The old adage “if you need something done, ask a busy person” could not apply to anyone better than Jane Ahern DeFillippi, AARP Massachusetts advocacy volunteer. The semi-retired nurse and Melrose resident is passionate about aging and health issues, and active both in her community and at the State House, all while taking graduate courses, and singing in her church choir.
DeFillippi, 63, shares her first-hand experiences caring for the elderly, and explains how they have shaped her advocacy and volunteer efforts.
What’s your work background?
I am a semi-retired nurse, and worked in skilled nursing facilities specifically as an instructor for new hires and continuing education. Each new hire was trained to treat an elder as a person and resident first, and a patient second. We encouraged staff to look at each resident as someone who once was a 16-year-old and beyond: to picture them going on a first date, looking for a job, planning a marriage, expecting a baby, or experiencing the death of a parent or spouse, or a child. No one at age 16 or 30 can envision themselves being in a long term care environment hoping someone will bring them to the bathroom on time. Treat that elder as you hope someone will treat you at age 75.
How long have you been involved in elder issues?
I have always had an interest in Gerontology, even before it was named. As a child, I cared for elder family members in my large extended family. My mother was a nurse and physical therapist, so through her I learned early how to adapt environments to ease elder care.
When I was in nursing school, hospice care was in its infancy as a treatment plan. Again, the focus was on providing care with dignity, easing pain, and supporting patients first, but also their family members.
I am still learning. I am currently a candidate for a Certificate of Gerontology, through the UMASS McCormack School.
What advocacy issues matter most to you?
My advocacy areas of concern are health issues: delivery of care, legislation, ensuring patients’ safety and dignity. I am very involved in the fight against the proposed cuts to Adult Day Health Services. Some elders would be able to stay in their homes if appropriate care could be found. These services provide a safe caregiving environment and an alternative to skilled nursing facilities.