“Not Forgetting/Forsaking Our Elders in the African-American Community”
By Dr. Sinclair Grey III
As a former chaplain for a nursing home facility in the state of Maryland, I encountered many people from all lifestyles. Some of the residents were there short-term (90 days or less), while others seemed to have lived there for many years. With regard to their illness, if you name it, someone in the facility probably had it. Just meeting these men and women and hearing their stories was heartbreaking in one sense and uplifting in another.
The tragic story was hearing those whose family members abandoned them. It was the same story – family members would come to visit for the first two to three months and after that no calls, visits, or gifts. They felt so alone and isolated from the ‘real’ world. Not only were they dealing with their illness, but they were dealing with an internal struggle of feeling all alone.
On the other hand, those who were uplifting didn’t allow their illness, situation, and/or circumstance to define them. In addition to this, they didn’t permit their condition to confine their thinking about possibly transitioning from the nursing home to an assisted living facility. Yes, they had some of the issues as the other residents, but they had a positive outlook.
Whether it’s in a nursing home, assistant living facility, or through private care, caring for our elders must be a top priority in the health care debate. According to statistics provided by the Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging (AOA), the African-American older population was ‘3.2 million in 2008 and is projected to be 9.9 million by 2050.’ It’s unclear how many of them will find themselves in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or needing private care. One thing for sure is that our elders are our responsibility individually and collectively.
Let’s face it – no elderly person wants to be uprooted from their home. Unfortunately, many will have to do so and their loved ones will have to make some tough decisions. Decisions such as where should they go, the quality of care, who will pay for it, and will it be temporary or permanent. With so much to look into, one thing that needs to be addressed during any consideration is the compassion of the workers.
Rita Crichlow, the administrator of the H. B. Anderson Home in West Palm Beach, FL says ‘there needs to be compassion from the workers towards the elderly. So many people in the health care field are there for a check, but fail to have true love, passion, and concern.’ She went on to say that ‘family members need to look at the heart of the workers. Don’t get caught up with the building and the manicured lawns that you fail to observe the quality of care.’
In addition to addressing the quality of care for the elderly, the need for stimulating activities will help keep many of our elders sharp mentally. All too often, there’s a routine of wake up, eat, and watch television throughout the day without much interaction. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know this will cause our elderly to diminish.
Proper care partnered with activities will help our elderly live a more productive life. Just because they have reached a certain age, it doesn’t mean they are to be disregarded. The demands placed on the children to care for their loved ones can seem overwhelming at times, but it doesn’t have to end there. As mentioned, there are options: nursing home, assisting living facilities, or private care. What’s important is the quality of care that extends from medicine to the heart. Let’s not forget or forsake our elders.
Dr. Sinclair Grey III is a speaker, writer, activist, published author of (5) books, life coach, and liberator of persons from all intellectual, social and cultural walks of life. He is a committed advocate for change. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @drsinclairgrey. Visit his website: www.sinclairgrey.org.