BY: TERRY VAN SCHAIK
November is the anniversary of my father's death. He was
not a particularly old man — 72 years old — when he told my stepmother, "I'm going,"
and suffered a final, massive heart attack.
In his last year of life, he moved in a seemingly endless cycle from his home,
to a hospital, to a nursing home, to his home again. Any dignity he knew that
year he found mostly when he and his wife had the energy to create it. He would
shave as well as he was able while sitting in a recliner, comb hair he had always
been vain about, and put on a clean shirt in preparation for a visitor — maybe
me. We'd sit together then, I on the arm of the chair and he aware, I'm sure,
of my presence while he drifted between wakefulness and sleep. We shared a peace
then that he also rarely found during his last long year.
Where, I've often wondered since his death, is the dignity and peace people
like my father, and those older or less ill than he, crave and deserve? This
issue of Health Progress offers answers to these questions and others
related to long-term care in our country.
David Durenberger, Dale Thompson, and Lisa Shulman offer ideas for changing
financing and delivery of long-term care so that the country and its citizens
can afford high-quality care in settings people prefer. Articles on collaborative
efforts between Catholic health care and Catholic Charities USA and the makeover
of the Teresian House in Albany include examples of innovative, person-centered
long-term care. Brian Forschner and Steve Dawson both write on a key component
of quality care — the caregivers themselves. Larry Minnix shares AAHSA's vision
of a better world for the elderly — one we hope this issue contributes to achieving.
Copyright © 2001 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.