The Weight Long Term Care Cannot Withstand

In my sophomore year of high school, I remember a physics assignment in which groups of us competed to build a bridge out of balsa wood which could withstand increasing weight placed by the teacher.   I recall our teacher pulling out a sample of balsa wood, which created gasps within the entire classroom as we all felt the task was not only impossible to win but convinced that this type of structure, made from this medium would NEVER hold up to any weight whatsoever.

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We were supposed to use our newly gained information on force, energy, and matter. I cannot remember if we won, which means we probably lost, but I will never forget the project and the lessons I take from it now.

Our long term care infrastructure is much like the balsa wood in my classroom.  It is weak, frail, and currently structured in such a way that it cannot bear any additional weight placed on it.  There is no fault that falls on the staff that work in them or the supervisors that oversee them.  They really are doing the best that they can.  The fact that they are sticking with it… a thankless job with little financial rewards, in the face of the biggest social and economic catastrophe any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes, really says a lot.

In many ways, I feel I have no place to speak.  I had stepped out of the direct care business for two reasons, to try to make it better and burn-out.  And this was pre-COVID.  So, I truly have no place to stand in judgment, especially when a family caregiver calls to receive counseling and complains about the care their loved one is receiving.  I can relate to the shortages, the constraints, the frustrating red-tape involved in attempts to make care in long term facilities better.  I also relate to the family: frustrated, unsure of what to do and who to talk to… and now, no idea what is going on because they cannot visit.

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At first, I became angry alongside the caregivers, thinking that the lack of daily visits from family caregivers had created an environment of non-compliance and a lack of accountability.  The “greasy wheels”, so to speak, are gone… so everyone can get lazy, right.  The ultimate expression of “when the mouse is away, the cat will playBut then I started to think further.  These front line workers are under a weight (FORCE) that they never bargained for, working (ENERGY) under a structure (MATTER) that cannot support the added weight of their own fear, anxiety… not to mention lacking PPE, politicized mask-wearing, minimal community resource support, and daily changes in political policy that changes what is and is not safe when caring for others.

The infrastructure that has been under fire for so many years for being a sub-standard alternative to elderly care has really tried their best to emerge from the bad rap.  Yes, there are flaws, issues, and problems within facilities that CAN and SHOULD be addressed internally that would make their promise of good care a reality.  But there are also SO VERY MANY structural issues that limit the industry to what it really can provide,

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and that is not an issue that can be solved under the bridge of the structure. It is the structure itself that needs to be revamped.  And the reality is, it can be done. There are other countries that have taken the “balsa wood” and built (ENERGY) a structure (MATTER) that can withstand the weight (FORCE) of the unpredictable and unknown.  They may be struggling too, but not nearly to the extent that we are.

We as a political-charged society have made decisions by being complacent with the decision-makers.  No action is, in itself, an action.  We are all responsible for where we are. We are all responsible to change what we do not like.

We need to be the “greasy wheels” in lieu of the family caregivers right now. We need to become educated on WHAT is important, WHO is important in making long term care work for those loved ones we care for and WHAT it takes to retain those employees that can make that happen. So, with that being said, excuse the political quote that I am going to encourage you to consider:

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time.  

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.  We are the change that we seek.”

- Barack Obama

So, get educated on what is happening and will happen if we do not encourage change for the infrastructure that is literally crumbling beneath the essential long term care workers that are truly doing the best they can with what they were given.  Get out there and VOTE.  Make your voice heard.  Be the Change that you Crave.

 “It’s not the load that weighs you down, it’s the way you carry it.” -C.S. Lewis

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