Wednesday, 18 March 2015

What's wrong with nursing homes?

I hadn't been up to see mum since Saturday when I went up today. I took mum out to the park next door to the nursing home's building, which is just across a quiet dead-end street, and we sat and watched the sulfur-crested cockatoos flying around the big trees there and the magpies hopping around on the grass until mum said she had a sore back and we went back inside. We sat in her room for a while until it was time to go out to lunch in the dining room.

I was quite upset with G about how she talked about the dining room at the nursing home. It has been rankling me for some time. G went back to the Coast last week. While she was here in Sydney she had lunch with mum once in the park and once the three of us had meat pies in mum's room, instead of going to the dining room. G said the dining room was "depressing" but I never thought this. In my experience it is always just a bit of a raffle because you never know who is going to sit with you.

Today there were two elderly residents who sat with mum and me. One of them, who I'll call P, is a resident mum has had cross words with in the past but today she seemed to have forgotten who mum was and sat down with a smile and introduced herself. The other lady, who I'll call D, sat to my left while P sat on the opposite side of the table from me.

We talked about many different things. Somehow the conversation turned to mum's having run a gift shop in Sydney for 30 years, and D was very animated as we discussed how the big department stores at Bondi Junction eventually took all mum's customers away, so that in the end she decided to shut the business down. I told the woman about how mum and granny had made clowns out of cloth shapes stuffed with recycled plastic, with mum embroidering the faces on them as the final step before they were put on display in the shop for customers to buy. D told us about her own dressmaking using an old Singer machine and how, when she was 12, she had made a frock for herself; it was the first garment she made for herself.

I told mum about Frankie magazine and how the young people in Australia had sort of rediscovered crochet and patchwork quilting. We had a very animated and interesting discussion about a range of things, and all of it stemmed from talking about mum's gift shop. It was a nice discussion and everyone enjoyed themselves with it while we ate our roast chicken (though P had sandwiches and mum had roast beef).

Getting back to G. She had told me once how she had found that the elderly "all go downhill" once they move into a nursing home. "I've seen it before," she told me. But frankly I'm not convinced. In mum's case she has responded well to the medication and treatment regimen the new GP has put her on, and she has even gained about 3 kilos since coming down to Sydney to the nursing home. From my perspective mum has done really well in her new nursing home. She is well fed, has all her needs catered for, is surrounded by competent staff who look after her at all hours of the day and night, and she has nice co-residents to socialise with.

I remain upset with G. I feel that mum's situation has improved since she came down to Sydney to live in the nursing home. Of course it is me who decided she should live there, but nevertheless I really don't see the situation in the same way as G does, and to be honest I really feel her words keenly. I think it is unfair of her to say these things to me. I have often thought that nursing homes get a lot of undeserved bad press. But probably it's all about how you view things. You just have to adjust, and some people cannot change. It's as simple as that I think, when you come down to it.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

indeed, 'some people can not change' they dont want to change, and see any change as a backward step rather than a new opportunity.

Anonymous said...

My friend's mum thrived in her nursing home, she had been living alone on her NZ farm fending for herself since forever, so everybody thought it would be the end of her to go into a home. However she immediately found the social life energizing, and loved it. Not all changes of life are bad.