Connecting the Dots:  Our Residents are not Numbers.

The other day I was talking with a friend who was upset and frustrated.  Her eyes were red and puffy from crying.  Her fists were clinched so tightly that that the caps of her knuckles were snow white.  Her voice cracked as she uttered question after question, “Why is the government hurting our elders by cutting Medicaid?  Sure, 3% may not seem like a lot, unless you are the person who depends on Meals on Wheels for food.  Do they want people to have to eat pet food?”  She continued, “How can someone who works so closely with our residents abuse or neglect them in such horrible ways? Doesn’t anyone care?”  My priority was to comfort my friend.

After coaxing my friend off the ledge before she jumped or went postal, I took some time to carefully consider her many questions.  I thought to myself, almost everyone I know are decent and compassionate people who would give you the shirt off their backs or food out of their cupboard.  Then it occurred to me; eureka, I have got it, IT’S THE NUMBERS.  If you are like me, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers.  For example, when the 3.3 % cut to the Meals on Wheels program was announced, I thought that is not too bad.  Then I did a little research and found out the 3.3% is really a conservative number because the money actually comes out of a number of different departments.  Time will tell what the real loss of funds looks like for Meals on Wheels and the people they help.

The more important fact is this – there are millions of older Americans sitting in their homes right now wondering if their meals are going to be delivered by that sweet gentlemen who also checks to make sure they are doing ok.  Another important fact is that research shows that the Meals on Wheels programs allows elders to stay in their natural home longer which, as we know, is what everyone wants.  The cuts to Meals on Wheels naturally flows into the concerns about Medicaid being cut.  There is a lot of discussion going on about whether to decrease block grants or to adjust per capita Medicaid funds.  For real people like you and me, it makes no difference.  A cut us a cut.

For me as an individual, what bothers me about any Medicaid cuts is that it will hurt my elders, residents and friends.  Here is something to consider – two out of every three nursing home residents receive care because of Medicaid funding.  So, the next time you go to work, ask your administrator or DON, what’s the census today.  Imagine if they said 93.  That means that 62 of the people living in your center may be impacted by the Medicaid cuts.  Here is another way to put it in context – as you are going through the process of delivering care, for every third person, take a moment and say, “Thank goodness you won’t have to worry about the cuts.”

The women and men you care for are not numbers.  They are flesh, blood, heart and soul.  They are often the joy of our day, sometimes the fly in our ointment, and always a source of our passion.  So, the next time you hear a news story or read an article that says this percent or that number, please take a pause and consider the real human impact.  Understanding our elders is like understanding ourselves in the future.  Lastly, as you think about the effect on the real people you know, if that motivates you – take action, because your voice matters.