October 16, 2009

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Promoting a culture of life from beginning to end

Shirley Vogler MeisterMy first column this month featured a clever cartoon strip, “Umberto the Unborn,” by artist Gary Cangemi.

Umberto is the voice of all babies, especially those in danger of abortion. This column expands the tenets of Respect Life Month.

Recently, I found a column written by Cardinal Justin F. Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia. He is chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Pro-Life Activities (www.usccb.org/prolife).

Archbishop Rigali discusses everything from embryonic stem-cell research to physician-assisted suicide, and the possible laws that focus on allowing life at any stage to end in an appropriate faith-based manner. He also discusses the ramifications of negative actions, i.e. the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) that allows inappropriate deaths.

What I focus on here, however, are these words from Cardinal Rigali: “Let us rededicate ourselves to defending the basic rights of those who are weakest and most marginalized: the poor, the homeless, the innocent unborn, and the frail elderly who need our respect and our assistance. In this and in so many ways, we will truly build a culture of life.”

Since my husband, Paul, and I are now considered senior citizens, it is with concern that we move into old age.

Why? Because we witnessed firsthand the pitfalls that occurred during our caregiving years for our elderly mothers. When they suffered, we suffered.

Unfortunately, they often suffered needlessly at the hands of non-family caregivers. We did everything we could to educate those who ignored this very basic precept: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

In nursing homes, we closely monitored our loves ones and worked well with staff members to make sure our mothers were cared for properly, both in Indiana and Illinois. In their nursing homes, we were extremely vigilant in order to keep them safe. Yet, there were many levels of poor care as well as outright abuse.

Fortunately, we learned about United Senior Advocate (USA), 324 W. Morris St., #114; Indianapolis, IN 46225 (317-634-0872 or www.usaindiana.org). We learned so much from Michelle Niemeyer, the executive director, and Robyn Grant, the long-term care policy director, and their efficient staff and volunteers.

For years, I have hoped to write about United Senior Advocate in this column. Then, recently, Grant sent me a CD titled “Caregiver Digest: A Guide to Indiana Long Term Care Resources.”

Later, a note followed from Niemeyer. The CD is free, thanks to the generosity of a grantor, but donations are also welcome.

I plan to share this important information with my daughters so they will have resources on hand if or when the time comes when Paul or I need help.

Being prepared is better than the way my husband and I handled problems in the past.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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