What is kindness?

A while back I wrote a post, “What is cruelty”, about my step-father and his condition. At the time, I didn’t know what we were doing. He seemed so miserable, and frankly, I didn’t know if he would make it through the holidays. Later, (as noted in another post) we moved him into hospice care. Today, my mother told me that the facility had asked her to write a statement or letter about her experience and she asked me to help. I roughed out a few things for her to start with and realized just how amazing an experience it has been.

I cannot emphasize enough exactly how dire I felt my step-dad’s condition was when arrived at the facility. They wheeled him in on a stretcher and could not do anything on his own. He couldn’t sit, stand or walk. He couldn’t even adjust his position once he had been helped into a sitting position. Simply moving his hand to his head was a monumental occasion. He was being fed through a feeding tube and we were told he would never eat by mouth again. He couldn’t talk to where we could understand him most of the time. He was simply helpless.

It has been about six weeks and the transformation has been absolutely amazing. What began as pleasure feeding led to them trying “pureed” meals in the dining room with the other residents. Now, while they still cut up much of his food into very small pieces, he is eating three meals a day. Where once he would have to ask for someone to help his sit up or move in his chair, he now sits in his wheelchair and shuffles it around with his feet. He has even been up and walking with his walker on occasion. The most amazing thing to me is that I can understand him when he talks. Sure, some of the things he says might not always be historically accurate or make complete sense, but I can hear him! On top of that is that he talks. He has always been a very, very quiet man. Now, we can hardly get him to shut up! He engages the other residents and tries to get another gentleman that is often confused to talk to him. The turnaround is simply amazing. He still has Parkinson’s. He still has dementia and still battles the Sundowner’s, but… Wow!

Where all the care in the world he was given in the hospital never seemed to help him improve, the care he has been given at this facility has made a world of difference. All the nurses and doctors at the hospital was kind and nice to him – but he was a patient, someone or something to deal with and work on. In the new facility he is a resident. More than that. The nurses and staff treat him as a person and treat the all the residents as a family. Their kindness and caring have made all the difference. They encourage him to get stronger and better. When he first was able to shift his body on his own using his upper body strength, they cheered and went on and on about how strong he was. When he began to use the walker, they lined the hall and cheered all the time as he walked down and back a short distance. In addition to the nurses and staff, there is the atmosphere. The facility is set up like a home and that is conducive to everyone being together and not in their rooms. They also strongly encourage the families to be involved. They invite family to have dinner there whenever they want and the doors are always open. They also have an outing once a month for family members to get together. Not only is this a support group, but it invests everyone in all the residents. So, when you go to see your mom, you might also say hello to my step-dad and vice versa.

The idea that we pay more for healthcare than anywhere else in the world and don’t have the best care seems counter intuitive. But, my family and (thankfully) insurance spent a fortune on all the measures taken in the hospital. It stabilized my step-dad’s condition to allow him to go to a facility that takes none of those measures and tries to reduce medication instead of constantly adding more. The improvement came with the later. The improvement came with care and kindness. Drastic measures are necessary and critical, but I got to wonder if there is not a way to integrate the two to make a more effective system.


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