“Most of us live in denial – but it’s staring us right in the face: we’re going to get old, and so are our loved ones.”
Change is afoot inside nursing homes and elder care facilities across the nation – but not quick enough for those suddenly finding themselves unprepared for life-altering decisions.
People like documentarian Brad Lichtenstein.
Several years ago, Lichtenstein, a former Brooklynite and member of the Park Slope Food Co-Op, found himself unprepared for new challenges resulting from his grandfather’s declining health.
Lichtenstein remembers, “My grandfather was living in Florida, fishing all the time,and the next thing he knows he is in a car accident. He suffered a few mini-strokes and his sight was failing him.”
Never mind that at the time Lichtenstein was completing work on “Almost Home,” a critically acclaimed film that candidly deals with the way senior citizens in declining health are cared for in this country – he just wasn’t prepared for his grandfather’s new situation.
“It’s very telling, even the person who made this film couldn’t find a place for his grandfather,” Lichtenstein says. This month, both the Union Temple and Park Slope United Methodist Church will screen “Almost Home” for free, followed by workshops and Q&A sessions with the filmmakers.
What Lichtenstein was looking for and what he needed when hisgrandfather grew ill, was a elder care facility that was actively engaged in “cultural change” – moving away from a traditional hospital-based model of care to one that reflected more of a “normal” homelike setting for residents.
According to Lichtenstein, the change can be as simple as foregoing things like hospital scrubs for caregivers and replacing metallic pharmaceutical carts with medicine cabinets.
Dina Zempsky, a geriatric social worker helping Lichtenstein and his 371 Productions team, says that groups here in Brooklyn, like Cobble Hill Health Services and CNR Health Care Network, are actively moving toward more progressive models of care.
“We’re talking about nursing homes that are making serious efforts – more are embracing the idea of patient directed care,” Zempsky says.
Things, however, still need to change on a broader scale, according to Lichtenstein.
“People need to adjust their attitudes towards aging,” Lichtenstein says. “Get rid of denial and embrace the idea that the cycle of life includes getting old. The question is why is it we so fear aging?”
“Almost Home will be shown at the Park Slope United Methodist Church located at 410 Sixth Avenue on March 13 at 7 p.m., and at the Union Temple located at 17 Eastern Parkway on March 14 at 10 a.m.