NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 27, 2013

What has happened to caring?

As I See It
Sara-Anne Eames

---- — This article started out with a plan to write about health care but is now extended to include the tendency of many people today not wanting to care about anything but their own interests and practice the easiest way to get out of work.

We, as Americans, have always had the reputation of being sensitive to helping others, to being generous in charitable donations and to being positive in our outlook. Since the late ‘90s service and health care had been extremely important to all of us.

In the past year, particularly, I see changes in those taking care of the ill and it saddens me to see the changes interfere with the patient’s care, not only in hospitals and rehab, but also with retail stores and service people and their customer satisfaction.

Someone recently told me that after having a loved one confined to a rehab for quite a lengthy stay, she received such negative attitude and obvious mannerisms from various nurses and personnel. She felt that she had to be an advocate for the patient because they didn’t reach out to her relation. Every time she tried to converse with the staff, there was minimal eye contact and great hesitancy in responding. One nurse asserted her authority and stated haughtily that she was in charge of this particular area.

I myself had run into this problem with a rehab nurse. Her feeling of self-importance was very evident. More than once I saw her eating at her desk, putting makeup on and answering sharply when she was asked questions. Some employees have a job to do and will not go beyond; she was one of them.

Fortunately, there are some wonderful nurses who are old school and their rapport with patients in the hospital/rehab is a pleasure to see. It’s like one extreme to the other.

There are also some home health aides who carry out their duties with as little effort as possible. When they are asked to help with groceries or to go to the drugstore, the errands seem never to be fully completed and laundry is considered as a second job before they eat their lunch, make personal phone calls and watch TV. Yet, I had one aide up until 2001 taking care of my parents and she always went well beyond her duty for all her patients and she’s still doing it in 2013! So, I’m not totally discouraged! It is a pleasure to see her in our complex taking care of other residents. But she’s old school!

The privacy law seems to be going well beyond its original intent. When one takes on the responsibility to care for an elderly, ill person whose family is out of town or is unable to come and help them, it is nearly impossible to be an advocate because you are told, “It’s not your business!” Probably true, but, when patients have no one to watch out for them, they become vulnerable and will very often submit out of confusion to treatment that they may not really want.

Elderly are sent home with insufficient help. There was a lovely lady who has had several serious falls in her apartment and she was set up with an hour a week for home services. With a little more help she could remain independent and not have to be confined to a nursing home. Where were the social workers? There doesn’t seem to be communication among staff and all available resources. Medicare programs need to be coordinated so that those in need can adequately know about the services and their rights. You get a lot of paperwork given to you by staff in hospitals and nursing homes, but how many patients actually have a staff member sit down with them and explain their rights?

This lack of intimacy and courteous behavior seems to be happening more and more in everyday life. People are so self-oriented that they don’t bother to converse with their neighbors or help with public areas to keep them picked up. The response is, “It’s not my property, why should I bother?” It’s a sad attitude! People need to help each other. As the song goes, “people who need people are the luckiest people in the world.” Sound familiar?

I sure hope we can get back to caring about each other!

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Sara-Anne Eames lives in Newburyport.