Scott Terry has a great post on his blog (Homesteader Life) about getting rid of nursing homes.
Since we are in the process of walking through this calling, I thought I would share.
Nursing homes have always been abhorrent to me. I never understood warehousing our old and infirm. I attribute a lot of this warehousing to the me generation, the instant gratification culture and our lack of respect for all forms of life…especially those inconvenient ones.
Many years ago, after my Grandma passed away, we asked Grandpa to come and live with us. He didn’t want to leave his church, friends and the small town he had lived in for 50 years. We visited and kept in touch through phone and mail often. Three years after Grandma died, I got a call that Grandpa was in the hospital. Of course the hospital would not tell me anything over the phone. So…I packed up the kids (3 at the time), the school books (praising God for leading us to homeschool) and we left for Indiana. I got to the hospital and found out that he had bone cancer, very advanced and was given a few short months to live. The decision was made, by those in the family with decision-making powers, to put him in a nursing home. It made my blood boil. Grandpa and I were very close. I just informed the decision makers that I was staying, the kids were staying and we were bringing Grandpa home. His wishes were to spend his final days in the home he loved. I am thankful that we were able to give him that. He was a blessing to me and to my children. Many things can be said and learned in those final days together.
What amazed me was how much this upset the decision makers. What it boiled down to, in my humble opinion, was that the decision makers recognized the fact that this was their responsibility but it was a distasteful one…one that they really didn’t want to handle themselves.
They felt uncomfortable that I was stepping in and taking this responsibility…I think the truth was that they felt guilty. They were shirking their responsibility and they knew it. It was ok to pay someone to do this but not ok to have another family member take it on. I was told “this isn’t your responsibility”, but I felt that it was.
Well, then Dad came down with Alzheimers. A very difficult disease. He was kept at home for a very long time. I kept Dad certain days of the week. My Mom eventually placed him in an assisted-living facility when his actions became dangerous. I did not agree with this decision but had no power to change it. Thankfully Dad was unaware of his surroundings.
Now, here we are on the farm. My Mom lived with us for 2 years but she is very independent…and we have 4 boys. Mom had gotten used to quiet, complete order (a “never anything out of place” type of order) and she wanted her own place. She decided to put a small house here on the farm.
In the last 7 years, her health has declined and she needs more help. The boys help take care of the yard, empty the trash from her house, change her light bulbs, help her clean. We do all the repair and upkeep around her house for her, help her with her checkbook, take her shopping etc. We fix a lot of her meals or she eats with us. We check in on her several times a day. We call if we are away more than a few hours. She calls often…even when we are home. We ask for her help in small ways…mending…watching kids…slicing veggies for the dehydrator. It is important to her to know that she is contributing and she is important . We are very grateful for her help. She takes a great load off of my shoulders many times. My boys know that I need her, that she helps carry the load.
This is not an easy walk. Often times this is inconvnient…especially as her patience seems to decline as her age goes up! We don’t always handle things well. Sometimes we really mess up and have to retrace our steps, retract our words and make things right.
We know that the time will come when she will need to be back in our home. We are preparing for that. We look forward to that. The lessons in this walk have been invaluable to our children. They see that you can respond to your elders with respect and love, even when they are difficult. They know that her life is valuable, that she can still contribute, that she is important in the operation of this farm…even if she isn’t out pulling weeds and hoeing corn. They have learned to treat the elderly with dignity and this carries over to the elderly in our church and our community. They watch us walk through the difficult days and learn to persevere with gentleness and love. They see us apologize when we are at fault and even sometimes if we weren’t at fault. We teach them that within the family, it is more important to desire peace than it is to desire to be right. These are important lessons. They know that Grandma will be here one day again.
I know when I am old and infirm that my boys will value my life. I will have a place in their homes and hearts. I know these things because they are walking this path with us now. They are learning the lessons and the fruit is showing in their young lives. We are not doing an extraordinary thing. I think we are walking the path that God designed for families. This is the way things used to be….before big cities, dual incomes and the entertainment lifestyle.
I can honestly say that having multiple generations living together has added something invaluable to all of our lives. Each one of us has learned great lessons and has been blessed through this….God truly knows best….we wouldn’t change a thing!