Not long ago, I ran into an older couple who looked very familiar. After searching my memory bank, I remembered – he was a distinguished professor at the small, prestigious college in the village where I grew up. His wife didn’t look much different to me, but the professor’s years had taken a toll. Their daughter was a childhood friend and I had spent much time in their gracious, historic home. I was always a little scared of the professor when he admonished us for running up and down the stairs.
Had I not recognized them, I would have quickly categorized them as a “cute, little, old couple.” A recent article on McKnights.com offered an important reminder of the need to look at the whole person, not just their age, illness or cognitive function. The author was speaking to his readership, frontline professional caregivers and clinicians working with residents in senior care facilities. He used a deceased 86-year-old resident of a Chicago nursing home as an illustration. Known primarily to the staff as a resident with acute heart problems, Mr. Fogel had had a very impressive life.
In addition to writing over 20 books, Fogel had spent 25 years studying aging Union Army veterans. The study was to determine how nutrition, better working conditions and fewer diseases impacted lifespan. Known for meticulously analyzing data and extensive research, the article quoted his comment to a colleague, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth spending 10 years to get it right.” Another notable fact about Mr. Fogel – he received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1993.
The article’s author stressed that issues like staff turnover, the rapidly expanding long-term care industry and concerns about resident census numbers and patient care standards should not impede getting to know more about who the residents in their facilities really are. Recognizing each resident as having a unique history and life to share is a good reminder for caregivers to see their charges as individuals, not just medical conditions.