by: Carole Fawcett (www.wordaffair.com)
There were twelve of them from the Seniors home who agreed to meet and chat about the Opioid Crisis with me. I had put up a sign inviting them to have a discussion about the issue, so they chose to meet with me over coffee after their exercise class. They ranged in age from mid-seventies and into their nineties. They live in independent suites and eat communally at breakfast, lunch and supper.
It was a relaxed meeting, with guarantees that nobody would be identified and that this confidentiality also included the location.
As we all know, there are generational differences. The folks who live in most senior residences represent the Traditionalist Generation – usually born before 1946. A lot of them survived WWII, the Korean War, and The Depression.
They may have been immigrants, coming to Canada to start over again. When they were growing up they may have experienced difficult times, but for a lot of them, they also experienced times of prosperity.
It was interesting to note that when the discussion started, there were a couple of people who reacted strongly and came from what seemed like a place of judgment. Those folks may represent the old black and white work ethic notion that if you work hard, you will get ahead and there is no excuse, as you were dependent on yourself and nobody was going to step in and help. They may have believed that using opioids is a choice and that it would be handled best by limiting how many times (as an example) a person should be given Naloxone.
We discussed the use of Naloxone and I shared that one of the people I had written about had been given this life saving drug four times in one weekend. That initially brought about a concern of the cost of this service and some discussion about there being a limit as to how many times it was offered.
By the end of this shared discussion, there was more compassion and understanding with the realization that a life can be saved and subsequently helped, no matter how many times it might take.
One of the seniors had an awareness of the fact that there are also mental health issues that may walk alongside the drug dependency. As a retired professional herself, she was aware of the importance of education and support for anyone who may be caught in the opioid crisis. There was agreement from all with this point.
One of the participants suggested that overuse of pharmaceuticals and ease of prescription writing by Physicians may help to create an addiction – due to pain issues as we age. Although it was also stated that Physicians were becoming more aware of how these narcotics could have long term impact if too many were prescribed.
One person shared they took Percocet for severe arthritic pain, but that she monitored it closely and did not over-use. She stated her Doctor had suggested she try an over-the-counter pain medication first, before resorting to the narcotic.
This communal coffee chat was a great success, as several of the attendees shared that they had learned a lot and one person stated that their views had definitely softened. They shared that it gave them a deeper understanding of opioid addiction, with the realization that it crosses all socio-economic boundaries and that it can impact everyone, not just those living rough.