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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Nursing Home


I was recently in a nursing home, visiting someone who worked there. The moment you walk in the doors, the smell hits you. It’s a combination of canned green beans, chemicals, and death. No matter what air purifiers they use, the smell permeates everything. As you walk along the corridors, you realize that no matter how much they try to use ‘peaceful’ colors, the only colors you see are greys. Everything has an aura of hopelessness. This is truly God’s Waiting Room.

As I sat there, talking to this employee, I heard continuous, spasmodic barking screams. I finally couldn’t stand it anymore, and had to ask. “What is happening? Who’s screaming?” The woman shook her head. “It’s a patient who’s been dying for two days,” she said. “I don’t know how or why she’s still hanging on. She’s in terrible pain, and the morphine just isn’t helping. I was hoping you wouldn't have to hear her."

“What’s she dying from?” I asked. “Just simple old age,” she replied, "she's almost 100 years old." Seeing the horror in my eyes, she nodded. “I know,” she said. “I can’t go like that. That’s why I swore I would never let my parents go to a nursing home, and I’ve made my son promise that I will never go, either. Until people enter these homes, they never have any idea just how awful it is. And then it’s too late, because they’ve already sold everything they own to be able to move in here. Most of them have no one. All their friends and relatives have died long ago, or they’re just not around and don’t care… and they’re dying alone.”

For once, I had absolutely nothing I could say. We just stared at each other in mutual understanding.

PIE UPDATE: Pie is adjusting very well to us. She enjoys cuddling, and will sit for hours on my shoulder as I type on the computer. One vet who's a friend of ours also told us what great pets possums make, if they're found early enough (before they realize that everything is out to try to kill them). I will be very glad to see her get fully adjusted to us, because she has a nervous stomach and whenever she gets frightened, she has a gas attack. It's very faint, but rather pungent when she's sitting on your shoulder... Bleah. Happily, these are few and far between.

15 comments:

Tabasamu said...

Whoa, that is a grim post. You probably didn't like writing it, did you? I hate nursing homes too. You almost expect to see a sign over the door that says "Abandon Hope,All Ye Who Enter Here." I swear I will NEVER go into a home.

They have programs where you can buy a house or condo on the grounds of a nursing home, and when you get so bad you have to have 24/7 care, they move you into the nursing home itself. That's a little better, but not much.

Saur♥Kraut said...

No, it was pretty unpleasant to think about, and I really wasn't sure if I should post about it. Lots of people are squeamish about aging and dying... I know that *I* am. Which is why I chose to write about this fear of mine. I don't know if anyone will want to read it or post about it, though.

Fred said...

My sister used to work in a nursing home, and would come home with these stories on a daily basis.

We also made the same promise to our parents. If need be, we have space here in the house that we'll gladly have them use when the time comes.

Besides, I'm tired to seeing commercials for lawyers wanting to sue these homes for any reason.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Fred Yes. I have told my parents the same thing. I don't want to see them in a place like that.

mal said...

Tabasamu is right, it is a grim post. One of the most frightening thoughts to me is the thought of some one dying alone. It is the biggest challenge of our lives and I think if some one is with us, we can face it without fear.

No one in our respective families has yet to face it alone. I hope they never do

On a lighter note, Pie is not ready for Beano yet? *G*

GodlessMom said...

I worked in a nursing home for three years. It was so hard to go to work everyday and spend eight hours in that kind of environment. The residents wanted so much to connect with people and there were so few visitors, it was heartbreaking. My parents will never go in a place like that!

AP3 said...

Yes, nursing homes can be very hard places, that's for sure. And they certainly do have a smell all their own.

Glad Pie is settling in! How cute!

Some Random Girl said...

I used to work in a nursing home and now work at a business that sometimes has to place elderly people in nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Some are better than others. Some are clean and don't stink. Some are disgusting and the employees will let their patients sit in feces and urine until their skin breaks down. It's really sad. A lot of people don't get visitors because they were horrible people to their families when they were younger and now they live a life confined to their own minds. Unfortunately, many times we don't see what type of people they were when they were younger, we only see the frail elderly cute old woman who sits in a chair all alone. Many times, she was a horrible mother and her daughter or son doesn't want anything to do with her. We see it everyday at my work. It's sad and unfortunate but makes me remember how blessed I am to have good parents....I do like to joke and threaten them with a nursing home if they don't shape up! Of course I would rather them live with me but sometimes you don't have a choice. Unfortunately, many people dont' realize how much goes into the daily care of the elderly. Especially if they are incontinent and can't feed themselves or bathe themselves. With the age of the baby boomers, there will be an explosion of nursing homes taking in people....

I am glad that Pie is doing well. keep posting pics!

SmileDragon said...

I have only visited one nursing home in my entire life, however I have experienced (not me personally, but family members) in home care. It is dreadful, hard, draining work. But, the family members that have done this have said that even as hard as it is they would do it 100 times over. As draining as it is to take care of a loved one, how much worse can it be on you if you have the means and choose the easier route? I don't know how people that have the means to do in home care live with themselves after sending someone to one of those horrible places.

On the other hand, assisted living is a great thing. My great grandmother went to an "apartment building" when she couldn't take care of herself completely, but wasn't helpless. She loved it. They are a community of peers, and they have staff that is there to assist in any way needed. My grandmother took her in when she couldn't live there anymore.

Senor Caiman said...

Your elderly parents need round the clock medical attention and you and your brothers and sisters all work. The nursing home is the only option for many families. Once in a nursing home life can be sustained long beyond what nature had intended. It seems like more and more families are turning to Hospice to obtain medication that allows for a peaceful and expedited journey.

Tan Lucy Pez said...

I have mixed emotions about "homes." I don't want my kids to care for me. Too hard.
So I do want to go into a home, if it comes to that. But a good one, and come see me there.

How long does an opossum live?

ajay shroff said...

In north america, its very common to put your parents in a home right?
Hey Saur, put up some pics of Pie up. We would love to see them. :)
ajay

Saur♥Kraut said...

Mr. Gator & Tan Lucy, true, there is always a need for nursing homes. But I think they're often overused when there are more humane options available.

My parents cared for my grandparents until one became senile and it was impossible to care for her, so they had to put her in a nursing home. I understood why.

Ajay, yeah, it is pretty common! I'll post pics of Pie tomorrow. She is SO darned cute!

Bill R said...

"This is truly God’s Waiting Room."

Very vivid, Saur! We went through this decision recently with my mother-in-law, who lives about 12 miles from us. We've been able to let her stay in her own home, with in-home care. It's tough to find someone to stay with her, but it means so much to her. I hope I can do this for my father, when the time comes. But he's 500 miles away!

All these lonely souls in nursing homes should be in our prayers.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Bill, you are right.