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Monday, October 14, 2013

My Possible Future Self

Times Have Changed

My mother is temporarily in a nursing home, which we very carefully call, a rehabilitation facility when are talking to her.

She had a stroke about ten days ago. I knew something was terribly wrong when she got up and her speech was totally garbled. A call to the doctor was followed by a visit to the emergency room which was followed by a week in the hospital which was followed by a transfer to Wellbrooke, the newest and nicest of the nursing homes in our county.

Mom's stroke left her with weakness on her right side - she couldn't use her right hand to grasp at all at first- the above-mentioned incomprehensible speech and a drooping right eye. The worst problem, however, was difficulty in swallowing. Since this happened, she has been on a pureed diet (and trust me, no matter how hard the kitchen staff tries, they cannot make pureed roast beef look or smell appealing) and they have her on antibiotics because they are concerned that she will choke and aspirate some material into her lung, causing pneumonia.

Mom is a spunky little 94-year-old who works hard on her exercises because she wants to come home. She's improved in every area except her swallowing. I'm taking her for a swallow test tomorrow. I'd feel comfortable bringing her home if they could get that situation squared away.

My mother-in-law was in a nursing home for 9 years - during most of the 90's. I visited her two or three times a week, taking her for rides or bringing her home to dinner and the I.U. games if she felt up to it. At the time, her facility was also the newest and nicest in the area but those nine years left me with a horror of ever being condemned to such a place myself. I keep a loaded gun beside my bed for protection and I always said I'd shoot myself before I'd go to a nursing home....only half kidding.

But times have changed since then and living in a nursing home now seems not quite so unbearable, at least one as modern as Wellbrooke. My biggest phobia was always having to share a room. My mother-in-law had roommates who cried all day, roommates who groaned in pain, roommates who repeated the same stories over and over. She finally had a partner who was a sweetheart but who was blind and almost deaf, so her radio had to be tuned to high. I often thought to myself that if you entered that place totally sane, it wouldn't take long before you disappeared into dementia in self defense.

I have a lot of friends and I enjoy social occasions but for the most part, I'm a rather solitary person and I prefer quiet. I always thought I could live in a broom closet, as long as I was alone there.

Now, at Wellbrooke, all the rooms are private. Oh Holy Day, no more being crammed into a tiny space with someone who comes in as a total stranger and with whom you may have nothing in common. They may prefer televangelists over NASCAR! Or, even worse, Fox instead of MSNBC! Or have hordes of nice but loud family members as my mother-in-law's roomie had.

The private rooms were a happy revelation and then I asked if Wellbrooke was set up for WiFi and they are! (I was asking for my future self because my Mom wouldn't even know how to turn on a computer). "That's assuming," the aide said, "that your mental and physical capabilities are up to using a computer." Well, yeah, there's that. That practical observation put a bit of a damper on my pleasure at discovering that nursing homes had joined the modern age.

But still, generally, I have a "have privacy and laptop, will travel" attitude about my own elderly future should it ever come to that.


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