This past Saturday, I took my dad and a cousin to another cousin’s Bat Mitzvah. My dad is 84 and I believe that my cousin is about 89. As we drove through the different towns and cities on the way to the temple, my dad and cousin pointed out the different stores and buildings that defined these communities when they were younger. I enjoyed this history; it was interesting learning how the communities changed.
After the service, I took my cousin to visit his wife who is in a nursing home. Well, it’s called a nursing home, but to me it seemed like a warehouse of death. Many of the elderly were in wheelchairs in the corridors just killing time. Some were asleep, some were talking, some were just watching, and unfortunately, some were in their own worlds.
When my dad was recovering from a broken hip a few months ago, he was in a different nursing home for about a month. This home also had corridors decorated with patients just killing time, sleeping, and some unfortunately in their own worlds.
I spoke with one of the nurses. She told me that my father was lucky; he had visitors, my brother and I. Many of the patients never had visitors except on the holidays. She said that many of the patients were there to die. The nursing home was a warehouse for death.
I can understand that you cannot care for an elderly relative, or that an elderly relative needs 24 hour assisted care. That is natural. However, why would you just leave them there and never visit them?
When I see elderly people, I see “living histories.” These people lived in a world that no longer exists. They had their love affairs, arguments, and the other challenges that are part of life. They had their goals, careers, successes, and disappointments.
Teaching and writing is all that I know. I got this idea that I call “Their Stories.” I wonder if it would be helpful to these patients if they had the opportunity to share their stories. They could write or tell them and I could enter them into a blog. I and others could volunteer an hour or two on a weekend and show some of the patients how to use a computer so they could write their own stories into the blog.
It would be easy to get the local papers to publish a press release about this project. This would give others the opportunity to read the blog and share their thoughts and memories. Maybe some old friends would reunite! Sharing memories will give these patients a better quality of life. I plan to begin by writing my dad’s stories.
I’d appreciate your thoughts on this project. Have others done this? Are their organizations that volunteer their services for similar projects?
We don’t need warehouses of death. We need living spaces where those near the end of their lives can live their final years to the best of their abilities.