Saturday was my dad's birthday. He is in a nursing home, has lived there since February, despite wanting to be at home at this point in life, and all of us in the family wanting that for him. We are practical, and a series of unfortunate events led to his not being able to stay at home any more.
A friend asked a couple days earlier, "How is your dad?" I told her his birthday was coming, and that my brother's partner was getting him a pair of shoes for his birthday because my dad had been moving about the facility with only one shoe for what my mom termed as "a few weeks."
A discussion on little indignities such as these ensued.
My friend and I are both shamanic practitioners, trained in the universal tenets of core shamanism, which include permission and compassion. I am guessing that my dad did not ask for his shoe to go missing, nor would he likely have given permission for this to happen. But it did.
My friend and I have worked in care giving, both professionally and personally. (Yes, if you are a care giver to a family member you have permission to call it "work." It may be work you provide with love and compassion, but it is still work- not to be confused with "a job." More on this in another post!) We understand that nursing homes are understaffed, and that the staff in them are overworked, and that the turnover and burnout rates are high compared with many other professions.
But a man should not lose his shoe in a nursing home, nor should he be expected to move about without it. Now, my mom undoubtedly would have bought my dad a new pair of shoes if she could have afforded them (even though they divorced 2 decades ago), and my brother's partner committed a caring act by purchasing him a new paid for his birthday. But the fact remains that neither of them should have "had to" do this.
Over the weekend I had the honor and profound pleasure of attending this year's Doulapalooza, a 3-day online event hosted by National End of Life Doula Alliance (NEDA.) Aside from meeting and connecting with many likeminded professionals in providing end of life services, I attended a multitude of sessions and meet ups in which the most excellent, caring and cutting edge information and thoughts were exchanged.
A recurring theme during various discussions was the capitalization of death care. In other words: greed for profit. I use these words because they are the words uttered repeatedly with frustration by various participants. For those of us engaged in compassionate care of others in the stressful and grief-abundant time at the end of life, it's discouraging to be left out of the conversation if not medical personnel (the very nature of doula work is non-medical), or for many who need to pay their bills, to have to resort to another job to do that, and volunteer when we can find time because we are expected to do service for free, from the goodness of our hearts (which we do).
There is so much on my mind and heart about this. In our society, compassionate service is undervalued. Walk into any nursing home, like the one where my dad lives now. They are understaffed, staff are overworked and underpaid. The burnout rate is high, as is turnover. Consistency suffers. And people lose their shoes- at least one of them. The little indignities.
More to come. Because there is so much more to unravel and discuss. And remember, your thoughts are welcome! Please be in touch via comments or email.
With gratitude to those who provide compassionate service at any stage of life. Thank you for your love.
p.s. At least now Dad has a pair of shoes. I will keep you posted on how long he maintains them.