There are those (many) that begin to need assistance as their age advances.Some time ago I was hired to produce a resource guide that would be a state publication. Its purpose, to assist family members in finding the information and resources needed to care for an aging member.
As a part of the project I went to many different establishments involved in the care of senior citizens.
The one I remember most was my visit to an assisted living residence. As I sat waiting to interview the manager there, seated near me was an older gentleman in a wheelchair, he had on a cowboy hat, wore cowboy boots, and had a rough weathered face. He looked to be quite a character.
I pleasantly said “Hello”. And he responded back. We began to talk. He told me he’d been a cowboy and had worked on a ranch for many years until he got his “bum leg” Which he tapped for me to see. He asked me if I was visiting someone there. I said no and explained why I had come to see the manager, to gather information about amenities and the services available.
He laughed. But it was a hollow sort of laugh and then he said softly in the loveliest low timber of voice, “Oh I can tell you everything you need to know”. He went on “This here’s the waiting place.”
“A waiting place” I asked? Curious as to his meaning. “Yup,” He replied, “it’s where you come to wait.” I wanted to understand what he meant by that so I said, “The waiting place?” And he answered. “Well, as I’ve got it figured out,” He paused a moment and then continued, “this is the place you come to wait until it’s time to go to the dying place.”
I knew where this was going but I couldn’t help myself so I said “The dying place?”
And he answered, looking directly into my eyes while he spoke. “Yes, the dying place, with rows of beds and nurses who come and go and you’re left alone to slowly die.
I did not make this up. This is a true story. He had accepted his lonely fate as he did not want to be a burden to his family. A BURDEN TO HIS FAMILY. If you haven’t visited any “residences”, care facilities, or nursing homes recently, I suggest you do so. It is a sad commentary on what has not only become permissible but is now considered to be the right thing to do in the enlightened country of the USA.
When we are young, most of us, are nurtured by the adults of our family, cared for and supplied with much of what we need to grow up and become responsible loving adults. Why is it then that those who did the caring when we were young do not receive the same love and care from their family when they become old? Why is caring for our elderly considered a “burden” when caring for our children is a “loving responsibility? …Why?Addendum:
I published this post last night, North American time, around midnight. I have received some very caring, concerned and loving comments responding to this post today. This afternoon, one comment in particular stood out from the rest, so compelling that I felt the need to add it here for all to see. Please read:
July 20, 2012 at 1:47 pm
I read some very powerful words a long time ago…wish I could remember where. The point — We send our little ones off to daycare and our elders off to nursing homes….we are a generation that lives perpetually in the present…no future (little ones) and no past (elders). It is a sad heartbreaking truth.
I (a new single mom) understand that having little ones and the need to care for elders can be more than challenging…but even a thoughtful gesture towards those that paved the way before us…visiting them, playing a game, reading…talking and learning…feeling loved and appreciated and most importantly feeling “needed”.
Every one of us has a unique story…and it breaks my heart that some stories are put away to be forever forgotten instead of valued, shared, cherished, and added to not only this but also future generations.
Yes, a tough situation…but if we each did a very small act, even once in a while…what a difference that would make!