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Life In A Nursing Home

Story ID:3500
Written by:Nancy J. Kopp (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Manhattan KS USA
Year:2008
Person:Wanda Bates
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Life In A Nursing Home

Life In A Nursing Home

Wanda Bates is having some computer problems and is not able to post at OurEcho for some unknown reason. She asked me to post this new essay for her, and I was happy to be able to do so. It will show under my name, but Wanda is the author of this piece, not I. Nancy Julien Kopp

Life in a Nursing Home

By Wanda Molsberry Bates


Yes, this is where I‘m living now. In the story written when I was 90, I spoke blithely about looking toward the future. This isn’t quite what I had in mind. I should not have been surprised, however, after observing my mother, mother-in-law, brother, sister-in-law, sister, and various friends spending time in care centers. Still, it happened very fast, and it took me awhile to catch my breath. (No, I’m not on oxygen as several residents are.) I was hospitalized in early September with various ailments, and when I was to be dismissed, the doctor and social worker decided that I should not return to my house where I lived alone.. First reports said that there were no local vacancies. Very quickly I was assigned to a facility in a neighboring town. Neither my family nor I liked this plan, and when a space suddenly did appear locally, it was decided that we should take advantage of it. So my 93d birthday was celebrated here.

This facility provides accommodations for independent living, assisted living, and nursing care. The administration prefers the term “”Health Care,” but long-term care centers have been called nursing homes for many years.. They, along with hospitals, may be regarded as necessary (or maybe unnecessary) evils, particularly by people who enter them against their wills. In one of the comments in a story recently posted by Nancy on my birthday, one man said that his grandfather “fought like hell” against entering one. (Evidently he didn't want to "go gentle into that good night.") In expressing my feelings about this experience I hope to write in a balanced way, without emphasizing either the advantages or disadvantages.

Quite a few adjustments were needed. Moving from a fairly large house to a small room with a roommate has been a big change. Drawer and closet spaces are very limited. The room is divided by a heavy curtain. My roommate has the section by the window. She is a nice lady and I am sure she deserves it, but I am envious. I have been told that a building is under construction which will have only private rooms. Who will be moving there isn’t known yet. As in a hospital, there is almost no privacy here.. People can and do enter this room at will. Any dignity once claimed is long gone.

Very soon after I moved here, physical and occupational therapists started working with me. Still weak from hospitalization, I didn’t find exercising appealing. One of the physical therapists commented that she didn’t realize, when choosing that profession, that she would be someone whom people would hate to see coming. She and others put me through an exercise program for a couple of months. I had to admit after awhile that I could move better and had better balance. and I was pleased to be OK’d to walk unaccompanied. The occupational therapist was very helpful when I purchased a lap top computer and had frustrations when learning to use it. (It doesn’t like me very well and has on occasion stuck its tongue out at me and said “Smarty, smarty” when losing something I’d laboriously written. It’s treating me better of late.)

One of the therapists inquired about a small carousel horse in my room. When learning that it had been given to me by a friend who knew of my fondness for “merry-go-round” horses, she told me that a ride on a carousel would be put on a wish list for me. I thought this was a wild idea as I couldn’t imagine that there are any carousels still in existence. To my surprise and delight, a restored carousel was found in a town not far from here; and on a sunny fall day, the director and a young man on the staff took a friend and me on a wish-fulfillment trip. I didn’t mount a horse but had a ride on a bench. Soon after that, an acquaintance brought me some magazines published by carousel lovers which show pictures of functioning carousels all over the world. I know that attempts are made to fulfill wishes for other residents here, but I haven’t heard that one man’s wish to be parachuted from a plane has been granted!

Many nice things have been done for me here. My family and friends have been welcomed at meal times. I am pleased to be able to attend chapel services in this area twice a week and occasionally to be escorted to another part of the building for afternoon coffee hours and evening programs . Those are special treats as I had not attended night-time events for some time. I can feel like a princess and have breakfast in bed if I request it and can visit a salon (not a saloon, but one of the ladies has bourbon with her meals.). Transportation to appointments is provided.

All of this is very costly. Long-term residents sometimes exhaust all of their resources..
Donations are solicited for a Good Samaritan fund used to assist these people.
I find it uncomfortable when assisted in personal care by girls young enough to be my great-granddaughters or by male nurses. This comes from modesty taught to my generation. I feel that it is demeaning to be periodically subjected to silly questions, such as “Who is the President of the United States?” or “What day is it?” Emotional health is tested with questions such as “Do you feel useless and/or depressed?” I still feel slightly useful as I occasionally help a college student with class work, and a friend tells me that visiting this place gives grace to the visitor. It would be easy to feel depressed when observing the conditions of the patients and when deaths occur. I would rather think about a new great-grandson who is due to arrive in March.

As I wrote earlier in a piece about a hospital experience, I can’t say enough in admiration for the nurses and aides who take care of the sick cheerfully and kindly, never complaining about jobs which at times must seem distasteful. In spite of wishing to be back in my home, I try to adopt an “attitude of gratitude” and feel thankful for people and facilities provided for those who can no longer handle their sometimes “outrageous fortunes” alone. My friends and family are relieved to know that I am here. One of my friends tells me that she is glad not to worry anymore about my going out into my yard to pick up the newspaper. Anyway, here I am..

----Since writing the above, I have learned that I am in line to move to assisted living in a few weeks. I will have private quarters there with room for a computer. The future looks good!