By Changing Your World, You Change Our World

Mindful Aged Care

Getting-older

What is Mindful Aged Care? Let's start with a story.

Ruth, is 82 years old. She is fairly healthy for her age using a cane when she goes out and still doing a daily walk around the block with her terrier Trevor.

She is living on her own after her husband, Harold, died five (5) years previously. She lives in the house Harold built for them in 1951. She gets assistance from Council to help with the garden upkeep – although she still tends her roses. Ruth also gets assistance with the housecleaning, the heavy duty tasks she can no longer perform. Her children, Ted and Nancy and their families keep in contact by telephone and monthly visits. Nancy tends to do more than Ted.

Ruth had a fall at home requiring her to be transported to hospital via ambulance. In emergency they examined Ruth and asked her all sorts of questions. From a checklist. The medical staff determined she had a dislocated shoulder and possible hip fracture and sent her for x-rays. The x-rays came back; yes to the dislocated shoulder, however, the pelvis x-ray was inconclusive.

They scheduled Ruth for surgery on her shoulder – it was a bad dislocation requiring surgical intervention- and adopted a wait and see on the hip. After surgery Ruth went to rehab for a period of recovery. She still had difficulty putting any pressure on her left leg. She did say this to a number of doctors and nurses.

During her period in rehab the leg got worse, she could not get out of bed and was in a great deal of pain. Although Ruth suffered in silence because that's what people from her generation did.

The ending to this story is that Ruth had hairline fractures in her left pelvis and foot. They weren't picked up on the x-ray. Her attempts to communicate with the medical staff were ignored. It wasn't until Ruth fell when trying to get out of bed to go to the toilet that someone paid attention. At that point the hairline fracture in the pelvis became a major fracture and dislocation.

Ruth spent many more hours in surgery. After surgery Ruth developed an infection. Because of her weakened state and previous pain her immune system just couldn't cope. Ruth died. * (this story is a composite of a number of real-life incidents)

Back to Mindful Care, let's start with what it's not:

  • mindlessly following old patterns of care
  • engaging people as patients or numbers and not seeing the whole person
  • forgetting the art of conversation and the importance of trust
  • treating older people with disdain and as though they don't matter

Some or all of the above can be true in the context of modern aged care. In fact, those of us who interact with the elderly – our parents, our relatives, our neighbours, our community – have been guilty of these same mindless thinking patterns. It's hard not to when society stigmatises ageing as something to be avoided – kind of like the plague.

There are all sorts of stories of people in care – not just the elderly – who suffer needlessly. It's a dynamic within a hospital based model of care that can lend itself to the capacity for abuse. The power lies with the care providers in a hospital based model. Doctors, nurses, therapists, aides all have more power over what happens to an individual placed in an aged care facility. This includes when care services are provided in a person's home. It doesn't have to be this way.

There is another, kinder, more mindful way to provide care. One that involves, engages and empowers the elderly and their families.

We are compiling information to show there are different ways to age and different ways to provide care – a mindful care approach.

We want stories about your experience with aged care services – the good, the bad and the ugly. Help us to change the world for the better.

Please contact D'Arcy at darcy@meaningfulchange.com.au

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