Only Anecdotal

No numbers, just stories

Posts Tagged ‘ADRC

Enhancements

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As I mentioned in last week’s post, it was an exciting week to watch the changing healthcare world, and the long-term support service world that surrounds it, as well.

But remembering the idea behind this whole blog, I would like to talk about the visit I made this morning, before our office closed. Like so many of my referrals, this one came from my friends at the hospital. Now, I have often thought about the job that hospital case managers and social workers have to do, and I am not sure I would be able to endure the combination of witnessing human tragedy, being abused from many angles–including some patients, their family, or at times perhaps other hospital staff. Ethical considerations come into play constantly, around privacy and decision-making, and all of it is bound by the constraints of rules, most of which have something to do with the hospital (or after-hospital care) getting paid.

Unlike my colleagues, I have the luxury of walking out of dangerous or even uncomfortable situations. I also am not present (yet) when the people I see die. But the crisis mode of the hospital setting has a definite beginning and end. I am often the connector between admission and discharge to home. And so we attempt to link the two worlds somehow, with luck, if the right programs and services exist.

So, the man I met today must have been born during World War I, I realized, though I never would have guessed this had the hospital not given me his age. He had led a very active life up to a recent surgery, and was contemplating today any other possibilities for staying independent in his last years–because he told me that he could not imagine that he really had so much longer left. (I am not so sure; he seemed closer to eighty than to the century mark, even days following major surgery.)

But I mention this gentleman not because he made my day–and he did. He was a unique individual, as he had worked in hospitals and medical practices throughout his career, and furthermore had lived through the various hardships and good times that a long, full life ought to bring. It is unusual that I meet someone with that breadth of insight into the healthcare and social service system that he had. But it is not so unusual that I meet people who fall into various exceptions and restrictions, and other reasons that our “system” has to deny people needed and requested assistance.

So, I was dismayed–no, this is not an exaggeration–to learn on Friday that federal grant funding will be used within our aging and disability community to build “infrastructure” (a.k.a. bureaucracy). I have watched over the last four years as our own front lines have turned from a great cooperative effort for consumers about all their available options, to (for the most part) a fast-track into services at that front-line worker’s individual agency.

I know this is not always what happens, and I realize also that at times an array of options may be presented at the same time that a worker goes ahead and does an intake. At the same time, it is hard to imagine a more attractive scenario for a discharge planner who knows that a consumer over age sixty will need long-term care services, and can see someone immediately rather than waiting for an intake. It was never the intention of the program, but it makes the professionals and the agencies happy. The one left out of this particular loop, though, is the consumer. Again.

In so many ways it was inevitable that a good idea would become yet another funding stream for the same-old same old without a real vision of what we wanted to achieve. From the start, I have hoped that the goal was consumer-driven, creating a streamlined “no wrong door” for consumers–not only to our own agencies, but to the community as a whole. I thought that services themselves were supposed to be created, that options would increase as a result of the stories we brought to the state.

Instead, I watch a constant tug–still–for control. When I say the words “consumer control”, there still is, somewhere, a resounding “But…” lurking in the room, a caution for safety, a discussion about “what people need”, and ultimately, discussions about assessments and service plans that make me cringe the higher we toss these lofty and made-meaningless notions into the higher offices and commissions and governments, and away from the people who are asking for help.

Everyday that I have done this job over the last four years, I have met people whose lives and experiences inspire me. I have heard stories of sacrifice and endurance and compassion and love. I have seen horrible tragedies right here, right in front of me, seen people actually die from systemic neglect. And still, we have the nerve to tap into federal funding that will create yet another layer to wade through, all under the guise of  cooperative efforts and increased communication.

After watching the horses trot farther and farther from the aging and disability consortium stable,  federal infrastructure money will likely do nothing more than create more competition, and less cooperation. And likely, those who have the power now will hold tight to it, and the funding, as they maneuver to favor the programs and philosophies and rules that they already hold dear.

So where does this leave the man I saw this morning? Well, strictly nowhere. He will likely remain optimistic, as he seems always to have been, and likely still not quite eligible for this, definitely not eligible for that program. It should not be so complicated. And in fact, it really should not matter. The various eligibility questions, in our country, are barbarisms, statements that we truly do not hold all of our citizens as equals, when the very basic needs to sustain life are denied, constantly, because we spend more time talking about eligibility and cooperation than we do listening to–and giving– what people want and need.

Written by Only Anecdotal

29 Oct 2012 at 9:45pm

Aging and Disability

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Last week I had the opportunity to walk into the formal face of my double-faceted work existence as I attended both the Massachusetts Home Care Conference and the Massachusetts Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) Conference. Back-to-back, I witnessed duals (not duels… although I wonder), and the very notion of what it means to be a service provider in this changing world.

A word from Christine Griffin perhaps brought it all back home to me. To paraphrase her lunchtime talk at the SILC conference, she discussed the notion of the newly aging–a great difference as I have seen between the newly sixty-year-old Vietnam-era consumer, and the ninety-five-year-old WWII veteran. Remember the clash of cultures back in the day? Depression-era stoic survivor not wanting help, versus Civil Rights-era champion demanding help–and equality, to boot? It is enormous, and Ms. Griffin’s statement about meals on wheels (“I am not going to accept the Salisbury Steak; I may just want to order a pizza!”) hits the nail on the head.

I find a lot of resistance to “help” from that Depression-era crowd. It seems to me that they are proud of their achievements, and do not cede their independence easily. But it is more than that.

I am forever frustrated–annoyed–by the idea that granting freedom to people by giving them the assistance they need to live life fully is an entitlement, and that some people are more entitled than others. For some strange reason, we feel that the compliant survivors of the first half of the nineteenth century somehow worked to earn services, and Medicare, and our help if they need it, whereas a younger person who has the misfortune of developing some life-altering illness or disability cannot easily receive the same level of support.

This is true in terms of the sheer availability of the most basic services, like homemaking, as well as at an administrative level where the power clearly lies more in aging community than in the younger disabled world.

I know this is always a controversial subject, but numbers tell a great story, and by numbers I mean distribution of money. We are supposed to collaborate in our aging and disability consortia, but too often I see a competition where there should never be one.

The services through the aging and disability consortia right now include the options counseling program–which was in its root a real collaboration between the two worlds–and the care transitions programs (STAAR, Coleman Coaching programs) meant to help prevent hospital readmissions of specific groups of people. It is absolutely astounding to me that in the second category, these programs seem to be popping up, presumably a product of aging and disability worlds, but they are the elder service agencies that own them. Was there ever any sort of collaboration? If so, when? Or has the disability world been present only in name but not in voice? How very sad.

At the Home Care Conference, I was delighted to meet up with a few of the Information and Referral staff from my Independent Living Center’s partners in the Aging world. When the ADRC project began over four years ago, our area included five of the Aging Service Access Points, and there were monthly meetings with I&R and options counseling staff. Over the three years that we met, I learned an enormous amount about how agencies that serve the same population with the same programs can differ so much. We learned how we are innovative in our own ways, perhaps the best ones for our specific communities; we learned to work together. And best of all, we all really liked one another. It was a key to our success, this sharing, and I miss it. I think that if we are ever to rediscover that spirit of collaboration, it will require more efforts like this, coffee, stories, community. Formerly quarterly reports and meetings are simply not enough. We need to meet monthly, informally perhaps, in smaller groups–often enough that we feel close, and not limited to the pressing demands as we are turning to one another for advice and support.

It is obvious why disabilities of all sorts and the aging community would want to come together: politically, we are much stronger as one unified voice than we are as separate voices asking for the same thing. Divided, we are easily conquered as well.

So, we need to step back, and listen. We need to tear apart our misconceptions, our silos. Oh–I know how trite this sounds as we have all heard the silo speeches before. But in fact, even in the dearest community to me, I saw how separate we all are, the aging services, disability services, medical services, technical services. It absolutely astounds me to keep going to meetings and conferences and hear all the same stories told in different ways, with great ideas that somehow are not–still!–uniting. So much potential in all of it, especially now. And now is the time to come together and act.

Written by Only Anecdotal

17 Sep 2012 at 7:37pm