Today when we visited an assisted living facility where a friend resides there was a difference as we walked down the long hallway. A door was shut to a room that always had been open. That is never a good sign.
I walked back to one of the staff to find an answer. I have been around these folks long enough to consider myself somewhat ‘one of the faces’ and we all share a bond in one way or another as we greet each other, swap stories, smiles, or one lines that are designed to lift spirits.
The room with the shut door was the place a man I have written about before called home for the last few years.
From the hallway of the facility I know how agreeable the residents are to be chatted with. Some doors are closed, and some while open never provide a glimpse of the person who now for one reason or another calls this place home.
One man sits in the same chair in his room every single day, looking out the same window onto the back road of the facility. I never fail to greet him, and during football season ask how his Dallas Cowboys are faring. He was watching his team the weekend when James and I moved our friend with Alzheimer’s into this facility to live. For some reason he seemed needing a “hello’, and that has never ended these many months later.
During one of our chats he told me he now lived in “a prison”. I could not argue with him, but did ask what I might do to make things easier. His simple request was to have another of the cookie packets that were kept in a drawer in the kitchen. After making sure he was not diabetic I have grabbed cookies from the stash in the kitchen and dropped them off more often than not when I visit. “It is against the rules” he tells me. “I just made a new rule,” I keep telling him. What can possibly happen at his age if he consumes a couple extra cookies?
Today I discovered that during a recent bout with the flu Linus passed away from dehydration at the facility.
He is no longer in prison.
The CNA who told me the news got a response that I had not anticipated giving, nor one she expected to hear. I blurted out in anger “I hate this place!” I was angry at how too many older people wind up in these homes, and the suddenness of the news about someone who granted was not family and only a passing acquaintance, and yet mattered to me.
What I felt deeplywas ‘I hate this place!”
I said it a couple of times.
I really do hate it.
Not that the folks who work there are not caring. For the most part they are. Not that the residents do not need a place to allow them the care they need, as they all do.
I hate the place because there is no exit except death.
There is no pause from the relentless tick-tock of the clock that all there know is moving along.
A depressing place that I swear never to visit again after the duties we have committed ourselves to are fulfilled for our friend with Alzheimer’s.
There is no way to disconnect the events of my Madison world from those relating to my family.
There are some in my family who will claim I have no life experience, no background with which to offer opinions when it comes to elderly care or a whole host of issues about family decisions when it comes to matters that concern me. Being ‘single’ and without children seems to be the litmus test I can not pass and therefore have nothing to offer.
To them all I can say tonight is “bugger off”.