Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ageism Makes Me Mad as..........!

Bill Maher, for me, hit a new low last Friday evening.

"In the battle for government giveaways," he said, "we have to stop thinking in terms of rich versus poor, or black versus white, and admit it's really a war between the young and the old. And the old are winning."
(See LA Times)
Transcript HERE

Maher structured his comments around some unfunny jokes and offensive generalisations at the expense of seniors, "jokes" which, if something as generalised and offensive had been made against other sections of the populations - say gays or African Americans, would have brought wave upon wave of criticism crashing down on him. Elderly members of the population continue to be easy targets. Nobody seems to care about ageism here in the USA. It's sad, and it makes me mad!

I'm not personally fully involved in the issue he brought up. I have two pensions coming from the UK, for which I paid and worked my whole life, but I feel for my fellow seniors here in the US. I've ranted a bit about ageism in the past, on more than one occasion (one 2009 example here). It doesn't go away, pathetic faux-comedians like Maher have to have a target don't they? After they run out of jokes about Hillary Clinton's trouser suits, or Sarah Palin, or some other Republican, or that strange Ford person in Canada, etc etc ..... it's, "Oh yes...let's have a go at seniors again!"


mike said...

I like it when a celebrity makes a lame-ass comment. It brings a deluge of criticism and condemnation. I've never cared for Bill Mahers' type of comedic discourse, so his jocular comments that pierce the elderly gave me one more reason to relegate him to file #13. I looked-up his net worth...25 to 35 million $US...he's definitely in the 1%, yet makes many anti-1% jokes. As you are aware, Twilight, I have a problem with any person poking their hypocritical stick at the 1%, while residing in that neighborhood. He may have brought laughter to a few, but I'm sure he created far more frowns.

Twilight said...

mike ~ I really shouldn't continue to watch Maher's "Real Time" show - I do so mainly to see what his guests have to say on issues discussed - he occasionally has some interesting and enlightening characters as guests, though lately he seems to be avoiding anyone who leans too far left. Hmm.

It's all the more disappointing to me that he has turned out to be such a nasty pain in the ass. I was a big fan of his during my first years in the USA - the Bush residency - 2004/2008. But the scales have fallen from my eyes during the last few years.

mike (again) said...

I've noticed a distinct shift occurring since the economic downturn of 2008. The approval of the annual federal budget and the debt-ceiling discussions invariably include discourse regarding entitlement programs. The shift is the presentation of the burden Social Security will bear on the younger generations and how those generations will have to adapt to changes to the program.

Social Security and Medicare are unique in the entitlement programs, as they are funded through employee-employer contributions. Most other entitlement programs (welfare, food stamps, indigent health care, etc.) are social programs paid by the collective tax dollars from local, state, and federal taxes. Most young adults do not understand the distinctions.

I've heard that most youth receive their "news" via social media and TV shows such as Bill Maher and Jon Stewart. Your post about Maher's comment will compound the misinformation further, unfortunately.

Another factor regarding senior citizens is their continuing contribution to the local tax base (some seniors will continue contributing to state and federal taxes under some circumstances, too). Texas does not have an income tax and property owners pay through personal property taxes. My county has some of the highest assessment rates in TX. My Social Security income is slightly more than poverty level, yet I paid one-third of my annual income in county taxes this year.

mike (again) said...

Oooops - I said, " Your post about Maher's comment will compound the misinformation further, unfortunately." I didn't intend to infer your POST would cause the misinformation! Bill Maher's comments will compound the misinformation.

Twilight said...

mike (again) ~ LOL! - Oh - I'm glad of your Ooops! :-) I was hurriedly reading through my post again wondering what I'd said, before seeing the "Oooops!"

The nastiness about about senior citizens, Social Security and Medicare can often be willful as well as due to misunderstanding or ignorance of facts. Any ol' bandwagon will do as long as it offers some way to disparage or hate another group.

With regard to Medicare, too, it's not "free", even after a person has "paid in" contributions all through working life. To be fully covered, as people are in the UK after age 65 (or it might be 67 now), in the USA seniors must pay a Medicare supplement and a supplementary insurance -both of which add up to quite a tidy sum - as well as paying for all medications, some of which are at extortionate rates if not on the "formulary" - as my husband has recently discovered.

LB said...

Twilight & mike ~ Agree totally, Bill Maher's comments are misguided and will leave many with a false impression that overlooks a variety of social and economic factors.

Where I live it's estimated that more than 25% of seniors suffer from "food insecurity", with fixed incomes so limited they're frequently forced to choose between food, rent and costly prescription medications. It's become a growing problem throughout the United States.

The fortunate ones are mobile enough (or hooked-in enough) to be able to fall back on local food banks and dining rooms that serve the poor. There's also Meals on Wheels, one of my favorite charities.:)

Or, if a senior is really blessed, they have family members willing to help bear the additional costs . . . even if those family members can barely afford it themselves. That's what happened with my mom and if I recall, with your mom too, right mike?

A few months ago I ran across an elderly man shopping in one of our local thrift stores. He was homeless and looking to buy a new pair of pants, which I asked if I could purchase for him as a gift and he gratefully accepted. When I asked him if he needed anything else, he showed me his worn socks.

Since the thrift store didn't have any, I offered to take him shopping and as we walked and talked he shared how he'd always been a self-employed worker who'd earned a relatively good living - or so he thought. He told me he'd owned a home and that he'd had a wife and kids, but that he never figured on how little he'd earn when he wasn't able to work anymore. He said he didn't drink or do drugs and was on our city's waiting list for affordable housing, but that so far, the housing being offered to him was more dangerous than the streets - I've spoken with other homeless women and seniors and this isn't the first time I've heard that particular complaint.

So I bought him a pair of pants, a few new pairs of socks and the big bottle of crappy soda he wanted - because he said it helped him to "get going". He didn't want much. Because it was *very* cold, I convinced him he needed a hat and he agreed. Since we couldn't find the only type he wanted (a baseball cap), my husband gave him his slightly worn one, which he seemed happy to get. Unbeknownst to him at the time, I also left some money with the owner of the local store he shopped at for food. She said she did it for a number of her older customers whose family members did the same thing and that with this particular man (whose name was John), he only bought bread, soda and a few snacks, never alcohol. She also told me he was always polite but that she thought he suffered from some form of mental illness because she sometimes heard him yelling at night.:( Facing similar challenges, I think I might yell too.

As people lose their value (by society's standards) and become more disposable and increasingly disconnected, they also become more invisible. Maybe Bill Maher doesn't know because he doesn't see. Going out and talking to people might help to open his mind and heart.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Thanks for that - it's a good real-life illustration of how false and unfair are Bill Maher's generalisations and his attempt to dredge doubtful humour out of something that isn't funny at all, and can be tragic.

He obviously lives in the same kind of "bubble" he's always accusing others (usually Republicans politicians) of living in. His writers are probably as much to blame as he is - but he, as king-pin - has the last word, the buck stops with him.

You did something truly wonderful for that gentleman, LB! :-)

LB said...

Thanks, Twilight. I have to admit though, my small efforts mostly feel like drops in a bucket. It's why I so appreciate and admire those courageous folks on the front lines, willing to get involved on a daily basis, trying to make a difference. Knowing my own personal limitations, it's also why I try to lend them my financial support as much as possible.

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”
― David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas

There were some great lines in that movie.

Adding ~ Bill Maher's comments about how much fun nursing homes are don't jibe with my observations or experiences. Generally speaking, Board and Care and Assisted Living Facilities aren't much fun either, contrary to what those of us who peek in from time to time might like to think. I've witnessed first-hand how elderly folks make easy targets for neglect and/or abuse.

When my mom was dying, I saw a lot of terrible things.

Twilight said...

LB ~ Your quote from "Cloud Atlas" reminded me of one I used to have at the foot of my blog page:

“You are a function of what the whole universe is doing in the same way that a wave is a function of what the whole ocean is doing.”
― Alan Wilson Watts.

Quality of care homes, retirement communities and such is likely to be as high as the prices a person is able to pay to reside in, or as a part of one of them. Most of us couldn't possible afford the best of them, I dread the thought of it for myself. Fortunately neither my parents nor grandparents had to end their lives away from their own home, apart from fairly brief times in hospital at the end. Husband took care of his mother during her last years. I have no personal experience of those places other that what I've read, none of which was pleasant. :-(

LB said...

Interesting quote, Twilight. I'll have to think on it.:0

I have to disagree though in that based on what I've seen, cost seems to play a less significant role in the quality of care received than we might think. Things just look nicer in the more expensive places. They're better at presenting an image - cleaner, shinier, with more staff, a bigger variety of planned activities and better food, which isn't to say those things don't matter because they do! I just think the more expensive places work better for folks who are still able to advocate and care for themselves to some extent.

Really it's a human problem. Our old folks are no more or less likely to find a compassionate, attentive and informed caregiver at one facility than they are at another, regardless of cost. And the same is true when it comes to the likelihood of encountering an apathetic, inattentive and/or abusive one. A facility can be fully staffed and have plenty of resources and still be neglectful or even cruel.

I've read estimates that only 1 in 5 cases of abuse get reported. It's no wonder since once again, speaking from experience, complaining often does more harm than good. Much of what goes on happens when family members and advocates aren't around to see.

Towards the end of my mom's life, we had a series of bad experiences in several different places she lived in and/or visited. Some of those experiences involved the care she received at the hands of nurses and doctors who were either too busy or too overwhelmed and disinterested to pay attention. I'm NOT saying everyone in the medical profession is inattentive, what I am saying is that humans are humans.

The licensed board and care we eventually placed my mom in (and paid privately for) was VERY expensive. But it was the nicest place I'd seen - clean, small, homey, and owned and run by an LVN who said all the right things to reassure me. My husband and I lived a couple of blocks away and for several years, I visited every day, sometimes numerous times throughout the day and when I wasn't there I maintained constant phone contact - yet none of that made much of a difference. In the end, the conclusion I reached was that we'd most likely be dealing with similar issues *wherever* we placed my mom.

To be fair, there were a handful of people who loved my mom and took exceptionally good care of not only her, but everyone else - *when* they were on duty. I became very close with some of the most dedicated and caring staff members, who always moved on when they couldn't take it any more.

It was a very revealing and disappointing experience, to say the least. What it taught me is that for a lot of seniors (though not all), there's no place like home.

mike (again) said...

The elderly staying in their home in lieu of a nursing home is wonderful under ideal circumstances. Having a home or apartment, for one. There have to be home attendants to assist with daily chores and shopping, plus a case manager to organize the client's affairs like doctor appointments, personal needs, financial concerns (paying utilities, taxes, etc). It's been proven to be much cheaper, too. It's also prone to problems, like everything.

Then there are people like my mother! She had access to many services, but refused them all, much to her and my detriment. She was mentally impaired after the home invasion, so that was an issue, but nothing could be done without a durable power of attorney direction from her. Adult Protection Services was wonderful and they truly tried working with my mother on so many issues, but without success. Mom refused to take her blood pressure meds, which actually made her a little crazier...APS was willing to come to her home twice a day 24/7 to ensure her dosage was taken. Lack of food made Mom stranger, too, but again, she didn't want Meals-On-Wheels (which costs money, by the way) or personal shoppers. She could have had home attendants clean and cook, but NO.

Regarding nursing homes, my sister wanted Mom placed in a very nice nursing home on the edge of her town, but Mom was placed in a care facility 30 miles away. It was a much better choice, as the nicer home deteriorated considerably over the next several years...probably management's desire to be lean and mean...a better profit margin.

The home my mother is in has been a good choice, but there are many problems with employee turn-over and insufficient coverage certain days when many employees quit or call-in with an illness. Mom is profoundly deaf in one ear and almost in the other...we've told all of the employees over and over to tap Mom on the shoulder, then talk very closely into her right ear. No one remembers and this instruction becomes lost with so many employee turn-overs. The head nurse contacted my sister a couple of months ago to inform her the doctor gave instructions to put Mom into a special program of drugs and therapy to bring her out of her non-communicative state...they didn't realize Mom couldn't hear!!! One night my sister received a phone call that Mom almost choked to death...turns-out Mom fell asleep while eating and they didn't check her mouth for food prior to removing her from the dining room...six hours later she choked!

I was an orderly in a medical hospital and twice in nursing homes when I was a college student. Orderlies receive minimum wage and perform some of the most intimate and disgusting work you can imagine. If another orderly doesn't come to work, the workload increases for that shift. If an orderly doesn't show up for the next shift, then work two shifts in a row...or three. I often had to feed four nursing home patients within one hour...that's 15 minutes per patient, including set-up and clean-up! I don't recall having one day where everyone showed-up for work and my workload was "normal" as it should have been. A very stressful, low-wage job, with absolutely no respect given to the employee.

A good friend of mine in CA kept her mother at home (in MO) during her final days of life. She hired home stole her mother's car, cash, checkbook, and jewelry. Nothing is sacred.

LB said...

mike ~ All true. I don't disagree with anything you've shared. It's tough to watch someone we love flounder without being able to help them the way we'd like to. In an ideal world, we'd all grow old surrounded by the people who love us, but in reality it rarely happens that way.

I do have to point out that even when my mom was living in licensed care facilities, I still did all of the things you mentioned needing doing in your first paragraph and more. I did them because if I hadn't she would've suffered more than she did.

Your story about your mom choking doesn't surprise. One morning when I arrived to see my mother, one of the other guests seemed distressed and when the staff told me she'd been up all night coughing, I urged them to contact her doctor immediately, thinking she might have aspirated something. She had, and ended up being hospitalized. The staff had no idea what I was talking about and only called her doctor because they were afraid I'd report them to the ombudsman and state - which I'd been known to do when all else failed.

Things like that used to happen all the time. The staff -and even the owner, who, as I said was a Licensed Vocational Nurse (and also an RN)- seemed unfamiliar with a whole range of issues common to the elderly, including symptoms of aspiration and deliriums, what they are, why they occur and some of the most likely problems to check for. Another time I heard my mother screaming and when I went to check discovered one of her caregivers was washing her using cold water. I could go on. There were lots of problems and very little continuity of care.

And yes, nurse's aides and orderlies are often overworked and underpaid. As is the case in all occupations, some are more caring, attentive and capable than others. Our titles only tell part of the story and say nothing about our character or mindfulness. It's the nature of being human.

I'm very grateful whenever I encounter someone doing a good job.

LB said...

mike ~ I forgot to say how I always feel for you and your family whenever I read about what you all have been through and are going through.

Your story about your experience as a young orderly says a lot about the lack of respect facilities show caregivers and patients. Overworked, underpaid (tired) caregivers face greater challenges in providing good care. Feeding someone and providing for their most intimate needs are very important jobs not to be taken lightly! Older folks are at their most vulnerable during these times.

Twilight said...

LB and mike ~~ I'm not going to join in because I have no relevant experience to contribute - but thanks to you both for your additions to this, very sad, topic.