Letter From Home 1/15/11


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.

In September I wrote in another Letter From Home about Linus.

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”.

One thought on “Letter From Home 1/15/11

  1. ReasonableCitizen

    I don’t share the same feelings about nursing homes and assisted living centers.

    It is not a prison for some. It is a womb. Safe, secure; a nutured place until reborn in the afterlife.

    My mother-in-law is escaping from an overcontrolling husband who takes every opportunity to tell her what she can and cannot do. He never counsels. He yells. He is afraid of life without her.

    When he was 18 he learned how to fight, how to get mad, and he learned how being angry enabled him to win against others. He has used that strategy inappropriately throughout his life.

    And now he is 83, she is 79. She has Parkinsons; entering stage 5. He is on dialysis and a diabetic and he is angry 12-15 waking hours a day. But mostly he is afraid. He was (and is) a very bad man. He is also Catholic and suffers bouts of guilt mixed within his anger. The world is all about him and one cannot ask him how she is doing without him telling you how he is dealing with it.

    She is glad to be there. She knows what is to come. This is the time to keep her safe, fed, ensure that her needs are met, and allow her respite from the man she spent her life with.

    She left our home Friday and, at the center yesteday, she watched the Falcons play. She will cheer the Bears today and she will do it safely in a place that will take care of her. She is happier now.

    He is still here and will be here until he decides not to be. He is still a very bad man. But for the moment he is whelmed at the change in his life.

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