Do you know what the most dangerous emotion is? It is depression. There is no way to use it. Like a car that has run out of fuel you can try to push it forward but you just can’t get anywhere. You can keep trying to crank the engine over but nothing ignites it. Soon you realize it is worthless as it is. What you need is fuel and that fuel for humans is anger.
I’m not talking about the anger that hurts other people as that is completely counterproductive. I’m talking about the anger you can use as a tool to fire up the engine of motivation that can get you down the road and on your way to success. We were not given the amazing range of emotions so they could control us but so we could use them to enhance our lives.
You know you are using anger to your advantage when you see it turn into will power, strength, endurance and determination. These are not passive feelings, they come from being fed up with apathy toward your environment or your own stagnate self. Anger is at the opposite end of the spectrum of victim.
Throughout my life I have experienced many crisis, divorces, betrayals, near death experience, coma, death of a grown child and a grandchild, homelessness and living with several disabilities and much more. But my life is a success because at each crisis I became stronger, smarter and more pro-active. The first divorce shattered me and the dark cloak of depression covered me until I felt I couldn’t breathe. Then one day I became angry at myself for letting a temporary speed bump jar me off my journey. I made plans and goals and got back on the road. I let anger fire my engine to move forward.
I’m certainly not perfect and every once in a while life deals me a new blow like my sweet granddaughter being diagnosed with leukemia at 14 and for a day or so I allow depression to seep in but the stress is never worth it. By now I know what is needed. I get fed up, I get angry at the situation and I reach for my blue steno pad and I make a plan, a PLAN B. I research, learn my options then go forward.
Can you imagine humanity without the emotion of anger? It motivates progress, competition and achievement. It is a tool that once mastered can push you forward to opportunities and goals beyond your expectations.
Why is self-advocacy so under used in our society? I think because it gets confused between aggressiveness and assertiveness. This confusion is just as misunderstood by the business you are dealing with (usually more so) than the individual trying to assert their rights. In the process citizens get pushed down, intimidated and managed into silence.
Not all is lost however because there is a weapon you can use and it is the absolute key to your success. That weapon is knowledge of the guidelines, goals and mission of the business or organization that you feel is treating you unfairly and denying you services, programs and respect. You will almost always find the employee who denies you and disrespect you does not represent the business or organization you are trying to access. Government and state programs have employees who are overwhelmed and burn out runs rampant. If you do not learn to advocate you will most likely be shoved to the side and forgotten. Businesses like wise expect employees to do twice the job for the money with no incentive to build the business through customer relations.
However, there are people who care and they are the business owners and the directors of federal and state programs and non-profits. The first group is invested in profits and the rest are vested in the goals through mission statements they agreed to uphold when they took their positions. The “key” to advocacy success is understanding what is important to them. For business it’s pretty easy because customer satisfaction and word of mouth marketing equals profits. You already have power here and employees who drive away customer will not last long.
Non-profits, federal and state programs are a little more difficult and intimating because you don’t have a choice weather you do business with them or not. But, it is worth the fight and you can win. First research the organization and find out exactly what they are supposed to be providing and how. If you do not have a computer to research then go to the public library. They will assist you in your research. Letter writing is always the first step to good advocacy but know not only who to send it to but include what happened, how you felt you were treated and where they had not complied with their goals, mission statement or program guidelines. Think of it as verbal litigation. Keep it factual. Emotional letters smack of victimization. Ask them to respond within a certain date. End with thanking them for their consideration and place the ball firmly in their court by stating what outcome you expect in clear and factual words otherwise it is just a complaint letter.
For federal and state funded programs that you get no or unsatisfactory responses do not hesitate to talk to your congressman and ask for their help in intervention. Above all keep your focus on the facts and avoid emotional drama at all costs. State what you want and what you know, based on the guidelines, you qualify for.
What is a non-profit exactly? A nonprofit organization (NPO, also known as a non-business entity) is an organization that uses its surplus revenues to further achieve its purpose or mission, rather than distributing its surplus income to the organization’s directors as profit or dividends. They have a tax exempt status granted by the Internal Revenue Service after conditions are met such as purpose, limitations on spending and external safeguards.
The main purpose of a nonprofit is to serve the needs of the communities they have indicated in their application. They are not “agencies” or “businesses” they are private as opposed to governmental, self-governing, voluntary and of public benefit. In the United States there are three main economic sectors that serve the citizens “wants” and “needs”. These are the government, the for-profits and the nonprofits. For- profits supply our “wants” based on supply and demand. These profits are based on delivering those products and services to the consumer for a price. These are the community’s desires beyond their needs.
The non-profit is responsible for “needs” that the government does not have a direct responsibility to deliver. These needs and a goal to achieve them should be instilled in the mission statement. The problem that often raises its head is when the aggressive hunt for money wedges itself between the mission and the survival of the organization.
Nonprofits begin their noble causes no doubt with services and programs to fill those gaps of need but they must be ever diligent they do not get engulfed by their collaboration with the donor class to the extent it offers only token assistance to the people it serves causing it to smack against their mission. Once they demoralize that, you must ask why their doors remain open at all.
Not all nonprofits fall prey to the irresistible security money and power offer. However, those that do, make you wonder if the acquired wealth they accumulate is for the advancement of who they serve or who serves them.
Nearly all men can stand adversity,
but if you want to test a man’s character,
give him power. — Abraham Lincoln
I’ve done a lot of contemplating this year about my life now that I’m retired. It’s been an undertaking and sometimes felt like I was walking on the edge of a tightrope in a raging storm. So, now I appreciate this kind of cruising you get to do as age creeps up on you. I’ve earned that for sure. Now, I sit back and watch my adult children walk and fall and stumble then dust themselves off again and carry on. I think most of them are at least looking for those speed bumps and slowing down a little while going over them.
Yes, I had exciting and interesting life experiences but not one moment of it did I not secretly yearn for stability. I so wanted the same home, the same man, getting ahead, belonging, it continued to allude me no matter how I tried to sneak up on it. And when I thought I caught it, I would find only dust in my hands. Many tears of despair and dangerous depression would be waiting at the door and I knew of only one way to scare it away and that was to allow anger to open it. It gritted it’s teeth and breathed fire leveling everything in its path. It took me and my little troop down roads where we “bucked up” to survive. And when the crisis simmered down we began the chase for contentment again.
I bargained, I gave in and almost gave up. I spoke affirmations, I stood my ground but again and again it slipped between the walls of illusion and reality.
I understand now why this had to be for experience has been the lantern I hold for others to see. Still, my face sometimes presses against those windowpanes of homes that have held the same families for generations. And, I wonder what it would have been like even though I did not choose it.
Then, for old times sake, I turn to take one more look of longing when I see a woman’s face pressed against that same windowpane, with that same look of longing, looking out at me.
My sister and I told our Mother we would never put her in a nursing home. That’s what we told her, my sister and me, without a thought about our own job commitments and physical limitations or the fact that Mom might eventually need 24-hour care with her Parkinson diagnosis advancing. Although our intentions were courageous there finally came a day that we had to break that promise even though we fought hard for every option we could scrape up.
So what were we so afraid of that a nursing home would be the very last option? The fears were many and unfortunately all too common. The primary ones were lack of quality care and compassion, neglect, bad food, loss of autonomy and deterioration of her mental health. Like almost all grown children faced with this decision we were somewhat optimistic at first, thinking if we looked hard enough we would be able to find that one nursing home that really cared, and, they would take Medicaid.
Even though I worked in the disability field at the time with experience to the contrary, my hopes were high. We carefully screened three or four skilled nursing facilities and included Mother in all the decision-making. By the time two months had passed we were transferring her into a third one. The nursing homes changed but the problems remained.
This process was wearing on Mother’s normally strong, courageous and happy attitude. I can tell you from experience that even the most aware and extrovert personalities will succumb to the daily chipping away of their self esteem until all that remains is the defeated complaining, and most important, complacent, victim. That is what happened to our Mother and in the end fear resided within her and she begged us not to “stir up” trouble as they make her pay for it later with neglect.
There are circumstances that I feel give way to a propensity for corruption of nursing home services. I have listed these below.
- A lot of registered nurses, because of inexperience or just plain “burn-out”, are unable to see past the documents they are required to complete to the true priorities in caring for their floor – safety, hydration, and attention to serious medical problems, adequate nutrition and cleanliness. Mainly for cost savings, nurse’s aides fill these important roles while the nurse does the exhausting paperwork. My Mother and many others on her floor seldom saw a nurse even though C-Diff infection continually ran rampant throughout the nursing home.
- Lack of supervisory staff especially on evening and all night shifts allows thievery and neglect and even abuse.
- Nursing aides and C.N.A.’s are hired and kept on minimum wages. They are not honored or valued for the compassionate work they do. This leaves an employee pool of mostly inexperienced, undereducated employees that are more often than not in desperate financial crisis. And, as anyone knows desperate people do desperate things.
- Lack of sensitivity training and communication skills leaves patients and their loved one frustrated and angry.
- Social Workers for the Nursing Homes are responsible for the entire population of residents. Almost always they have the education but no hands-on experience as well as no idea how to apply the social work “theories” so neatly addressed in text books to the overwhelming reality of old age. Once again, social workers directly out of school with no experience are less costly for the establishment.
- A kind of desensitizing effect happens as patients become room numbers and bed numbers. Being kind or socializing means you might become “attached” and then lose them.
I have been in a few decent nursing homes; however, they did not take Medicaid. And, in the nurse’s defense I think they probably started out caring and ended up in such a governmental paperwork cave-in that they just gave up trying. I really see the focus of the problem being how the money is allocated through reimbursements from both Medicaid and Medicare. Below I have included some ideas that I think would go a long way to solve at least some of the problems.
- Wage Pass-Through – I was reading about this on the Internet as a way to get the money directly to the people who do most of the work. A certain portion of public Medicaid monies can be passed on directly to nursing assistants. States could look at this policy instead of Medicaid monies going for overhead, misuse and profit first.
- Minimum staffing laws that are strictly enforced. Training and testing that a new employee must complete before starting. Review testing during six-month reviews.
- Allow residents to spend time with the facility’s dog or cat for emotional therapy of unconditional love. Non-Medicaid expensive nursing homes do this and it is very therapeutic. It’s a shame that the no-pet restriction is usually only for poor people.
- Nursing Home Workers Unions – this is done in some states and the quality of staff and treatment of patients has shown a rise in quality.
- Put in severe consequences when prosecuting corrupt nursing home corporations that defraud elderly Americans of huge amounts of money that should go to their care. Let this country take a stand – if you steal money intended for the care of our mothers and fathers, you will go to prison for a long time.
- All managers and supervisors read the study, “Quality in Long Term Care-What We Can Learn from Nursing Assistants”
- Take residents for walks or get a tandem bike for those who are able to ride one. But, most of all get them outside.
- Put their pictures on their doors (Younger ones too) and who they were, what they did. Some nursing homes are doing this now.
- Give nursing assistants a break. Congress should consider changing the Federal Tax Code to include, for example, something like, “If an individual is employed as a direct caregiver and earns fewer than 30K a year, one thousand dollar tax credit is available.
- Let residents vote on a different “employee of the month” and give that staff a small bonus or gift certificate or time off with pay
These are just some of the ideas I had. I am sure there are many more by frustrated loved ones like me. There has to be a better way than the current “waiting rooms” for death approach. At least now there is an option for aging in place with home care assistants like the programs from Independent Living Centers but still no funding for 24hr care.
My Mother did not have a dignified ending like my sister and I had longed for. She suffered for almost a year with C-Diff infection that half the nursing home had. It causes fever, diarrhea, vomiting and weakness. Mother had lost nearly half her weight from hardly eating and vomiting what she did get down. She sat in her recliner one evening ringing and calling for a staff that never came to help her to the bathroom. Sitting in her own urine all night was more than she could endure. She pushed herself up but before she could safely reach her bed just a foot away, she slipped in her own urine and broke her hip. A day later we were told about it when they decided to take her to the hospital. She had successful hip surgery but chose death anyway and refused food and water rather than life at the nursing home. Three days later she died. They called it “failure to thrive”.
Marriage was my first life changing transformation point. In the 60’s it was still considered the most accomplished thing a woman could hope for. It defined who you were. It was even thought of as a promotion of sorts. You got a new title, “wife” and a new last name. It meant someone wanted you, couldn’t live without you. You were, most of, all desirable.
The music and the movies of the day exalted the dumb blond, the light headed sex pot and the silly, giggly, and most important, helpless little girl. I was none of these but understood that in order to be “desirable” enough to snag a man into marriage I would need to play a part. Of the choices I could see I chose the demure good girl. At least it didn’t get me grounded. The very first line I threw out I snagged a boyfriend who would become my future husband. It didn’t occur to me then that I was capable of catching many more.
By what seemed to be no time at all, it was the eve of my wedding day. Although I had dated him for my entire high school years I was still apprehensive. It meant leaving my family home. Daddy would no longer be my sole male protector. What if my new husband couldn’t do that? I would change forever, more responsibility, less privacy. This was a big, big move from the 18 year old graduate into womanhood. But, I knew I had to take the leap, so I jumped self- doubt and all.
With my old all or nothing pattern of transformation throughout my life stages I was determined to be the best wife ever. I would keep my stomach flat, never look messed up, shine the floors and have sparkling bathrooms. And, of course, I expected the exact same devotion from him meaning he must focus on me and me alone. There was no room for anyone or anything to squeeze between me and him and my obsession to be the best. I resented the friends, extra activities, his work, obligations and on and on. My intensity and insecurity of transformation into a married woman was a suffocating reality that was bound to fail. And, of course three daughters and twelve years later it did.
Looking back, I think maybe I was really trying to cover up a little girl who wasn’t ready to make those changes but felt pushed along by society’s expectation to do so. I just kind of closed my eyes and ran for it as fast and as hard as possible lest I weep over what I had left behind. He was the basket that held all my eggs of happiness, joy and contentment. I loved my husband dearly but the insecurity within me produced an obsessiveness that drove us apart.
I raised my three daughters very differently. I made sure they were empowered as individuals full to the brim with self-importance. Today’s young women understand so much more of their worth and potential. Society has progressed beyond “equal” to a man to defining the individual regardless of the category of species. I know the feminist movement was necessary at the time but it spent a lot of time proving women were the same or better than men. In reality we are different, unique from men. We should not be in competition but honored for the diversity and unparalleled gifts we bring as women. No need to compete because we already know our capabilities as the individuals we are. The chains of negative attitude against women can only be broken by the self- realization of each woman to acknowledge and honor their self-worth. To be successful the movement must start within.