I hate nursing homes.
I know it’s not fair to lump every single facility in this country together and make such a sweeping condemnation but I’ve been to more than one and I’ve found them to be really, really sad at best. It’s sad that we have them at all. It’s sad that many people have no other option but to deposit aging relatives in them. It’s sad that even the best nursing home employees don’t know how or don’t have the time to love, to honor, to care for our parents and grandparents the way they deserve to be treated. And it’s sad that so many nursing home residents become numbers, files, occupants to be bathed roughly and grudgingly, pushed to the dining room whether they’re hungry or not, left alone when they’re already lonely, forgotten by the same people whose diapers they once changed, whose school lunches they lovingly packed and clothes they laundered with affection and dedication.
I remember the surprisingly loud, haunting sobs that my beloved grandmother began emitting, alone in an empty nursing home dining room in suburban Georgia, as soon as my family members and I kissed her goodbye and headed for our car. I could hear them all the way down the hall and I still remember what they sounded like. My grandma wasn’t a manipulative drama queen. The 94-year-old woman, who probably weighed 100 pounds when wet, was just so devastated to be left alone that every fiber of her, every cell and bone, objected and she became unladylike, undignified, immature and out of control in her desperation. I remember thinking, “Somebody should go be with her, hug her, pat her hand.” When I voiced this to my oldest daughter, Amelia, she replied, “We should.”
Grandma passed away soon after that visit.
I still feel guilty that I didn’t do more with and for her in her final years. It’s so easy to compartmentalize, to push certain thoughts away and justify our individual status quos. And now I’m making the same mistakes with my elderly parents. I’m not doing enough.
So when I signed into Facebook the other day and read a friend’s solicitation on behalf of her own elderly mother, a nursing home resident here in mid-Michigan, I jumped at the chance to heed her call. Diane Hebert, an activist and environmentalist whom I’ve known for years, is doing as much as she can for her 94-year-old mother, Katie. She visits Katie regularly, bringing her favorite food – fish and chips, hush puppies and cole slaw – and complaining when the staff medicates her too much. She recently came up with the idea of requesting that people send Christmas cards directly to her mom so that the staff would see that there are people who care about Katie, so they would remember that she’s there, she’s loved, she’s more than a name on a file or a body in a room.
If you can spare a moment and have an extra holiday card and postage stamp lying around, please send it to:
Katherine “Katie” Beck C37
3615 East Ashman Street
Midland, MI 48642
Here’s your chance to spread a little holiday joy. Send a card to Katie and take comfort in knowing that you’ve done your part to keep Christ in Christmas.
|Diane and Katie|