Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Sunday Visitation with Mom

I walked out into the hallway, past the parade of wheelchairs filled with old, dying women and men, and into the lounge area. The nurse had come into my mother’s room to assist her with the bed pan so I took it as my cue to leave the room. I provide enough care to Dear Son at home and it’s hard to take on any more here. I walked into the lounge and sat at the table, turned off the t.v. that no one was watching, and looked through one of the magazines that had been sitting in the magazine rack. This particular therapy rehabilitation center was better than most, in my opinion, because the smell of urine didn’t permeate your pores when you entered the facility. The staff seemed friendly, nice and respectful of the patients that were there. I must say that even after a few visits to see my mother, I remain somewhat impressed with the facility, despite it’s outdated decorating. No one said a place has to be well decorated to be good but gosh, the shadowboxes of the straw hats with silk flowers around them really dated the place. So that’s where those awful decorated straw hats went.

It was Sunday and one of my two days off for the month. Dad takes Dear Son every other weekend, after he works a full twelve hour day on Saturday, so I get Saturday night, Sunday and then Monday morning to sleep in, sort of, or at least sleep in until I have to get up for work. I had slept in until 7 a.m. on Sunday and came to see my mother in the afternoon. Despite my limited time off, I was looking forward to the visit. No one knows better than me, just how long the days can be, when you are stuck in these facilities. I’ve done enough hospital visits with Dear Son to understand that horrible feeling, as if you are never going home.

What bothers me most about these places are the people in the wheelchairs that sit in the hallways. Most of them are sleeping and look like they are propped up in the chairs to die. I suspect that all of the therapy in the world won’t heal them because the emotional depression will kill them first. The lack of caring on the family members part, is evident in these expressionless bodies. It’s sad really. As I walk down the halls I was reminded of the physical therapy rehabilitation facility that Dear Son went to a few years ago. It was an adult facility that had a small children’s ward or group of rooms. The children’s rooms were located at the end of the hall off the main area. There were electronic codes to access the rooms so that the adult dementia patients or anyone else couldn’t access the children. I spent the whole time there with Dear Son as I normally do, but the part that bothered me the most was the walk down the hallway with all of the wheelchairs lined up. The old men and women littered the hallway so much so that there was barely any space between the chairs. As I would walk down the hall towards Dear Son’s room, a few of the men would yell out at me, trying to get my attention. It was a bit frightening I must say. I guess the first thing that came to my mind that it was more like a scene from , “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” than anything else. In reality, these were nothing more than very lonely people, some with dementia I am sure ,but mostly, just lonely people that had been here a very long time. It bothered me that no one came to visit these people, but it bothered me even more that no one came to visit these kids. One of Dear Son’s former classmates was in the room next to ours and her mother never came to visit in the weeks we were there. I wrote about it here, a very long time ago.

This time though, it was Sunday. I was here to see my Mom and was sitting in the lounge. This place also does manicures for the patients and my Mom was the recipient of a manicure and dry shampoo the other day, both of which she loved. She raved about how nice her nails looked and how good her hair felt. As I waited in the lounge for the staff to help my mother with her “business”, I overheard another lady talking to her mother. The lady was mid sixties, I’d say, dressed very elegantly in black from head to toe. Her mother, some twenty plus years older, sat engaged, in a wheelchair. The lady was giving her Mom a manicure and talking to her as they went along. She was telling her Mom about the car she owned, a Jetta, and how she recently got a magazine from them on how to "jazz up" her Jetta. She explained that they had floor mats with the Jetta logo on them and how she wanted the Jetta sunglasses that she spied in the magazine. She went on to say that she showed her son the sunglasses when her son pointed out that they weren’t sunglasses but tailpipes for the Jetta that had white circles around them! With that, I let out a big laugh, since I just couldn’t help myself. After all, it was too funny. The women were cracking up as well and they delighted in the fact that I found it funny as well. At that moment I thought about the mother in the wheelchair and just how rich she was. She was rich because her daughter had taken time out of her day to spend with her. Not just talk to her but to laugh with her, have a real conversation with her and to pamper her. Yes, she was rich compared to the lady sitting outside the lounge area, just eight feet away, who moaned every three seconds and never stopped. Pain, perhaps. Most likely, just lonliness.

About that time, my ten minutes or so was up. That’s about the time it takes the staff and my Mom to do her “business” in the room so I returned. Sister and friend were there and the three of us talked some more keeping my Mom entertained. My sister had made a blanket for her, with cardinals on it, my Mom’s favorite bird. My Mom has been at the facility for nearly a week and every day my sister has come with new flowers for her. Orange tulips on day 2, yellow daffodils on day 3, yellow roses on day 4, pussy willows on day 5, etc. Sister and I had been splitting up the time with my Mom, making sure one of us could be there every day. We sat around talking, having some good laughs and overall trying to keep my mother’s spirits up. I knew only too well, that the time we spent there would not be long enough. After all, when you are in a hospital or any facility day after day, there is nothing you want more than a home cooked meal, to sleep in your own bed and to be in your own home.


After a few hours, I left the facility. As I walked down the hall, I saw the same people sitting along the walls. There weren’t as many in the hallway as there were at the other facility Dear Son was at a few years ago, but still, these were people who were forgotten. True, there were people in the rooms that just as lonely and bored, but the people in the hallway bothered me the most. Bothered me, because I knew that this goes on all over the country. As I waited for the elevator, I couldn’t help but wonder, “What the heck were people doing that they were too busy to visit?” I mean really? There isn’t any time in their day to visit their family? None? I try not to be judgmental but gosh, these are some pretty long days. Is this the best we can do for these people?

As I waited what seemed like an eternity for the elevator, I heard the staff member talking to the patients in the hallway. He was a chipper man doing his best to keep the spirits up at the facility. He was trying to get a response from a woman regarding whether or not she wanted a manicure. She said nothing and sat there motionless in her chair. In desperation, he gave her a choice: he said, "Would you rather be dumped in the river or have a manicure?" The ladies laughed at his good naturedness and I knew at that moment that he was worth every penny that they were paying him. The elevator door opened and with that I left. As I dropped off the visitor pass, I counted my blessings. With that, the wind hit my face and cold, damp air shocked me back into my own world. How blessed I was to be walking outdoors, to go home and have a home cooked meal, and to sleep in my own bed. Rich I’d say, yes, I am rich.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's a fantastically written article. In the defense of family members who don't visit, my mother was an abusive jerk. As she aged she was now an elderly abusive jerk. I will not waste my time with her (a decision made in her early 60s when she was still in good health). Life is too short to waste it like that.

Dream Mom said...

Anon-I had to laugh when I read your comment only because I totally understand how challenging some parents can be. My mother will challenge the best of them to put it nicely. I have decided to look the other way and let it roll off however it's not very easy at times. I could probably add more to support your position however it's best that I leave things as they are. We all do what we can do and I do understand and respect your position.

Thank you for the compliment on the article. I just feel so bad for so many of the people in there.

MB said...

I have to agree with Anon. It is easy to judge but we don't know the circumstances of anyone's life. Family members could live in another city or be estranged.

Dream Mom said...

Thanks, MB. I think I was pretty clear about not being judgmental and certainly there are some valid reasons for not attending (abuse, etc.), however I am sure that is not the case for 100% of the in-patients, that was my point. There are people who don't understand how long those days can be and how lonely these people can get. Some people flat out just don't care.

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