A Bit of a Departure.

Mar 16, 2014 by

For the first time in my life I visited a nursing home. I left having made the decision that I never want to go into one and secondly I don’t want my father in one.  This nursing home overlooking Bray Head and the Sugar Loaf is five star. A purpose built home. Modern, clean, tastefully decorated but yet strangely soulless.

The smell when you walked from the reception through the security doors was nausea inducing. A mixture of stale food and fish. Dad still managed to escape. Beats me how as I found it a pain pressing buttons and waiting for green lights to exit.

All the rooms had fabulous views of Bray Head or the Sugar Loaf. The day rooms were decorated in a lovely pallet of pale colours, yellows, baby blue, pale greens. But when you sat in one of the arm chairs looking out at a magnificent view or at a flat screen tv you realised the fabric was waterproof. There were no cushions to slump up against, no newspapers or magazines or old coffee cups lying about. In fact, the rooms were sterile.

The bedrooms were the same. No photos, no personal effects. Just clinical with bed, locker, wardrobe, flat screen tv and an ensuite.  The corridors long and hospital like. The inmates had big cheery names on their doors but that was the only cheer I could see.

An old lady wandered up and down and came into my dad’s room. He said in a loud voice “what the hell is she doing coming in here?” I jumped up and asked her did she need help finding her room. I realised with a shock that the whole side of her face was black and blue and bruised. She was a tall, slim, fine looking lady. She told me crossly she knew where her room was but yet she was wandering aimlessly.

The staff are all Filipino. My dad couldn’t understand a word they were saying. They smiled a lot at him but I thought in old age when slightly deaf you need to be able to understand those around you. My dad said to me “I just want to be around people who know me.”

It took my son to wake me up. He said “you all need a slap. Your dad looked after you all your lives and now you do this to him.”

Dad has dementia, caused by a series of minor strokes which damaged the part of his brain associated with memory. He has the memory span of a gold fish. He knows us all though thankfully. My mother is a frail 78 year old who is worn out from him. She has gone away for a week to get a rest and dad is only here while she is away. The ultimate aim was that when he was bad enough he would go into a nursing home full time. That was the plan. I don’t intend it to be the plan anymore.

In fact I wanted to bring him here but in my heart I knew he’d be just as stressed in my house as it was not what he knew. Even if I took him out and stayed with him in his own house he’d be stressed that my mother wasn’t there. It’s very hard to know what to do for the best.

He’s is difficult at the best of times but the constant questioning would wear you out. He never remembers the answers. But I hated seeing him frightened and vunerable. My dad was always so strong.

I have spent a lot of time thinking about this. The bottom line is we treat animals better. We put them out of their misery when their quality of life is compromised. But we preserve the lives of the elderly yet don’t want to be bothered with the effort of looking after them.

I suppose the only time you bother to think about this is when it affects you. 

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  1. I've talked to a lot of people about this recently and the one thing everyone seems to feel is guilt. It reminded me of the debate about working mothers. I don't think there is a right or a wrong answer. I suppose all we can do is our best. I'm certain you did.

  2. What a touching post, sincere and subtle. I had a similar experience with both of my parents (both passed). I truly don't think there's a right or wrong here because there's positives and negatives, some of which are not in your control either way. I found taking care of my sick parents to be a constant source of guilt — at the time, I remember feeling like I should be doing more to comfort and entertain them (my mother in particular), to enhance their quality of life. I remember feeling stretched thin between work, school (I was in my early 20s), and a mother with cancer. So much energy was required yet I was falling short everywhere, no one was happy with me. Honestly, sometimes it was too much for one person to do well — like raising a child — I imagine caring for a sick parent was easier in the days when extended family lived under one roof. It helped for me to acknowledge that a sick parent's quality of life is not something that is completely in my control, however much I wished it were. In life, there are good times and there are difficult ones, especially to be expected during times of declining health. That's okay. Nothing can take away from the joy they experienced throughout their life. These are just thoughts that brought me peace with my own perceived shortcomings during that time. I wish you and your family the very best.

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