Thursday, September 15, 2005

NO REVERENCE FOR ELDERS: from C.Y. Brown of Memphis

Dear Young Scholars:

This commentary arrived as an email to me ten minutes ago. It is the first we have received that responds to the tragic deaths of elders in nursing homes. The writer's sentiments resonate with the focus of our work in SIS: celebration of elders. Like other commentaries, this one is a powerful must-read.

Each of us viewed the devastation of hurricane Katrina with "Oh, my God" eyes as we considered our own peculiar circumstances. I was no different as I looked at the nursing homes.
I then considered our national anthem, "America, America, God grant His grace on thee..." Perhaps we received His grace because we once remembered His commandments to "Honor thy father and thy mother that their days may be long upon the earth."As the only child, I am the primary caretaker for my 84 year old mother who now must alternate between a walker and wheelchair for mobility. I am the secondary caretaker for my father, a stroke victim who is unable to walk or speak intelligibly and who resides in a nursing home located only about five minutes from our home.My mother and I cared for our husband/father for several years until my mother's condition worsened and I suffered a heart attack.

We visited several nursing homes before selecting one, not only because of its proximity to our home but predominantly because it is the cleanest in the city and it's on one floor. I can recall my thoughts: in the event of a fire or terrorist attact, my father can easily be evacuated.While looking at the Katrina tragedy, I realized that if in New Orleans, my dad would have no higher floor to seek refuge. The waters would flood the entire building in no time at all. The five minutes' travel time would have seemed like an eternity. I would have to assist my mother to the car with her walker and wheelchair and drive frantically to save my father.How would I be able to get him into the car without help? Where would I put an extra wheelchair? How would I be able to get his medications for the stroke, diabetes, hypertension, depression, et al from an overwrought nursing staff?How could I ignore the clamoring nursing home residents who would be pulling on my arm, leg and clothing for help? How could I deafen my ears to their pleas, close my eyes to their tears and fears? How many could I pack into my mid-sized car? And what about their medications during a time of pandemonium? What if their families are on the way to rescue them as I have done for my own--how much valuable time would they waste in search for their loved one? Where would we then go? If options are limited and I returned to our one story home, how could I get them into the attic? I couldn't--where to go? Who can help?

The fear of torrential waters is not ours, for we live in Memphis, TN, a city atop a bluff. Our greatest and most impending threat is an earthquake because we are located near the New Madrid fault. It is hard to estimate which catastrophe would be greatest. Our streets would be impassable, fires would break out everywhere as gas pipes explode and power lines meet them as they fall into the abyss. What would I do if I am unable to reach my father at all because of the cracked earth? As it turns out, the greatest benefit of the nursing home we selected: it is located next door to a fire station. But what about all of the other nursing homes which are not so situated?Katrina has been a wake-up call for us all. All cities have begun reinforcing their emergency plans of action in the event of a natural disaster. No longer can we be content to keep our heads in the sand, ostrich-like. Americans must now demand that critically necessary dollars remain within our borders; that money needed for the recovery from natural disasters takes precedence over money spent/allocated for "threats". We must again recall our anthem and " our good with BROTHERHOOD from sea to shining sea."

from C. Y. Brown


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