More On Old Folk’s Home

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.

Life At The Old Folk’s Home (cont.)

Life At The Old Folk’s Home: A Reprise

I’ve been in the old folk’s home almost three months now. Is that long enough to say I understand it yet? I don’ think so. At the best, I think I’m beginning to have some hints. The food here is good, for which I am grateful. But the correlation between what you order and what you get is so low that you have to wonder if there is supposed to be any. What goes on between the wait staff and the cooks is literally a mystery me.

I’ve tried to guess, but have yet to come up with a satisfactory explanation. At first I thought the mystery might have something to do with the problem of dealing with the numerous restrictions the cook staff has in meeting the doctor’s desires for the individuals living here and the dietary demands of a massive culinary program. I came to this guess when I observed the head of the kitchen step in to tell a woman she could not have her desired desert, ice cream, because she is on a weight-loss diet. But I quickly abandoned this idea when I later learned that even prohibitions against alcohol associated with common medications are routinely ignored by kitchen staff (yes, we are routinely served alcohol, here)

And inconsistency is probably more common than its opposite.

Let me give a few examples: “basting” is, apparently, an unknown term so far as the cooking staff is concerned. No one seems to have put the unknown together with google, either. I have ordered two eggs, lightly basted, served over hash-browns every morning since I got here. Only twice, before today, have I seen eggs to which I might grant even the ” basted” status. Those may have been,  “light,” but I have  become so inured to over medium, as the weeks have gone on, that I  no longer trust my own judgment. This morning I was served first scrambled eggs and then, upon my rejection, a single egg, which may have been basted. The toast was abandoned in the hubbub.

Why have I just not routinely rejected an ill-prepared dish when it is delivered? I rarely do, you know. I guess it is largely due to the fact that, if you tried to make everything right around here you would never do anything else. After all, the bottom line is that none of us inmates wants to be here anyway. “Inmates” that’s  how we all think of ourselves. Not that we’re here against our will or anything, although we virtually all want the thing we all had before coming here: our youth.

The ways in which we have lost our youth, though, vary as much as we do,  A great many of us are in almost constant pain Thank god, that excludes me. More than half are here because of some form of dementia or another. If I am included in that group, I am fortunate in that I do not know it. Not everyone who works here, though, is so ready to agree with that assessment.

Part of the reason may lie in my difficulty speaking. As the M.S. has progressed, this has become a more vexing problem. Although my mind seems, to me, as sharp as ever, my tongue no longer verifies that so readily. An interesting sidelight is that there are a few caregivers here who routinely listen to your first few words, and then fill in the rest of what you were about to say, in their opinion. in their own mind. If you snooze, you loose, so what is heard is what the caregiver thought you were gong to say. That’s how communication often works, so it really is no surprise to see it here. But it is becoming a bigger problem as my ability to speak fluently for myself diminishes.

I’m also suffering from a residual of an assessment made when I first applied for residency here that neither I, nor my wife, knew was being made. Apparently a note was added to my file that I may suffer from memory loss.

Perhaps I misremembered my order this morning.

At any rate, being routinely disregarded does nothing to increase one’s own self-confidence, and surely makes whatever problems there may be worse. Randomly playing by different rules as the days go on, as the staff seems to, has the same effect. This place could drive you crazy! But then maybe that’s just a part of the business plan.

What We Do Not Talk About

What We Do Not Talk About

Climate change. Well, we talk about that all the time,don’t we? But do we, really? no one seems ready to discuss uninhabitability as a possible outcome. I maintain that is a very likely outcome, and our not talking about it only makes it more likely. The problem is not “climate change.” It is “global warming.”

That uninhabitability is a likely outcome is a simple conclusion to be drawn from our observations of Mars and Venus. Mars probably once had a very Earth-like environment. Venus is beset by a clear runaway greenhouse gas effect. Neither is currently habitable. That means nothing can live in either place. We’re not talking people here, when I say nothing I mean it. Nothing. And I’m not talking some distant future here, either. Climate Change is not a concern of a billion years down the  line, no matter how you name it. Even climate deniers admit that, I think. The only reason I don’t know for sure is the I have done nothing to learn more.

Whether the deniers believe climate change is an immanent, looming, or nonexistent problem interests me not in the least. Deniers have earned my disgust. To deny climate change is real, as so many seem to do, is, in my opinion, criminal.     To deny the scientific consensus on this issue is plain stupid. Ever since the realization that our atmosphere is getting richer in greenhouse gases, which was discovered in the mid 1950’s, the logical conclusion has been clear: this is the most important thing to confront the planet Earth since the atmosphere was oxygenated billions of years ago. To say anything less is to hide one’s head in the sand.

And yet that is precisely what seems to have happened. Scientists have, for the most part, fled the scene. Oh, they continue to do their research, but the accepted norm is to always minimize the urgency of the overwhelming result. No matter how consistently the indicators come back that global warming is real, human caused, and of far greater potential impact than previously thought, scientists rally around the flag that all will be okay, chanting that refrain as if repeating it would make it so.

Meanwhile, the Earth gets warmer, options get fewer, and the problem grows as the exponential function does. Soon it will be too late to respond at all.

Like the Easter Islanders, we will be stranded without an option to save ourselves.

But, what, me worry?     I will likely be long dead by the time the average person begins to realize there no longer any hope. So, what, me worry?