact that if I check their brief, and it's clean, I must cross out the previous time and add the new one. Seriously. Which means that instead of a 2 minute trip to the bathroom to check, I need to decide if I want to be the jerk that writes on someone's butt while they're wearing the brief, the jerk that makes them take it off so I can write on it and put it back on, or the jerk who avoids the first two options by throwing away a perfectly fine one so that I can write on a new one in the other room where they aren't watching me autograph their underwear and then put that one on them.


I agree that not changing people when you're supposed to is horrible and can lead to health problems. But a small chart in their bathroom for staff to initial? Dignified. Writing on someone's underwear every 2 hours? Not.

1 comment:

  1. Somebody actually demanded that you call yourself an escort? That is not dignified, although if you're signing your name on people's underwear...