I leave after an hour, wondering why anyone would live in a nursing home if there were other options available. But unbelievably, with every marble intact, my grandmother in fact made that choice.The story hit very close to home because am old. I am 71 and my husband is 75. We are both active seniors with a beautiful life style. However, the reality is if we live long enough and are not killed by a run away golf cart or something, we too will spend some time in a nursing facility. It is a given. It is what we will want because we will not want our children to care for us at home...period. My mother, mother-in-law, both grandmothers and grandfathers did that very thing. My father died suddenly at 76 and was spared this final stage of his life.
"Writing is never 'fun,'" E.B White is quoted as saying. I generally don't agree; in this encore career, I wouldn't do it if it weren't fun. But there is nothing fun about a nursing home, and there was not much fun in the writing about it either.
They were all part of the decision in as much as they could be and did not act like spoiled children when the day came. There was no talk of running away or going back to younger days. In fact, they each brought their share of joy and grace to their new home. I have always been proud of their selfless behavior.
As a family, we have learned some hard lessons about nursing home care and what can go wrong. We have also learned about the good things and the good people that will work with the very elderly. Even though I did not know what to do about the bad when it was my turn to take charge, I did learn to take action and make sure that those under my watch were cared for with as much love as possible. I got up off my bottom when things went wrong and found someone that could make some changes. I worked right along side the care givers to make things as good as they could possibly be. It was a labor of love.
Facing the facts is hard. Sometimes people need a lot of care and those of us that are not in a medical field and do not have homes designed for care giving cannot do the things necessary. Even those of us with the best of intention and motivation fail our family in that regard. As hard as it may be, many times there is no choices left.
Then there is the fact that society views nursing home and their residents today with the attitude that people had in the past about people with disabilities, mental handicaps or even physical disfigurement. Those people were kept in a closed room out of polite society's view. Handicapped children did not go to school because the other children needed to be spared the very site of someone that was different.
This attitude is the one that people take toward those that are suffering from disabilities related to aging or even the wrinkles and moles that appear over time! What I have seen is that when there are no choices and the decision has been made, families with desert their loved ones. Younger people can't stomach a visit to the nursing facilities. If their loved one does not recognize them they don't see the need to visit and be watchful. Hence, the nursing home horror stories. It could be that when they see what they do not like, they can excuse themselves from going to visit as often is necessary.
In a perfect world, all care would be loving and gentle. Everyone would grow old and remain beautiful. No one would come to a place where they were unaware of what went on around them. People would have no aversion to spending time with family members that lived where they could be cared for. Church congregations would come to the nursing home and worship and families would share movie nights with their loved ones. Birthday parties in small eating areas for provided residents would happen frequently. There would be no alarms or even a unsightly person in a wheel chair...in a perfect world.
But this life is not perfect and what an outsider may see as ugly an insider over looks or even becomes blind to over time.
|Bring me flowers....|
When I am very old and need to be cared for, please come to visit. When you come to visit me, bring a book or some needle work or a small project of some kind. Wash my face and put lotion on my hands. Open the curtains and bring flowers or treats for everyone. Eat with me and don't act shocked when I spill. Go find the coffee pot and bring me a cup. Sit beside me and work or read. Just be with me as though we were at home. Provide a TV for me or bring your laptop computer with an old movie we can share or an old familiar song. Bring me magazines with lots of pictures. In fact, bring magazines for everyone and let me share them. Do what brings you joy and I will love it too...even if I cannot let you know. Hold my hand and hug me.
Be proactive for other residents and not just me. While nursing home supervisors will want things to be good, I will know they cannot watch everyone. Jump to your feet when an alarm goes off in the neighboring room and be standing beside it when the aid gets there to turn it off. If a summons for help is not answered, go find someone to help. Do those things that are not getting done...pick up things, clean just a little, strip my soiled bed. Become a partner with the facility in the care for me. It could be that employees will understand that you are a part of their community too and you want for them to succeed. I will become special in their eyes because of what you do. Isn't that a good thing? Besides, that is what I will want you to do.
I will be sorry I cannot bring you joy like I did all those years ago...I know that will be hard. Try to find a place in your heart for me. What you think as you sit beside me will be revealed in your eyes and I will know how you feel. I think you will need to bring the joy with you. I hope you won't mind. And I will need your acceptance more than you know.
Note: Talk to the nursing home superviser if things are not what they should be. Find out what can be done. Contact the ombudsman in your state if the nursing facility is simply horrible and move your family member if things don't measure up. Be a part of a solution.
Note: First published in 2013 but nothing has changed!