Sunday, June 29, 2008

Storage Units

I read with interest that someone is planning a nationwide program to replace nursing homes with old-age settings that are smaller and more individualized. The idea is to move older adults into more positive environments where they can socialize freely and pursue their own interests.

The idea sounds good, but it's built, I think, on sinking sand, that hoary old Hollywood plot of eccentric but still-functioning elderlies (read Mickey Rooney) being committed to nursing homes by their greedy and/or insensitive offspring.

My 94-year-old father has been in a nursing home for about three years. Before that he lived independently in a very nice retirement residence. Then , after brain surgery, he was in assisted living until a bad fall moved him into a nursing home. No one else would take him. At this point, he is half blind and three-quarters deaf, cannot walk, and is incontinent. Increasingly senile, he often doesn't recognize me.

But, you say, surely if I took him into my own home and cared for him personally, he would recover his physical vitality and mental acumen. Sorry, that's not going to happen; I have my own health problems, plus a work schedule that does not give time off for parental health care. And call me squeamish, but I am not going to change my father's diaper. I'll let Julia Roberts do that.

Old age is not just like youth except for the white hair. It is a time of physical and mental deterioration. Many older adults need the nursing home environment. It's where you store the bodies until they die.

1 comment:

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