I feel that most elderly are just that, elderly. They still have wants and needs and desires. Simply put, they have aged and may need medical care more than younger adults. The media wrongly depicts the elderly in general as frail and confused and helpless.
In a TV show I watched recently, marginally adult characters --- meaning they reveled in a goofy outlook on life --- were put in charge of caring for the residents in a nursing/convalescent home. I was shocked to see that in many ways the caretakers were more mentally challenged than the cared-for. I was very upset watching this show which indicated that the elderly in nursing home settings were being left in the hands of simple-minded caretakers. I found myself thinking back on my own experiences with clients living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, and trying to recall the caregivers assigned to meet the physical needs and challenges of the residents of the facility. Many times the facility would be beautiful, with carpeting and chandeliers and fish tanks. I always noted that this was more for the families visiting to make the visit less depressing. The residents rarely visited the entry level floors that were posh and elegantly decorated.
But as far as the residents of the facility, they were housed primarily on an assigned floor and assigned to a health aide stationed there. This health aid had a roster of up to eight residents to care for. The health aide had only one pair of hands and all eight of the assigned residents were rigorously scheduled for their care needs. So the residents were on an assembly-line treadmill for being bathed, fed, dressed, and accompanied to the toilet.
I don't know about you, but I don't toilet on a schedule. When I have to go I just go to the restroom. I found that scheduling toileting often was the first step towards developing incontinence. Since people don't pee on a schedule, when they have to go and it's not their time, they can wet themselves. In a facility if patients wet or soil themselves, they are immediately put into a depends-type diaper. The resident is told to go in the diaper and they will then be scheduled for a diaper changing instead of restroom schedule.
Another area I noticed was that many residents walked into the home, but were put into wheelchairs so they wouldn't fall. There wasn't enough staff to supervise the ambulatory residents. Therefore they were put on a walking schedule, and were assisted with walking once or twice a day. Eventually they lost the ability to ambulate independently and became permanently wheelchair bound.
Loss of continence and loss of ambulation often times leads to depression in the residents. It is a known fact that elders live longer in their own home around their own possessions from their lifetime, than in a nursing home setting. But bear in mind that depression does not equal senility. Even though the elders may be unhappy and depressed, many times they still have their wits about them. I always believe my elder clients when they report abuse, neglect, sexual misconduct and even violence in the nursing home or assisted living facility.
Alert and oriented residents often observe physical and emotional abuse of other residents. I have had families report their elder being given medications following an observation being reported by them. This is seen as a chemical restraint and is illegal in most States. Reports of senility and confusion often times is merely a reaction to a medication and the media should be made aware of this.