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The Mental Waterboarding of Our Elderly

There was a song, I think in the ‘80s, called “Farm on a Freeway,” by Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson. It was a bittersweet rocker, the lament of a poor American farmer who allowed his family’s heritage to be bulldozed over to make way for a ribbon of concrete.

"They say they gave me compensation …
That’s not what I’m chasing. I was a rich man before yesterday.
Now all I have left is a broken-down pickup truck.
Looks like my farm is a freeway."

I thought it so appropriate to the corporate mindspeak that is regurgitated daily by those running the Motion Picture Home to deaf ears. At what point will we as an industry be looking down on the tony condos, juice bars and coffee houses that have replaced the MPTF Long Term Care Facility and Acute Care Center and sing our own refrain of regret? And what about the bitter taste of the recent deaths of those transferred out that have been all but swept under the carpet.

Our tactics must change. If we are to command the attention of an industry that is not comfortable in embracing this injustice as long as “American Idol” commands our very being, then I have disturbing news for you: “American Idol” is done after this week. Time to turn that water-cooler chatter to an issue that affects every one of us.

Just like the farmer who allowed his farm to slip away, we are no better. We are, as an industry, turning away from the issue of elder care.

So I bring you news that may seem more important than the longevity of Simon Cowell’s contract: There is a psychological jihad being waged against our elders that would turn the stomach of even David Cronenberg himself. If you can’t get behind the concept of no industry health continuum of care, then maybe the ravings of your mad blogger can incite some kind of response.

Imagine that you are old, dependent on caregivers for your most basic needs and living in fear that you will be taken in the night to another facility. Your caregivers coo soothing words to you, comforting you as the meds begin to kick in.

(Cue the cellos.)

Then you are rattled awake by an unfamiliar face. They are not your caregiver, they are a stranger, and they are telling you that you must leave. That you must choose another residence. The reassuring words of the caregivers and your own family members recede into the recesses of forgetfulness, as the strangers words instill fear.

I was called in to intercede in such a scenario. It’s happening. An elderly gentleman whose name would be familiar to all of you was suffering the ravages of cancer. His world was hanging onto the only thing that meant anything to him — security. When that was removed, the floor was taken out from under him, and he died soon thereafter.

Not of cancer, but of a heart attack. I should add that I’m the furthest thing from a doctor there is — but connecting the dots shouldn’t be too hard in this case. Who is to tell what caused his death, and who isn’t.

Now, adding to their bag of tricks, a flyer announcing an “Everything Must Go” sale was posted on a wall that was visible by all the residents. My friend’s mother was distressed, thinking again that they were closing everything, that they were coming for her that night. In her world, it was coming to an end.

This is what we are fighting for. This is what you must fight for. If not for the future of health care, then rise up against this mental waterboarding of our elderly.

Just like the poor purveyor of agrichemicals that looks down at what was once his heritage, we will be right there with him. Crying over a loss that did not have to happen.

Help us.

 

Winner of the Los Angeles Press Club's best blog award and a Southern California Journalism Award for his HollyBlogs, as well as an award for the Facebook group that helped to muscle the salvation of long-term care for the motion picture and television industry, Stellar's "vituperative blog on TheWrap" (Vanity Fair) focuses on issues related to the motion picture and entertainment industry. Stellar is founder of The Man/Kind Project, Inc., a 501(c)(3) corporation whose mission is to fight religious and cultural intolerance through the arts while building bridges of tolerance for all people. Stellar lives in Woodland Hills, California, with his wife of over 30 years, Nuala, and much too much Beatles memorabilia.