Frontline (PBS) did a program recently on assisted living facilities (you may be able to watch it – I don’t know if there are geo restrictions or not, but I can see the video as a US resident). For people who don’t know, these are the mostly unregulated places that are sold to older people (and their families) as “better than nursing homes.” However, as this program explains, they too often come with problems too.
But, that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing because something was missing from this program.
No, I’m not writing about the program’s bias towards nursing home care (you need nursing home care to prevent bed sores in elderly disabled people? Really?!). That was a problem too, but that’s not what I’m writing about.
I’m writing that not one single resident of an assisted living facility was part of the program. Not even one.
Oh, they’re crazy batty old folk. Why would they matter? Why should their voice be part of a program about how to treat old folk?
I’m kind of used to this. I’m kind of used to watching TV programs about autism that don’t include any autistic people (but do include plenty of parents, researchers, doctors, teachers, and staff people). And I’m used to us being excluded from the story when one of us is hurt, abused, or murdered. Heck, we’ll hear how hard it is to take care of an autistic person, but we won’t hear how this type of thing makes autistic people feel. Or what we might want done about it. We don’t matter. We’re just crazy people without emotions. Ya, right.
Apparently older people are in the same category, particularly if they have dementia. Get a diagnosis like that and you can’t possibly know if you’re being taken care of or not, right? Uh, no. You can. Surely there was at least one person in one assisted living facility somewhere in the United States who had an opinion on their living situation that was worth hearing. Maybe they like it. Maybe they hate it. I don’t know. I didn’t get to hear them.
I’m sick of the people affected being ignored when this type of thing happens. Yes, I’m used to it too. But that doesn’t mean we should be silent. Shame on you, Frontline! There was a story there. But you missed the most important people in that story.