For some the battle is with the Big C – cancer. It is a battle some win and many lose. Then there is the other one, the Big A – Alzheimer’s. This is a no contest; the Big A is a guaranteed winner. It’s beyond my comprehension how they cope with those afflictions.
That said, there also are a few people that won in the gene pool and have exceptional good health for their entire life. But for the rest of us, especially us in the seventh decade of life, we have health issues we deal with every day. The degree of problems may vary, from nuisance to debilitating. Our aches and pains remain like guests that overstayed their welcome. Whatever the problem, doctors can’t make them go away. It is our curse to deal with them the rest of our lives. And since we are human, we find time now and then to throw ourselves a pity party.
But sometimes you need to put things in perspective. You see, Bonnie’s father Ike, my father-in-law, is dealing with dementia. It is far enough along that he now is a resident in a nursing home, one of the better ones around. Bonnie visits him at least once or twice a week as do other family members; I get there less often.
It is when I visit Ike that whatever “poor me” feelings I have melt way in the searing heat of reality. If you have not, then let me suggest you visit a nursing home for a few hours someday soon. See what your life is not like. Stroll around taking time to look down corridors and discreetly look into some of the rooms. Take a deep breath and notice an aroma you aren’t familiar with.
Take time to visit with some of the residents assuming they are able to acknowledge your presence. Listen to the woman singing some incomprehensible song while another cuddles a doll like it is her first born. Count all those who can only get around by using a walker or a wheelchair. Take note of all the residents lined up along a wall just marking time between meals even though the concept of time is beyond their comprehension. Conversation in that lineup is muted as each resident ponders life, assuming their minds are capable of doing so. The rest are in bed fast asleep irrespective of time.
When visiting, be sure to arrange your time so you can join them in the dining room. Note how many trembling hands are just trying to hold onto a fork long enough to get a bite of food into their mouths. And be sure to time just how long it takes to get that bite of food in their mouths. Of course there are those few who are not even able to feed themselves and have to rely on a family member to feed them or, failing that, a staff aide.
I’m sure a few hours is all you’ll want to experience. But never forget what you saw and heard. And be sure to recall all of it the next time you want to stage a pity party for yourself.