‘Care’ missing in geriatric care


Over the past year I’ve written about the challenges surrounding my father’s struggles with dementia and also, sadly, with a dysfunctional geriatric-care system.

A few days ago my dad’s battle ended as he quietly passed away. My family and I are grateful for the personal care Pepe — my dad — received from dedicated and qualified healthcare professionals. But the incongruent rules and procedures and the lack of communication, sensibility and downright common sense prevalent in the geriatric-care system are not acceptable.

They make the patient’s and the family’s already-difficult journey all the more miserable.

When dealing with an elderly parent or grandparent who is ill or has reached a point in their lives that they can no longer be cared for at home, the choices are meager and, for the most part, bleak.

Our geriatric-care system is wrought with greed. Patient care and well being, which should be of supreme import, are evidently not the highest priorities.

From the moment you visit a facility or communicate with most healthcare providers, it will become abundantly clear that you and your loved one are nothing more than potential clients, not patients.

Like so many other facets of our lives here in South Florida, the subpar services and, in some instances, criminal conditions surrounding elderly care in Miami seem more egregious and blatant. How many times do we scratch our heads out of frustration and think, “Why is everything so hard here? Why doesn’t anything work? It can’t be this difficult everywhere else.”

While I recognize the fact that every place has distinct challenges, bureaucracy in Miami is particularly thorny and difficult to navigate.

The fact that we are a multicultural, richly diverse area is a double-edged sword. The downside is that it creates a situation where many of newly arrived, or simply poorly informed, neighbors are not aware of their rights or of this country’s procedures and standards, making Miami the poor-service, scam-capital of the United States. And nowhere is it more evident than in elderly care.

Glitzy and enticing radio and television spots. Adorned and tinged with nostalgia for the homeland and religious symbolism, these commercials aggressively solicit senior citizens’ business.

My father eagerly joined one of the more popular HMOs years ago. And early on, the service seemed good. It transported him to and from doctor’s appointments and kept him and my stepmom busy with diverse activities.

But it is not until your loved one needs more serious and specialized care that these HMOs come up short.

Attaining quality and affordable assisted living arrangements or permanent housing with healthcare for the elderly is virtually impossible here. That is the juncture where the depressing roller-coaster ride of half answers, misinformation and deceptive practices began for me — at a moment when my father’s condition was rapidly getting worse and my family was the most needy and vulnerable.

Fortunately for my dad and my family, I was able to contact friends in the industry who steered me to all the right places, which I would have been hard-pressed to find without their help. My father was able to live out the remainder of his life in a clean, well attended, humanly warm environment.

The good care my father and family eventually found, unfortunately, is not the norm.

I strongly encourage anyone who is serving as primary caretaker of an elderly loved one to start looking into their long-term care sooner rather than later.

The experience my family lived through with my father was harrowing and nerve-wracking. If a society is measured by how it cares for its most vulnerable, then we are an abject failure.