A Modest Proposal For ‘Caring’ Professionals: Treat My Loved One Like One Of Your Family By Carol Zernial

Carol-PR-Photo-10-1-11-SMALLERI’m mad! I’m sure it happens to all caregivers.  I’m not upset with my family member who needs care. No – I’m mad at the “caring” professionals who are supposed to be helping us: the doctors, assisted living and nursing home staff, the hospital staff and the home health agencies. Has this ever happened to you?

Has the day shift in the hospital ever told you one thing and the night shift said something completely different? Have you ever gotten disturbing news only to be told, “Oops, I guess we read the wrong chart”?

Let’s talk about the assisted living and nursing home professionals who say that they are trained in working with frail seniors, and tell us that after a patient has fallen 2-3 times, they’ll do something about it. Would that be before or after the broken hip and black eye?

For those who say they understand dementia and think that refusing to bathe is an unusual “problem behavior,” I question their expertise.

And after a comedy of errors that is anything but funny, have you ever heard that tone in the voices of the professionals, the one that lets you know you have become the most dreaded of all creatures – the “non-compliant caregiver.” You know us because we ask too many questions. We show too much interest. We care too much.

We hear things like, “We know you’re loved one better than anyone. You need to trust us.”

Really? Because I’ve know this person all of my life and you’ve only known them a few days.

So for all caregivers who have ever been stuck on the merry-go-round of mistakes, errors, questionable professional decisions, and care that more closely resembles nonchalance, I understand your frustration, fear, anger, and uncertainty.

But we can’t give up. We can’t go it alone. We need those caring professionals to really care and really know their stuff. I propose a truce with them that works like this: If you will treat my family member like a member of your family, I’ll get out of your face.

Carol Zernial is Executive Director of the non-profit WellMed Charitable Foundation. A noted gerontologist, Ms. Zernial also serves as Chair of the National Council on Aging Board of Directors.