The following piece was written by an aged care worker with nursing home experience in the Australian aged care market. It illustrates the vast divide between reality and the marketing tactics used to sell these illusions to unsuspecting family members. For obvious reasons the real name of the author is withheld and forgotten.
Moderation is fatal. Nothing succeeds like excess ~ Oscar Wilde
Except over-population ~ Colin James
In Australia, America and Europe, we now have too many old people (Rinkesh, 2016). So many, that they are literally falling out of their homes into hospitals and aged care facilities. There are so many elderly people that they are placing a huge demand on health systems, and there is a shortage of nursing homes worldwide (McGrath et al. 2015).
The respect that these infirm elders, wise patriarchs and matriarchs of the family would have held a century ago has evaporated. They are seen as slow, deaf, blind, demented beings who can’t even use an iPhone! How can they possible survive on their own? Or contribute to a rapidly developing, though I prefer to say, deteriorating, society? In turn, we younger generations, racing towards human-kinds inevitable doom (I have substituted humankind for humanity (that, we destroyed years ago) have no time for our own children, let alone our parents.
The average family now consists of two parents who work full-time and is inclusive of 2.53 members per family (apparently some families share kids, or pieces of them), whom are struggling to simply pay the child-care bills let alone worry about their elderly parents (ABC, 2016). Those that can afford to put them in nursing homes find it preferable to putting them up in their own modern minimalist home (Nothingam, 2014), and, rightly so, think it would be safer to have them being supervised at all times.
And there is no reason to think that your parents, the people you owe your life to, are receiving anything less than the best care money can buy. Because you will spend a lot of money. At the time of writing, a cheap room in the nursing home I work at requires a bond of seven hundred thousand Australian dollars, and the aged care companies’ mission is so heartfelt it would make Medusa weep.
Aged Care Facilities have invested a lot of time and money in selecting managers who are excellent sales people, razor-keen, to house a never-ending stream of ill or weak 'consumers'. And how do the owners of the nursing homes ensure their manager will maximise capacity whilst keeping the budget of the care facility low?
A secret strategy: The managers receive a bonus that exponentially rises as the annual budget for their facility drops. The managers are rewarded for depriving the elderly of the care for which the nursing home is billing the government.
When you meet the manager of the aged care facility, you’ll be amazed at how luxurious the 'accomodation' is. Bright, expansive, and some brilliant chemical engineer has figured out a way to clean out the aroma of fermented cabbage and diverticulitic bowel that wandered the halls of the nursing homes in your memory.
You will marvel at how spacious, open, and non-clinical the facility is. It looks like a resort! It even has a full-time physiotherapist to see your loved one should they have any pain or if they would like to do some exercise, or receive a massage. It’s great!
And why shouldn’t it be? It's marketing.
If, like a good little independent, proactive, forward-thinking middle-class adult, you have researched the companies charter, you will recognise every phrase that slithers out of the managers oral orifice. She only has to check the brochure she carries in her hand once: '...Integrity - here we are open minded, and welcome different people with different cultures and different lifestyles.’
Before you have time to question whether or not you’ve made the right choice (wasn’t that nursing home that’s a bit older, a few kilometres down the road asking a cheaper bond to put mum up?), the manager directs you back to her office, sits you down in front of her desk, and reaches across it to clasp your mothers’ hand.
"It’s okay, everyone feels this way when they come in here. It’s a big change. We’re here to make it easier for you. And everyone is always pleasantly surprised."
Still holding your mothers’ hand, she passes her a tissue box - her words have caused mum to cry (the manager learnt this technique in an empathy tutorial that all management staff had to attend - the gesture of offering a vulnerable person a tissue is a powerful gesture of trust and compassion, the white flag of surrender, she’s offering you her care, not forcing you to take it). She doesn’t need to force anything - already today there have been five other families through to look at the single remaining available room.
You move mum in the following week. It’s surprisingly easy. The only person that finds it difficult is her - annoyingly, as she has had plenty of time to say good bye to her old house.
'A change will do her good, it’s about time she had one', someone says, and you repeat it in turn, finding that it makes you feel better.
'I would love it here.' You lie, when you come to visit.
Every time you visit, she has something to complain about. You decide the complaints aren’t significant, and you don’t worry yourself about them: people shouting in the night, the carers were late with the medication (again) and she was washed late by the staff even though she prefers to get out of bed early. Mum will get used to it.
Of course she will.
She has to.
She has no 'choice'.