The dimly lit entrance way welcomed me Sunday morning as I went to visit my mom in the nursing home. That is a sentence I never thought I would write. It may sound better if I call it the rehab center but it is mostly a nursing home.
I found a book at a deserted counter with names and times written in. I added my name and my moms to the list.
Turning the corner I could see bodies in wheelchairs watching a church service on a decent sized television in a large room. I hoped that my mom wasn’t sitting in there.
I knew her room number and confidently walked down the hall to find it.
I passed one man asleep with his head hanging low as he sat in a wheelchair outside of his room in he hall. He was alone and wearing a hospital gown.
A nurse stood down the hall punching keys into the computer and didn’t seem to care that I had just walked in.
Looking at a map I realized I had quite a walk ahead of me and continued. I passed another woman asleep in a wheelchair outside her room.
An older couple were tailgating as they traveled down the hall on their own. She seemed to be the stronger one pushing her chair with her feet and he just held onto her, his only goal for the day.
As I passed the next deserted desk area I couldn’t help but interact with a woman who was quite upset. Something was wrong and she was telling me all about it. At one point I think she told me I had to leave but I said I would try to get someone to help her. I mentioned it to someone in the hall but I am not sure if they were able to help.
My friend Karen, blogger from wheresmyothersock, had recommended that I make celery juice for my mom. She had researched the benefits and it sounded like a great idea.
Of course, I did not have any celery in my refrigerator or other stuff to make a juice so I made a quick stop at the local Tropical Smoothie.
Most of the smoothies are high in calories and sugar except for the green one. The Detox Island Green is naturally sweetened with spinach, kale, mango, pineapple, banana and fresh ginger. Almost as good as celery I thought and I did not have any of those ingredients either so bonus that they would make it for me!
I finally found my mom and was thrilled to see her! She was in rehab to build strength and get daily physical therapy for walking. That morning she was ready to see me and couldn’t wait for me to help make her escape. I handed her the green smoothie telling her that all these healthy ingredients were included and guaranteed to make her feel better quickly. She humored me by taking a sip, giving a half smile and putting it down on the tray table that was angled over her bed. I could see she wasn’t a fan.
Feeling confident that I had still done a good deed, I began to help her up from the bed. The table has wheels and could easily be moved aside, if one has experience with these things. I ended up banging the table leg into the bed and watching in slow motion as the cup tumbled off the table and onto the floor beside her bed.
No, the top did not hold and healthy thick green substance slowly spilled from the cup all over the less than already spotless floor. I looked up in shock at my mom. I couldn’t believe I just did that. She started to laugh. I looked around. No one saw me but us. I started to laugh too. Soon we both had tears in our eyes. It was so funny!
Scurrying to the bathroom I managed to use enough brown non-absorbent paper towels to wipe up the mess. We kept laughing. I hoped no one would walk in. Once it was wiped and dried I stopped. We had escaped getting caught so far. I managed to slide the table aside and help my mom stand up.
She decided to visit the bathroom, which was in her room, before we left the building. This seemed rather expected and I gave her some privacy. Then I safely secured her in the wheelchair and we started on our planned escapade. I mentioned to someone in the hall that there had been a spill in her room. They said they would mop it up. We did get scolded for not calling the nurse when I put her in the chair, but they let us go anyway.
The sun was shining and it was just a short walk down to the Bay. She was smiling and loving being outside after too many days in the hospital. We sat by the bay watching some sailboats. We watched parents with their children and joggers running down the path. A few dog walkers stopped to chat and it was nice that they came to talk to us with their pups.
Although the sun was warm and mom was happy, my feelings of melancholy overwhelmed me. When my boys were little we used to visit that park by the bay all the time. I could picture my dad putting the boys in the baby swings and endlessly pushing them. I could see my mom making sandcastles with the boys and then bringing them into the bay for a swim to rinse off all the sand. I could even see my late husband Mike on the visits to this park when we used to come down here in the evenings with the boys and he would throw a ball to them or teach them to ride their bikes.
Sometimes I can’t help but miss those old days.
One thing we can always be sure will happen: life will change.
My children have grown. I was blessed and happy to have them home this summer but they are moving on with their own lives. They are awesome young men and will always be a top priority in my life.
I have a wonderful new husband who makes me happy. We are enjoying being the important person in each other’s lives. We are living each day together, appreciating one another and making plans for our future.
As our parents age we would like to keep them safe and at their happiest, most independent and healthy time as well. We are at times in denial that anything is wrong and that with a few vitamins or some exercise they will be back to their old selves. That is not always how it goes.
My dad had an infamous saying to us as his back ached after hours of gardening: He would say in a joking manner; “Don’t ever get old”. Well he didn’t really. He was gone at the age of 61. We were all shocked. He had been an exceptional Chemistry teacher with an avid hobby in gardening and stamp collecting. A devoted husband, dependable dad and loving grandfather. Never a smoker, he was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and died within one year of the diagnosis. So unfair.
While he was in the hospital at the end of his life they told us there was nothing else they could do for him. They gave us some morphine and sent him home for hospice care. He only stayed with us 2 days in a hospital bed in the den after exclaiming, “is this as good as it gets”?
I believe after seeing this nursing home that changes will be made to our system of care for the elderly. We will have many more people needing assistance as our population ages and services must be ready for that.
An article I read recently highlighted how the elderly in nursing homes were sharing houses with college students in the Netherlands. Apparently both age groups benefitted greatly from the interactions. dutch-retirement-home-offers-rent-free-housing-students-one-condition. That seems like a possible alternative to what I saw last week.
Some programs include a whole village way of life and provide opportunities for elderly to not only stay healthy but thrive like Beacon Hill Village neat Boston. I truly believe this is an area that needs more attention. https://www.beaconhillvillage.org
My mom was anxious to be out of the nursing home/rehab place and worked hard to get her leg muscles strong. She is home now and happy but her body is not always cooperating. They gave her a hospital issued walker to assist at home but we found a pretty cane with 4 solid prongs and good reviews in her favorite color red.
We would all like to keep believing that with a few pills and maybe some healthy foods it will all go back to normal. Hope is important in the healing process. Prayers and love from others helps too. I guess we will adjust to the new normal; after all the only guarantee in life is that things change.