Smoke and Mirrors




Those who have walked through a hell of their own design and came out alive have their scars. They crisscross the soul and psyche in beautiful patterns of lessons and warning signs of paths that that we dare not re-tread, lest we find ourselves bogged down once more in the quagmire of hopeless despair that has killed so many others.

Along with those scars comes a deeper awareness. Of themselves, of the world around them. Of others’ struggles. And the fact that they’ve survived, against the odds, against a perverse need to self-destruct, brings with it the gift of a special kind of clarity that can manifest in a variety of ways.

For me, it is a deep empathy and appreciation for truth…a continuous search for what is real rather than what APPEARS to be real. At times, I feel that rarely the two do meet.  I see this at work all the time.

Our renovations are complete. The floors look beautiful. The paint on the walls and tile in the bathroom and new furniture offer an air of ambience to the facility. The landscaping outside is impressive. I can’t imagine the cost of it all and it really makes a statement. So what is the problem?

We all come to any given situation with our own perceptions from our personal experiences. I know a fair amount about what it takes to change, grow and improve as a person. I know what it takes to go from sick to healthy and it NEVER happens from the outside in.

I have worked in this facility for several years, through three different owners and several administrators. I have seen it run worse than it is right now, but not by much.

All of these renovations, and yet the very basics go unfixed! All the residents have new headboards, but they are still sleeping on the broken, sagging mattresses that were bought second hand over seven years ago! New artwork on the walls, but the antiquated call bell system has been broken for a year. New administrators, but they are clueless about how the floor runs and are uninterested in learning, no leadership, no consequences for bad work ethic, no reward for good. No raises. Under-staffed, short on supplies, and any caregivers interested in doing more than the bare minimum find themselves short on patience, not with the residents, but with the system.

It’s as if EVERYONE, from DHHS on down to individual facilities is more concerned with the appearance of acceptable care than the quality of care itself. If all the T’s are crossed and all the I’s are dotted on paper, then everything is hunky dory. If that’s the case, why do people continue to slip through the cracks? All you need to do to see this is look on the list of code violations for facilities on the DHHS website. I don’t recommend doing so before eating, because you will lose your appetite. And you will lose heart.

There can be no real and lasting change until the system stops trying to clean up messes AFTER they happen and starts trying to PREVENT them from occurring in the first place. Anything other than that is an attempt to treat the symptoms rather than the disease. This is as true for the system as a whole as it was for me, personally. Anything short of acknowledging and attempting to change that reality is like trying to heal a heart attack by getting a nose job.

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