Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Nursing Home Experience

Last week, I read the book "Water for Elephants."
It is a great story and I highly recommend it.
Without giving too much away, it is about a old man who lives in a nursing home. When he was a young guy, he a circus veterinarian and has some interesting tales about circus life. Its a great novel.
As the old man, he describes nursing home living. He talks about how all the food is just mush without taste because of so many dietary restrictions. How he longs for an apple or corn on the cob. He also talks about how they treat you like you are crazy, stupid, senile, or all of the above. He may be old but he still has his wits. How they medicate you just to keep you quiet. How family and friends don't visit or if they do, they aren't truly talking to you as a person.
I know that not all nursing homes are like this but I have a feeling it is the majority of them.
It made me extremely sad.
It made me think about how Roger would have been in a nursing home.

And then, ironically, I found myself in a nursing home.
My friend's daughter was singing Christmas carols to the nursing home residents.
And I was with them.
I wanted to cry.
I fought back the tears but I know my eyes were very watery.
These people are just sitting in chairs.
There are some that couldn't feed themselves.
They couldn't do anything for themselves.
They just sit. They are stooped over in their chairs.
They just exist.
No life.

And then I know, once more, that I did make the right decision.
Roger wouldn't want to be here.
Roger wouldn't want to be a resident.
Even though, he would never be rolled into a nursing home dining room with his condition, I just know I don't want him there at all.
I don't even want myself there.
Just existing. With no quality of life. With nothing.
He would have just been alive, not even breathing on his own.

And for what?
For me?
For his family?
Just long enough for his body to waste away or catch some infection that run rampant in those places.



Kitty Bear said...

I read that book too! I loved the parts about the circus :)

My grandma just passed away this week, and I know how you feel re: nursing homes. She lived with me and my family before I went to college, and then moved to a private house with a few other women and a caregiver. We are so glad she was there instead of a nursing home; she had much better care.

Just read your other entry too: hope your ring combo turns out to be what you want! :)

Crash Course Widow said...

I read a memoir a couple of months ago about a guy who was in a horrible bike accident (aren't I predictable?) with massive head trauma, but unlike Charley, he actually lived. Sort of. He was alive, but in a coma, and he eventually died ~18 months later from infections or something. And it was a very, very hard book for me to read, because it detailed the scary scenario if Charley had somehow lived after his crash--like Roger--but in the most horrific form possible. Charley and I had talked about it several times in the months before he died how he never, ever wanted to be kept alive on machines--this was the same time that the whole Terry Schiavo thing was being played out in the news, and also when one of Charley's grandmas started the slow 3-year process of dying (she lasted 2 1/2 years longer than Charley did)--so reading that book was really, really hard emotionally. Totally threw me, because I didn't expect it. I mean, really--who's affected that much by a silly book? Except it wasn't silly, nor was it fictional....

So I can certainly sympathize with you here. And yes, you absolutely made the right choice for Roger and for you...but you already knew that.