Yesterday, I did a favour for a friend and visited his Mother in a nursing home close to my place. I have driven by the recently build nursing home many times but have never been inside. The exterior would appear to be just another one of the many condominiums in our area.
The entrance takes you into an empty foyer with signs to wash your hands before entering and leaving the facility. A phenomenon of recent with the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria and the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Yet, there was no direction or help in finding a resident. Spotting a elevator, I took it to the second floor and was greeted by the stale smell of disinfectants, urine, all smells associated with nursing homes and old age. This foyer did have seniors in wheelchairs and personnel in scrub gowns, yet I did need to look for a nursing station for directions. Gone are the days, one would help someone when it’s not his or her job. The directions took me through a maze of units or station as I looked for Chaparral
As I walked past the rooms with the residents names tacked on the door, many were empty. Although this building was built in the last decade, the carpet showed wear and the painting in contemporary browns added to the gloom.
As I hunted for the nursing station, I passed a large table with residents sitting in wheelchairs around it. The table was bare and I assumed being prepared for lunchtime. The station to the side was identified as “Chaparral” where I asked a young lady in a navy scrub gown for my friend’s Mother. She indicated she was a “ward Clerk” and called for a nurse.
A tall white haired woman was pointed out in a wheelchair at the empty table. I introduced my self to her and she looked at me with interest. When asked how she was, to my surprise, she said “Horrible!” When asked why she felt horrible, she said in a very determined voice “cause I wanted to escape for this place!” When asked why she wanted to do this she told me in a sharp voice “look around”! Yes, here were seniors sitting in wheelchairs around a bare table, some sleeping yet none interacting! In our chat, she talked about her son and that Valentine celebration was still going on. A huge valentine display hung across from the Nursing station. In the elevator, there was a poster advertising a valentine bake sale for that day for fund raising for activity supplies.
In talking to her, an aura of a strong, confident, no nonsense person presented! I wondered, as I looked at her snow-white curly hair seeing that a comb had been put through very quickly, how happy she would be with her appearance today. Later that day I learned that her family was planning her 98th birthday this weekend. This healthy looking woman looked 20 years younger!
As I visited with her, all of a sudden a person in fuschia coloured scrub gown walked up with out any acknowledgement of the resident or me and quickly wheeled her away to the dining room. “Well, end of visit” I thought as I looked at the other residents who showed no reaction and wondered how long they had been sitting at this table with no stimulus what so ever!
On leaving, I popped into the room with her name to leave some cookies for her. Quickly looked around to see her personal belonging, which consisted of blankets and pictures of her family hanging on the wall. Feeling like I was intruding on her personal space, I left the cookies and was on my way.
As I walked out quickly, listening to some residents in their rooms calling out “Nurse”, while some were quietly talking to themselves! Washed my hands on exit and couldn’t get out of there quick enough. Feeling of sadness swept over me as I sat in my car teary-eyed! What is it about nursing homes that make me so sad.
As I write this. CBC news is talking about lack of physical activity in today kids increasing and resulting health problems. Yet in this nursing home most of the residents were in wheelchairs and I wonder how much physical activities the residents get along with the human touch all of us so crave !