I hope you are all doing well! Gosh, this year is flying by. Can you believe it? June is just around the corner! May and June are two of my favorite months as we celebrate Older American’s Month and commemorate World Elder Abuse Prevention and Awareness. For Older American’s Month, this year’s theme is Communities of Strength which couldn’t be more fitting. Our older adults have been one of the most vulnerable populations over the last 18 months, and my team and I are proud to highlight the resilience, strength, and connection they bring to our communities. Their stories and experiences inspire us in ways many don’t realize.
Internally, at Ombudsman Services, we have been discussing the journey in aging, how older adults and their families define what empowered aging looks like, and what that means to each of us. To me, empowered aging means having my service providers, care partners, and others respect me and my ability to make good decisions for myself. It is the assumption that I am already empowered and don’t require a system or organization to give me power, to recognize that I should be the person guiding all care decisions.
To keep this discussion going, I'm opening this question up to everyone, what does empowered aging mean to you? If you have a few moments, I would love for you to fill out this short survey and share your thoughts. We have some big changes in the works, and your feedback would be greatly appreciated. It may even appear in future outreach!
As always, thank you for reading our newsletter and supporting our work. I hope you read on for more about what’s going on at Ombudsman Services and our feature piece below talking about the trial of Derek Chauvin and impacts and observations in long-term care.
A Guilty Verdict – Impacts in Long-Term Care
On April 20th, after 10 hours of deliberation, former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of the murder of George Floyd. This landmark case has profoundly affected residents in long-term care, in fact, deeper than many realize. This month, we share insights and observations from our Lead Regional Supervisor for Alameda County, Charmaine Brent.
“As a long-term care ombudsman, working in facilities daily, it was easy to see the shift in the atmosphere,” Brent said. “Residents have had more anxiety, fear, worry, anger, and frustration. It has also been easy to see a slight disconnect with staff too. They are overwhelmed, and there is desensitization for residents’ needs outside of providing routine care.”
For the last 18 months, residents have been adhering to shelter-in-place orders, and facility staff are still in the “infection control” mindset. Unfortunately, the feelings that residents are having are getting lost in the shuffle. So much has happened in the outside world around this movement of people. Many struggle with still having to stay in their rooms, not being able to leave the facility, and remain isolated from family.
“I was conducting a facility visit during the time that the verdict was announced,” Brent continues. “Many of the residents were watching the trial. One resident, in particular, shared that he felt hopeless. He had been alive during the civil rights movement and spoke about how people, even then, were more united together. He stated, ‘being in a facility, all I can do is watch it happen. I can’t do anything, and I haven’t seen my family yet.’ To me, that spoke volumes and translated to him wondering how his family was feeling.
Another resident I spoke with was a career police officer and felt for Chauvin’s family. A third resident had been ‘attacked by the police 8-10 years earlier and suffered from PTSD when the incident first occurred. This resident was now having trouble sleeping after seeing the Floyd video, and the facility didn’t know how to help. I’m happy I was able to step in and help set up counseling for the individual.”
At Ombudsman Services, we are advocates and support systems for the older adults we serve. Our job is to lift their voices, speak for those who can’t, and empower them to find the space needed to express themselves and their feelings. The residents we work with come from all walks of life have different views, experiences, and past traumas. This is not something our team takes lightly.
“Since the verdict, we are seeing more resident incidents, more staff to resident incidents, and residents trying to leave facilities against medical advice. In this environment, our teams have become even more hyperaware of everything that’s going on. We are having more conversations with facility staff about monitoring resident’s behavior and that of fellow staff members. We have provided more in-service training highlighting patience, understanding, and recognizing the trauma residents are dealing with, given their own history and experiences. We’re encouraging facilities to help residents feel connected and engaged, giving them an outlet and extra support. Just think about being in a place that you can’t leave, with limited activities, no visitors, and you must remain indoors–feeling helpless. Emotions are a basic human right, and aging and disabled adults are people too.”
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently launched a survey calling for perspectives from residents and their families on the quality of care in nursing homes, given all the challenges and issues that have risen in light of COVID-19. We’re happy to share this survey and encourage residents and families to share their experiences. Please feel free to forward this to your networks, friends, or anyone you may know who should participate. You can get started here.