Saturday, August 11, 2007

Update on the Pad Patrol

We had an anonymous request from someone to provide an update on the Pad Patrol. The latest is that yes, we are still collecting pads and getting them to women who live in nursing homes and institutions. Mainly the women that FRIDA members know of are women who are clients of the CIL where we work.

Federal Medicaid regulations mandate that those on Medicaid who live in institutions or nursing homes receiving federal dollars get what they need in the way of personal toiletries, i.e., toothrbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo...pads and tampons (usually pads, especially for those who cannot do tampons independently).

There are a few angles to this problem that need to be laid out for the public. The first is that nursing home and instition residents live under a system and climate of fear and oppression. If anyone gets out of line, they fear bureaucratic retaliation or getting kicked out. So, nobody wants to speak out publicly about not getting pads, in case they get in trouble. This issue is huge. HUGE. It is why we do not yet have an effective public spokeswoman on this problem.

Second, people have asked why this problem doesn't get reported to, for example, a state ombudsman. I'm not sure how things work in every state, but in Illinois, there is a state ombudsman to report problems to...but they work for the Department of Aging. They can only really work to resolve problems affecting senior citizens. If you think about it, most senior women aren't having their periods any more. So that leaves those who ARE havin periods out in the cold.

Third, people have asked why the women not getting pads don't just sue. Part of the problem with that is because of the two issues above. But also, part of the problem is that women are sitting in their dried, caked blood NOW and litigation takes a lot of time. So the Pad Patrol tries to alleviate the immediate problems. There are nursing homes that will do things like change someone's diaper just once or twice a day. They are understaffed or whatever. And so the person with a disability will be sitting for hours in their own pee, stool, and menstrual blood for HOURS.

If we as a society had an effective community supports system, of course we'd see a huge difference in the levels of individual care and hygiene (and states would save a BUNDLE of money). But we don't so, FRIDA fully supports groups like ADAPT that are fighting for community choice.

OK, fourthly, an issue that has been raised is that some women with disabilities who are able to wear pads are sometimes not trained on how to use them. What are people doing about this? There are also lots of women who are physically unable to change their own pads. Well, let's think about this. Just because you can't use pads or don't know how, does that mean you should just be allowed to sit in your menstrual blood and smell awful? Doesn't being unclean and unhygienic take away some of your personal dignity? Doesn't being unclean and unhygienic just shove you even further down the social ladder? Doesn't it give people further excuse to keep you away from "accepted" society? How many of us, walking in our communities, have given a wide berth to someone who is clearly unwashed? How many of us have seen others do that?

So the issue that the Pad Patrol is trying to address, in a grassroots way, is complicated and underground.

A few more details about how the Pad Patrol works: women know that there is a contact person from whom they can get pads, or can request pads for a family member. The pads have to be picked up from where we work as we do not have the resources to go out and drive pads to people. Women also learn about the pads through support groups.

FRIDA fully encourages efforts to address the pad issue in your communities. Get pads donated, find someone who is willing to be a contact person, and figure out a way to get stuff distributed. This is an effort that is about all of us and is done simply because we are trying to empower people to hopefully one day say, "Hey, it's complete bullshit that I have to beg for pads and today is the day I'm gonna report this and expose the problem." If anyone knows a woman who's willing to do that, do all you can to help her.

One final thought: when the system fails to support our having pads when we need them, and fails to empower us to use them, the system is taking away our right to manage our womanhood. The system does not see us as women. The system sees us as cash cows. Well, FRIDA does not MOO.