Observations of the next Level/Stage/Adventure/Hell

I’m not a sociologist and a damn poor philosopher, but it looks like we humans evolve through distinct stages of our life–zygote, fetus, infant, child, teen, young adult, adult, middle age, old age, nursing care, hospice, ground. (or ocean or urn) I can’t speak for you but after that 21st. birthday the looking ahead was pretty much over for me. As a kid I couldn’t wait to get to high school, then drive, college, then drink, then mate, have kids…stop!  I mean we stop looking ahead, because it’s nose to the grind-stone time, baby needs shoes. We admire older folks sometimes and pay no attention to them most of the time. We go from that young adult to that middle-aged person thinking we’re happy behind the wheel of our new Lexus, but in reality we’re on a damn Lear jet flying at light-years speed. Suddenly your grandma, aunt, dad, mom have stumbled “literally” into the nursing care stage or adventure or hell. You are visiting them. You are viewing the next level like the father at the delivery window. The kid looks just like you. You see your Mom in the nursing home. You see you.

I’m spending hours every day in a typical Nursing Home.(USA style) My mom’s vision and hearing had been getting worse the last few years and when her legs joined the “I Quit too” team, it was time to get 24 hour care including 3 squares, baths, laundry, hair, nails, daily pill input, help with the outputs(in the bathroom or oh-oh) help with the clothes, bedding, and on and on.
What can I say about the aides, therapists and nurses who do this type of work? They are the best people on earth. They certainly don’t do it for the pay and the back-breaking job itself. They are the best people on earth…period.

But, you knew there would be a “but”—these places are so depressing. All of those ‘best people on earth’ can’t change the pale that hangs like foul air (oh yeah that hangs there too) in every hallway. The “needs-watching” are stacked up around the circle at the nurses’ station, necks at weird angles, hanging out of the wheel chairs, sleeping…all sleeping. Those who eat in the dining room are pushed to the tables where they sleep too, necks at weird angles. I took these shots yesterday.

St. Anthony1

St. Anthony 2

St. Anthony 3

Entertainment comes on a few afternoons every week. Entertainers who themselves are usually elderly, like to play piano, guitar, fiddle, sing along and hope they are reaching a few people. Maybe 20-25 folks, again slumped in their wheel chairs who are in their own world. There might be 6-8 people who actually hear the music, none hear the words and a couple will applaud. Today, an out of tune fiddler played with a guitar player and bass player. After three out-of-tune fiddle songs, mom said, “I think he’s playing something different than the rest of them. Can we go back to my room?” (she was right)

My mom doesn’t want to be there. I doubt any of them do. But she’s the youngest mind and spirit of all, even though she’s the oldest chronologically (98 ½). She likes to add the ½ like we did in that “child” stage. “I’m four and one half.”  The middle-age-stage are mostly age-deniers and liars, the nursing home stage brags about their age.  Good for them.

There are no answers; it’s just a waiting to die stage that we all have to face. (if we live long enough). I mentioned different names in my title above for this stage I’m now observing. For my mom it’s the “hell” stage. I used another word—“adventure” also. I’m hoping I will accept this nursing home level as such…and adventure. So far, I’ve seen no patients who feel that way. There are some characters, besides Mom, who I’ll talk about another day.

I’m grateful that we have provided fine establishments in the last 50 years to house our elderly who can’t take care of themselves. Before we had Medicare or Medicaid, we had “Almshouses” sometimes called poor farms. Ugh.

About bakoheat

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4 Responses to Observations of the next Level/Stage/Adventure/Hell

  1. Hey, old friend,

    Your post is compelling.

    Almshouses, or “Poor Houses” were for those who had no one who cared to see them out of the world, or for those who did have someone, but these couldn’t handle the stress, or the demands. When you and I were kids, we used to travel to St. Anthony’s as server-boys to assist the priests who said masses there. Remember? Great fun for us, especially if the priest wanted to stop for breakfast. But even St. Anthony’s was hell. Lots of people have told me the horror tales. Some eras were better than others, but for the most part these “homes” were ugly. And sadly, St. A’s was one of the better places to go to die.

    My mom died in the hospital, with all of us around her, but had she gotten through her last crisis, we would be in your shoes now, with her placement in a home. Your mom sounds as if she is able to converse, though… and interact, which is a strange blessing. Not many of us get to experience someone of her age who is still bright and conversant. Our mom, at best, had her mind together about 10% of the time at the end. It was hard to watch her fade. Her memory went in stages, with the most recent memories fading first. She woke up one day and didn’t know who Joe was. She called me and asked who the “strange guy” was. This was especially difficult for Joe, since he was her primary caretaker. Being with her in her last days was hard, but in some ways it was good. We learned a lot of things about our family that we had never known before. Some ancient questions were answered as she re-lived moments from her youth. Of course, the emotional toll was great for all of us.

    Your mom was good to mine. I’ve not forgotten how generous a spirit she has always had. When I stopped to see her last it was like walking through a door to yesterday. Same bright and smiling person, same house… there was something almost eerie about it. I wish I had stopped by more often now. I don’t go home very often. Raising a granddaughter, and managing my son’s life keep Kay and me home bound. If we venture out, we go solo, so the other can mind the goings on at home.

    I don’t envy the experience you are going through in any way, though, It’s tough. Losing my dad as young as he was was a brutal experience, and I had no clue at the time just how truly young he was. I’m glad you’ve been able to be with both of your parents. One of our many nuns would say you’ve been “blessed.”

    Ironically, we don’t govern whatever this existence is, and it’s possible that your mom has another 10 years of life left, and may yet outlive you. That’s the kind of thing about life that drives me crazy if I think about it overlong.

    But, if the odds hold true, it’s you who will follow her. And being “blessed” won’t make it any easier. There’s no good way to lose someone you love.

    Take care. I’ll be thinking of you.

    • bakoheat says:

      Thank you my friend for the beautifully written words and memories. It’s amazing how I’ve come full-circle with the St. Anthony’s thing. I’ve met some characters that are imprisoned with mom and wrote about one for tomorrow’s blog. Stay Well…

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