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See the person, not the disease

Published on March 15th, 2010

Mary Fridley at Gero-Resources wrote the following for The Capital. 

DEAR MARY: I just lost my dear husband of 65 years to Alzheimer’s disease. Mary, you would hardly believe the many times I thought about you during his stay in the hospital and nursing home. I am so glad we had the experiences of the wealth of knowledge you shared through the many workshops and seminars we attended together.

During this difficult period there were many times I thought how much the staff would benefit from your depth and detail of knowledge of dementia care. I was horrified by how they handled him; like he was a piece of meat. One time two aides were moving him up in the bed and slammed his head into the headboard. No one talked to him like he had any sense at all. Even the doctor dismissed him as if he should just die.

He was capable of following directions if they took the time to tell him what to do. Instead, they just did things without warning, which frightened him. I think they could learn a lot by being in bed for a day and having someone tend to all their needs. They would discover how humiliating and degrading an experience it is.

My husband was a person and the love of my life, and I would do anything to have him with me today – even in his Alzheimer’s state. He was a gentle, loving soul who would never hurt anyone. I am heartbroken over this experience.

DEAR READER: Please accept my sincere condolences on the loss of your husband. And I am sorry your final days together were so dreadful. No matter how often I hear this story (and I’ve heard it many times), it never fails to outrage me. The staff broke the most basic rule of care: to see the person, not just the disease.

It should be required that people take a sensitivity course before they work with the elderly. They should be put through the rigors of daily care, such as you suggested, experiencing first hand what it’s like to be on the receiving end. I hope your letter sparks discussion among staff to do better.

I know you are grieving, but I encourage you to write a letter to the administrators of the offending facilities. They need to know about your experience. Peace be with you.

___________

I like that.  See the person, not just the disease.  Nursing home employees especially unqualified CNAs do not get enough training on how to take care of demented residents.  It is a shame and a disgrace.

Joe Pioletti
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