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The Nursing Home - The End of the Line
"Nursing home." The words rang in Eva's ears like a death knoll. How did it come to this? Why did it come to this? Her mother had strokes before and recovered, but, this one was different. Her mother was 88 now and this stroke took away the ability to use her hands and arms. The doctor went on to explain that her mother would never leave the nursing home, it was just a matter of time. How do you deal with this? This isn't a diagnosis it's a verdict and not something you can readily share. She had always wanted to keep her mother at home but with a full time job there was no one there to care for her mother.
Eva had no choice, she had to say yes and consent to her mother being sent to the nursing home. Her first visit to the nursing home was a shock to her senses. The lobby was lovely and the receptionist helpful but there was that smell. Not really a bad smell but a smell of age and illness and maybe death. It pervaded the senses and followed you where you went. As Eva walked down the hallway to her mother's room she passed the elderly in the hallways. Men and women walking the halls, an elderly lady holding onto the railing on the wall as she shuffled her feet to get down the hallway, an elderly gentleman was sitting in a wheelchair smiling. Folks all about getting their exercise or socialization where they could. Slowly she approached her mother's room. There was another lady in the bed closest to the door. She was 89 and had been a resident at the nursing home for the past three years. She was very informative and gave Eva all the details of her mother's arrival and how she had settled in. After exchanging a few pleasantries the short haired lady got herself into a motorized wheelchair and left the room. At least her mother's roommate was a nice person.
Eva walked to her mother's bed and her mother began to cry. "I want to go home. I want to be in my own bed." This wasn't a good start Eva thought. More important, Eva wanted to take her home. The last thing Eva ever wanted to do was put her mother in a nursing home but she couldn't let her mother know that now! She couldn't let her mother see the pain and sorrow she was feeling. They talked for a while and Eva explained this was only rehab while her mother recovered from the stroke and could use her arms again. Eva stayed and fed her mother lunch then tearfully left. It was difficult to leave her mother there but Eva had to go back to work. After work Eva returned to feed her mother dinner. She repeated this pattern for several days until one day she arrived in her mother's room and her mother wasn't there. Her heart skipped a beat. She tried to walk slowly to the nurses station to find out where her mother was without attracting attention to herself, but fear was beginning to grow in her stomach. On the way, she noticed her mother sitting in a wheelchair in an atrium-like area, relief washed over her. Her mother seemed in better spirits though she still wanted to go home. They chatted for a short time then Eva tried to find out where to go for lunch as there were several lunch rooms in the building.
There was a lunch room in each 'section' of the nursing home and people were assigned to the lunchroom in their section. When they got to the lunch room there were several long tables lined with ladies and gentlemen. Some were sitting in chairs, some sitting in wheelchairs, and others tied into wheelchairs. Eva soon learned that there was a protocol here. Once you chose a place to sit that was where you always sat. The red haired lady tied in the wheelchair was Amy. She seemed to be in charge. She made sure everyone got the right meal and sat in the right places. She told Eva where to place her mother's wheelchair and that became her mother's spot. She watched over everyone at her table like a mother hen.
As the days went by Eva and her mother made friends with her mother's table mates. Often when Eva arrived her mother was sitting with her new found friends in the hallway. Though they didn't talk much they formed a bond and looked forward to each other's company. They chit chatted a bit about this and that, sometimes about their past sometimes about something new they had. Whenever an event was going on in the nursing home that involved music Eva's mother and her friends attended. They knew the words to all the old songs and truly enjoyed the entertainment. They would sing and tap their feet with smiles as wide as their faces! It brought back fond memories for them and they were happy to share now with their new friends. They were sometimes critical of those outside of their circle, mostly those who made noise or disrupted their entertainment.
While her mother's spirits were improving her health was not. One day at lunch time Eva was a little late arriving and an aide was trying to feed her mother. The aide said her mother had spit her food at the aide. Eva was shocked. This was not like her mother at all. Her mother was very mild mannered and gentle and above all considerate of everyone. She asked her mother why she had done that and her mother replied, "A person shouldn't have to do what a person doesn't want to do." Eva called the doctor that evening and explained it wasn't necessary to try to feed her mother if her mother didn't want to eat. The doctor agreed and said he would leave orders the next day. Both knew things were not looking good. This little lady, Eva's mother, was fading before their eyes and there was nothing anyone could do about it. The ravages of time were taking their toll. Eva's mother had had many surgeries throughout her life and her body was tired. This latest stroke added insult to injury and her body didn't have the strength to fight what it had done.
Eva's mother was in the nursing home 4-1/2 months when the telephone call came one midnight. The nurse said, "I am so sorry to inform you but your mother passed in her sleep between 11:00 p.m. and midnight."
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