Comparing Apples and Oranges... A Personal Perspective

apples and orangesComparing apples to oranges is a phrase to describe something which is both the same and different simultaneously depending on your point of view. When someone says "you're comparing apples to oranges" they're really saying "Why are you trying to compare those things? You can't compare apples to oranges, they're just not the same thing."

Let's relate this analogy to  senior care  - with  another story that  hits close to home. Last August, my 91 year-old mother-in-law suffered a massive stroke. Initially, there was little hope of survival let alone any quality of life, as the stroke left her paralyzed on one side, speech was significantly altered and cognitive abilities impaired.  For months her quality of life looked bleak.

The first skilled nursing facility to which she was admitted was lovely with all the latest interior design features, a valet to greet us at the front door. Had I not been far too familiar with what to look for in "quality care", it would impress anyone.

Unfortunately my first indication that the culture was less than adequate was when my husband and I signed in. We asked politely if we needed a badge and was told by the receptionist that she couldn't find where they were and "I don't really care if you have a badge."

Halls were devoid of any activity (though they were "lovely"), staff was hard to find and I noticed most people lying in bed with TVs blaring. When we entered my mother-in-law's room she was alone and slumped over in her wheelchair, facing a wall with her food tray nearby. Her "meal" was cold soup and grilled cheese. At the time it was delivered, I'm sure it was warm. Everything was exactly where it was when it was delivered. Why? Because the person who delivered her food did not stay to help her get utensils out of the plastic bag (really?), put sugar in her ice tea, or take the lids off her food. She had a stroke with only one side of her body able to move (and it was not her dominant side). SHE NEEDED HELP! I'm pretty sure this is in the "Caregiving 101" manual of any facility, but now I'm wondering?!?

Weeks went by with my amazing sister-in-law by her side constantly to monitor each and every detail. And at each every turn there were challenges. Weight loss, swelling, bed sores, an apparent lack of trained staff at every juncture. It was clear that this community had problems, the core being there was no culture of care. Nothing was getting better, so things HAD to change.

Being a veteran, she was able to get into the Tennessee State Veterans Home  skilled nursing facility. She was greeted with a warm welcome by a team of healthcare professionals ready to get her better - physically, emotionally and spiritually. Today, she is thriving. She has caregivers that truly care for  her, activities that engage her mind and body, and an atmosphere of teamwork among staff. She is taken to community events, shopping, and other recreational activities. She has engaged with staff and residents and knows practically everyone by name. It is truly a culture that exhibits person-centered values above all else. It would probably not win an award for interior design, but in fact has won awards for the level of care and commitment they have for their residents.

As with so many things in life - It's not in the packaging.. it's what's inside. Comparing apples and oranges when it comes to senior care. You have to look beyond the packaging.