Apr 16, 2018

The Thin Edge Of Dignity, Why We Should Fight For Everyone’s Value

By Amy Henderson – HelloCare Journalist

In a world that is careening along, racing at speeds never before reached, what happens to those who can’t keep up?

Many of us would have used the phrase, “oh dear, that issue has slipped through the cracks”, or, “what a shame, they’ve slipped through the cracks”.

It’s tremendously easy, when you are the one jogging along nicely, leaping over the crooked pavement with all the vitality of youth and circumstance to forget about those in the cracks.

What is it to live outside of the jetstream, in a segment of the world that is not front of mind metaphorically and cast back from our streets literally?

Dick Weinman, a former professor of broadcast communications at Oregon State University, radio personality and published author gives an honest, raw and importantly confronting insight into life as one who is living in assisted living or aged care.

Dick Weinman lived his life with spirit and pluck, a man busy using his mind intellectually and body physically.

He thrived on the physical pursuit of training for marathons and creating stimulating broadcasts for his radio show, he was a being on the go.

In 2006 he was involved in a serious car accident and was greatly hurt.

“I was damaged goods and put back together but I was broken, I need assisted living.” From being in the jetstream he was now in a situation where he was given a number, he was the patient in room 108.

From living a busy and mobile life he now needs to “depend on the niceness and kindness of other people”.

Speaking into the day-to-day life of living in assisted living he highlights that “kindness is in the everyday.

I hope that care is in their hearts, if so heart will be in their care”.

An interesting and important nuance comes across, working in assisted living is to have to deal personally and intimately with the needs of patients, Weinman’s comments suggest that those who work in this sphere should ask themselves, do they have the heart as well as the skills to do what needs to be done?

A powerful and arguably overlooked element of recruitment in the aged care industry.

Weinman talks of the simple deeds, the tasks those us living able bodied lives do not spare a thought to, now become paramount.

The placement of a cup near the edge of a table so that it is accessible for someone in a wheelchair. Not folding glasses when they’ve been cleaned because of the limited mobility in the hands of a patient.

Minute elements that impact the flow of living is one of the challenges being faced by those in assisted living care.

In a world that prides itself on self reliance and self actualisation, to find yourself in a position where you must accept help in order to drink a cup of water is not only to battle the frustrations of limited mobility and dependence but to face the broad and often unrelenting judgment (not often articulated but certainly there) of able bodied society.

Dick speaks into the inner challenges of assisted living, “If you’ve lived an independent life and have an independent spirit like me, it’s hard to get used to the strict ways of assisted living”.

Due to the sizeable logistics in assisted living, order, structure and time management become central.

Yet Dick highlights the nuances of living within this framework.

He worries about the bus being late when he’s finished his volunteering at a local school, what is he misses the time when workers are there to shower him? Will he be able to get someone’s attention to help him go to the toilette?

He speaks of turning down evening social events because of the worry of not returning back in time to slot neatly into the schedule of the facility.

Dick’s narrative is uncomfortable and honest and that is why is it so incredibly important that you watch it.

Those of us who are able to live independent lives, i.e. we can pour ourselves a cup of water, catch the bus to work, shower ourselves and largely function at our own hands, need to gaze into that world.

We need to understand and empathise because it is largely the able bodied that make decisions and policies for aged care facilities and how they run.

It is largely the able bodied that work in these facilities.

To listen and hear what is being felt and experienced by those in aged care is the number one priority. After we’ve listened, then we can do.

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  1. this might be an American production but it is what happens in Australia as well. if every family and person could see this before placing a family member in a care facility, maybe we would finally get changes made.

  2. This is heart-wrenching. Richard is not just Room 108 and he portrays his life in the ALF with.honesty and underlying sadness.

    I would love to communicate with him so he could teach us how to make things different.

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