I just finished reading Chatter Master’s post, “I Just Hurtle”, and I almost replied.
Realizing, however, my reply was more of a rant I felt it best to just haul off and “post” my reply.
Why is it that Western society has offered nursing homes as a solution for our elderly loved ones? The words, “she would be better off in a nursing home” are just so predictable that it makes me want to vomit. Can we not come up with something better?
I remember feeling trapped in the same scenario when my Dad was recovering in the hospital from pneumonia. The hospital staff and CCAC told Mom and I that they would not release Dad back to his home and the best thing to do was to put him in a nursing home. He was simply, “too much” for my Mom to handle on her own. Dad used to say to us, “If I ever get too unable to take care of myself – take me to the back 40 acres and shoot me.” Well, that was not going to happen, but neither would it happen that I would EVER put Dad in a nursing home.
I’ll confess that there are some homes that have wonderful care – but so many of them are so understaffed that an individual resident is denied the full care they need and deserve… as Chatter Master commented… after working hard all their lives.
Thank God I work in a school that also offers PSW courses and so when Dad was put on the nursing home treadmill I got busy and solicited the assistance of Janine, the PSW teacher, to help us find home care. And that’s when our journey began surrounded by angels. Diane came into our lives first, followed by Tessie and then a barrage of other angels. I refused to abandon Dad in a nursing home.
This home care was not without it’s pitfalls. Mom lost her privacy somewhat, especially when Dad’s needs grew. I was no longer able to just visit Mom and Dad – it was always Mom and Dad and … whoever was helping out that day. But losing her privacy was such a small price to pay for keeping Dad where he wanted to be: home.
Their home was wonderful and it was a place where my children would always want to go and visit. They had sleep-overs. Who can say they would send their children for a sleep-over in a nursing home? I wouldn’t want to – I don’t even like going there to visit.
Dad’s bedroom at home was the place where he went to sleep for the final time. Everyone was there. What a blessing. How peaceful that transition was! He was home.
Mom taught me that we did not need to follow “doctor’s order” or hospital orders – that we could think for ourselves in terms of what we felt was right.
I refuse to believe our only option for caring for our loved “elders” is to put them in a nursing home. Society needs to become more creative and not just do what we are told is our only option. We need to keep our families united at home – not a nursing home.
How can this be accomplished?
I became my Dad’s primary care-coordinator. I cooked for him, payed bills for him, cried with him, laughed with him, and changed him when I needed to. It was difficult for he and I and it was difficult for my family to give me up. This coordinator required that I was with Dad a lot. But my Dad raised me and put his life on hold for me. It was my turn to give back to him. And I do NOT regret it.
I’d like to think I’ve taught my children that there are options. I’d like to think I’ve taught my children that it is possible to die with dignity in your own home and that death is a natural part of life. We tend, as a society, to hide death and believe it needs to happen in a “hospital”. Death is something that needs to be addressed as a part of life.
Nursing homes must not be dumping grounds or considered the be all and end all solution for our elderly who are not able to care for themselves.
Mom and Dad were my teachers even through death. And by keeping them home they were able to live a better quality of life until the very end.
I think we can do better than nursing homes.
What we need are caring homes and caring families willing to make some sacrifices. Our seniors deserve better.