Tuesday, October 13, 2015

I just went to the website at one of the nursing homes I perform at, and it really disgusted me; what I saw online did not match up with what I see everyday. At one of the places, they advertised that they were next door to a park. Well, I walk to that park each day after I play the piano for the elderly, and let me tell you, it is no quick sprint. It takes me five full minutes to walk across two parking lots and past several adjoining living centers to get there. Navigating the traffic on foot can be daunting; there are a lot of vehicles coming and going to the different living centers. I can't imagine someone in a wheel chair making it over there, if they were less than energetic. Plus, I have never seen a power operated wheel chair at this place. These people just struggle and struggle to wheel these things even around a corner, with their frail aging hands. (and almost all of them are in wheelchairs). The other day, as I entered the dining hall, I saw a man struggling to open up a cannister of sugar for his coffee. He had obviously suffered a stroke recently, and he was over at the coffee counter (if that's what you call it) trying to open a tupperware container with one hand. Well I could see, there was just no way!. I raced over there and good naturedly asked if I could give him a hand (as one of his wasn't working). He nodded enthusiastically (he couldn't talk).Feeling like a million bucks, I then asked him how many sugars. Somehow he indicated to me that he wanted five full spoonfuls. Okay, now I was delighted and I told him how I liked lots of sugar in my coffee too. His eyes glowed approval as I heaped teaspoon after teaspoon in his mug. "I'll bet no one gives him enough sugar" I thought "no one ever gets my coffee right the first time". And then I remembered this movie I saw once about a woman who had early Alzheimer's disease. Her family was contemplating putting her in a nursing facility. But her son stood up for her and said "can they do this for her or that for her" (example after example). But the final thing he said really spoke to me. As he gave his mom her evening tea, he said something like "will they know that she likes lemon with her tea?" See, I don't think we really understand the quality of life these people have outside the nursing facility, verses inside. All of those little extras add up to make a day, a life worth living. I see how living inside a facility can take life's joys away one nip at a time. Speaking of which, after I gave him WAYY more than a nip of sugar, I began wondering...what if this guy has limits on the sugar he can have? Should I ask someone? But no one was there. (don't get me started on that subject..) I took his coffee to the table for him and then it dawned on me...how does anyone manage to wheel themselves to a table while carrying coffee? The amount of personal care one would truly need does not match up to the amount actually given.