Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Everyone Should Visit Nursing Homes

I just went out to the Pacific Northwest to visit my Mom. She lives alone with a little Pekinese dog named Charlie. They are both getting on in years. She goes two blocks away for several hours twice a day to help care for her husband who’s in a nursing home with severe Alzheimer’s. She has severe macular degeneration.

It's inspiring to see how she navigates, stays organized, uses the computer and a cell phone, all with only very limited peripheral vision. She’s hell on nursing home staff, making sure that, even though her husband Leon is virtually unaware, he gets timely care.

I feel like such a whiner after seeing the folks in that nursing home. Most can’t communicate very well or have deteriorated physically. Many are in wheelchairs and need to be moved from place to place. People like Leon, even if they don’t weigh 250 lbs., have to be lifted out of chairs or beds with a machine. Most have very few visits from anyone or a gentle touch.

I think everyone should walk through a nursing home once a week. One, it should remind us that we aren’t very kind as a society to people as they exit this life. We storehouse them, debate and stall research like stem cells, refuse to let them decide when they die and, each year, cut the funding for nursing homes.

But a visit to these places would also help us all be more inspired... Inspired to be more resilient and determined and to whine less, if at all, about how tough our life is. Inspired to be more humane and communicate better. Inspired to be less defensive and to listen. Inspired to strive harder each day to do a better job, to find ways to around obstacles, to continually improve and to say what’s on our mind.

I come back from these trips full of fire and determination to expect much more of myself.

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