Aug 15, 2014

A Nursing Home Mini-Series: Life with Old People

Some of you missed my last post -- -- in which I told the outcome of my stroke-related surgery. The surgeon said the operation was successful. I say the surgeon did the best he could with what he had to work with. 

Anyway, I'm in a nursing home now, which is divided between residents (I say "lifers") or, as with me, people who go here to recuperate. I had surgery so I fall into the second batch.

The nursing home serves three complete meals a day -- breakfast at 8, lunch at 12, and dinner at 5, plus snacks, if anybody wants them, in between and after dinner. So you could spend around six hours just eating.

The nursing home is understaffed, so the aides start bringing  people down to the dining room thirty minutes before the meal started in order for all of the people to be there when the meal officially began.

The aides are responsible, too, for bringing the platters of all people who don't want to socialize. One aide said to me, "The people eat in their rooms, if they are sick or don't want to socialize with 'old' people." I took offense at that remark because I am one of them, the old people, I mean. I don't know when it happened and I don't feel old. But numbers never lie. I am 66.

I got to the nursing home just before dinner. In the wheelchair, I saw an open spot in the table for four. One of was the little, old lady named Gert. I don't know the reason for her going to the nursing home. She died three days later and Cassey took her spot. Cassey, who was a year younger than I was, was a geriatric/psychiatric nurse who had a hip replacement. She was quiet and liked observing the other two. 

Maggy was an 91-year-old, bust-ass, no-holds-barred, obese lady who actually was comfortable and secure being obese. Maggy was a diabetic who passed out until somebody in her family had the sense to gain her admittance to the hospital. Then the doctors figured out what it was, but I never knew. And I didn't ask. She came her to rest.

And the fourth was Beatrice, 89, who said platitudes all day like "Where there's a will, there's a way" or "If it's meant to be, it will happen." Beatrice had a fall and she exhibited black-and-blue marks on every inch or two of her body. She was also a sentence finisher, like if you paused and were trying to finish the sentence, she would finish the sentence for you. Most times, she was wrong in the word that she selected. And that got the hairs on Maggy's neck to stand up at full attention.

"I don't like when you fill in the blanks," Maggy screamed.

"Well, the right word fits the shoe," Beatrice said, mixing up platitudes. Sometimes, when Beatrice got tired, she said them that way.

So that was the table. I sat with them for three weeks until Cassey's hip allowed her to be discharged. Cassey sent me an email when she arrived home, happy to be with her boys (aka cats) and her comfy, overly high bed which, as her email said, she accessed with a step stool she borrowed from her sister.  

Maggy passed out again, and Beatrice was still hooked to an IV bag for dehydration. So tomorrow, I was on my own to find new people at a different table.

That's the thing about nursing homes. I didn't think I'd have time for making really good friends because there's a fast turnover rate, akin to a revolving door. But I had enough sense that I wouldn't die trying either.