One of my pals that I help out is an 81 year old woman who can hardly walk. Let's call her Samantha, an African-American. She was homeless and frozen in a snowbank, as a result of which she lost her fingers. Most days I help her open her milk container and orange juice get her lunch, and ocasionally help her dress at the senior center. She has no relatives. Years ago she was one of the last patients to undergo the nightmare psychiatric procedure called a "lobotomy". Her husband was shot to death and she tried to kill the person who killed him. She was a nurse. With difficulty I helped get her in an assisted living facility where she is forced to take psychiatric medications every day. From helping her over the years I know she is not psychotic nor violent. When I am with her she reads from the bible and prays. But rules are rules. She has metastasized cancer. Her days are numbered. Her favorite activity is to try to help me comb my hair. She has a lot of trouble with the comb, but I'm patient. Today she came to me in tears. Just back from the hospital. Bible clutched under her arm as she held her walker. She refused to take her psychiatric medications because she said "I don't feel human". The list of psychiatric medications she is on staggers the imagination. They are totally inappropriate. The perfect solution to which no known problem exists. Her social worker attempted to force, she resisted, the police were called and she was forcibly dragged to an ambulance by four police and two wise-guy abusive overpaid EMT's who would be better off with a job cleaning toilets at a Greyhound bus station instead of running 911 calls. "They kept cursing at me," she said crying. "And handcuffed me". That's the person attracted to the EMT job. The red-light and siren crowd. Then and off to the psychiatric ward. If this was 1814, I would do determinations with her psychiatrist at ten paces, but that's not the way we do things these days. And I was told "You have no standing so keep out of her treatment or we'll get a restraining order".
That is horrid. There is such a lack of respect for aging people. Add some mental problems and they're considered a nuisance at best, garbage at the worst. What people forget is that some day they may be old and frail too. But they seem to think that will never happen to them. What a bunch of baloney. I do wish they're revive that adage about treat others as you wish to be treated. This society is too "me" oriented: my feelings, my rights, my happiness.
"Samantha" has the mind of a six-year old as a result of the lobotomy. She enjoys hugs and flowers, candy (which she should not have) and bunny-rabbit stuffed animals. Whatever transgressions caused her to recieve the lobotomy took place a half-century ago. She has a "social worker" who treats her with indifference. I arranged for her to be seen by an outside psychiatrist and...guess what...the facility would not permit this. Only the physician assigned to ther facility has the right to examine her. Interestingly, every so often her mind clears and she states some fact about a drug from the PDR that only someone in the medical field would know. The facility in which she is confined is paid over $7,000 per month by the city per patient. They milk the health care system dry, billing for non-existent physical therapy for each patient. They are a "non-profit" whose director collects $800,000 a year in salary. And a nice glossy brochure encouraging contributions. Unfortunately, this facility is typical of what is out there. This is the norm rather than the exception to the norm. I think I would do away with the entire system of licensing social workers. The sole criterion would be for the person to have empathy and enjoy the privilige of holding an old woman's hand. "Samantha" has trouble speaking but her explanation of why she wanted to be off the psychiatric drugs seemed quite rational. In any event there is no ombudsmans system to look into the care provided by either nursing homes or places that care for the disabled. And for a person without means or relatives, getting caught up in the gears is not the most pleasant way to spend the last few months of your life.
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