I visit the nursing home pretty often to see my mom who is there.
While I try to focus on my mom and her needs, I do notice other patients there.
The images are deeply impactful on me…here are ten that are on my mind today:
1) The husband and wife who are both in the home in a shared room–the wife is wheelchair-bound and the husband dutifully pushes her around the floor. This weekend, I saw them together at the nurses’ station asking for some crackers. When the nurse came back with some individually wrapped crackers in cellophane, the couple took them and went off down the hall happy as clams.
2) The lady at the table who is overweight, but always asks for more food. She doesn’t talk much except to ask for more dessert. She stares at the other patients and seems annoyed and upset with them.
3) The guy who was a lawyer, but now has dementia, and sits and talks half to himself and half trying to engage others, but all that comes out is sort of gibberish. So others just nod or say something to politely acknowledge him, but can’t converse with him with any meaning.
4) The lady in the room who sits in a chair hunchback. She never seems to leave the room or the chair. Sometimes, she watches TV and other times appear to be crocheting. Mostly she sits hunchback, looking uncomfortable, but settled for the long hall like that.
5) The woman who sits outside her door in the hallway. She is in a wheelchair, and she doesn’t say anything, but she stares at you while you walk down the hallway. She sits there watching–sitting and watching.
6) The younger but still old disheveled guy. He comes into the dining room to eat, but gets food all over himself. He sits alone, always. He eats quickly, leaves half his food, and gets up and goes out while everyone else is still picking away at their food.
7) The lady with a wall of baseball caps. She has no hair, maybe she has cancer, I don’t know. She usually is in bed, sitting up. The caps look like they have a lot of meaning to her, but I’m not sure if it’s because she’s a sports enthusiast or why.
8) A lady in a wheelchair that pulls herself along down the hall. She puts one foot in front of the other in these baby steps motions, and the chair moves along, slowly, but at least she is mobile, somewhat.
9) This weekend, I looked out the window of the home, and there was a woman on the sidewalk. She had fallen on the ground, on her butt. Her walker was next to her, but she could not get up. Some people were near here, apparently trying to get help, but not wanting to touch or move her themselves. I ran for the floor nurse, and she came to the window to see. She said is that so and so, which meant nothing to me, and then she ran off to help her get up.
10) A lady sits downstairs by the glass windows–she is dressed up fancy like older healthy people are want to do. Next to her is an older gentleman in a turtleneck, but he is just visiting and is her son. They seem to be sort of wealthy as they sit upright in the high-back chairs and discuss family and what she’s been eating at the home. They look askance at some of the other patients who are crying out in pain.
The nursing home, like the hospital is a horrible place to be, even when you have to be there.
In both places, even the most caring doctors and nurses and attendants, cannot make up for the fact that you are a prisoner of age, failing health, and disability–and let’s face it, even if many are nice or attentive, not everyone is.
I am still unclear why people must suffer so–why we haven’t found a better way to end good, productive, and loving lives.
I am not sure that people are really even focused on this issue of old age, because it’s not sexy, it’s at the end anyway, and “they had the chance to live their lives.”
Maybe, it’s because we simply don’t have the answers yet, can’t afford what they would take, or we would just rather not deal with mortality, pain, and suffering when there are so many other things to do.
But one day, we all will face the piper–and it would be comforting if we had better answers.
(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)