More On The Old Folks Home
So one of the oddest things here is the extent to which we all go to pretend reality is different than it is. For instance, consider our diets: how many of us are willing to admit that we don’t actually choose what we eat? Not many, I’d bet.
Yet that is the way it is here Not only do we have no input to the specials offered each night, we pay little attention whether what we order correlates to what we receive. That is how I perceive it, anyway. That said, I have no complaint relative to the food here. It’s really consistently good. But it is not in our own control.
“Control.” A lot of what is weird about all of this revolves around control. When the caregiver enters your room his or her main interest is how quickly he/she can get out of there. May not sound like an effort to control things. But that is only at first blush. Control is best effected by making the resident more dependent upon the caregiver. Many of us cannot move much of our body, if at all. Many of us do not speak rapidly either. Slowly, in fact. That’s a very poor combination: the caregiver’s rush and the care-recipient’s inability to speak rapidly. This is exacerbated when the care giver’s natural tendency is to fill in the blanks for you, which is common.
Perhaps the most infuriating form this is encountered in is the way in which many requests for assistance are dealt with. You literally are never denied a request. That seems to be against company policy. But infinite delay is standard operating procedure. If you really want something done, no matter how slight it might seem, you have to be a major thorn in someone’s ass, often for a long time.
I, for instance, have been waiting for at least three or four weeks for a mailbox I can reach from my wheelchair. I gave up on getting the kitchen to equip some of their knives and forks with handles that would be appropriate for someone with a grip as weak as mine. It is easier just to always bring my own. After repeated attempts at satisfaction, my request for help applying tape to my wheelchair’s upholstery was denied because the person in charge of maintenance was afraid it might somehow lead to liability. Liability? What is he expecting? A suit over my being attacked by an enraged seat cushion? The difficulty, from my point of view, lay in my tendency to put the sticky side of the tape against the sticky side of the tape rather than on the upholstery, where it belonged. But the plan to treat me as just another old guy who will forget he even made the request after enough time has passed seems to work well. There are almost as many Carltons as there are clubs, and each is a testament to the business plan.
Even worse, perhaps, is when the rules the employees live by clash with the main interest of the residents who they always have to confront. I’m thinking here of death. It may be an unwritten rule, although I doubt it, but it is clear that the caregivers are not supposed to discuss this topic. When someone passes, we usually learn of it thru his/her absence from his/her usual spot at the dinner table and our repeated inquiries about his/her wellbeing. Of course, often they have only gone off to the E.R., where we can first ignore their absence and later forget about their once presence.
And what about suicide? That’s clearly a taboo subject, whether resident or caregiver. Do you want to eat alone for the rest of your life? No, there’s no hope in that direction, either.
And what could make more sense than ignoring all this? This place could quickly turn into a morbid refuge full of people crying their faces off. As it is, we spend hours trying not to address the inevitable. But it is an exercise in futility, I’m afraid.
Maybe we’d all do better by just facing reality. The truth is that there may be assisted dying, but there is no assisted living.