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Home is all about attitude

My first experience with a nursing home was in the early 1970s. My husband’s grandmother lived in a home in northern New Jersey. It was a lovely place; clean, homey and the staff loved Magdalena.

She was in her mid 90s when I met her. She was German born and raised and only spoke broken English. But she was happy. She was well cared for, comfortable, had people to talk to whenever she wanted, a room to herself that she decorated with mementos from her long life, and loved by her family. So what that she wasn’t living in her own home anymore. It was all about attitude.

This past month three of my elderly friends have either been hospitalized or taken up residence in a nursing home. I visited my friend who now lives at Absolut Care in Westfield, New York on Halloween. Being me, I was dressed in full Halloween regalia; hair sticking straight up, face painted as a vampire (without the blood), and a lovely deep red and black velvet gown. This costume begs to be presented with a Boris and Natasha Russian accent, so that’s how I spoke to everyone I met. Arriving right at lunchtime, I had the opportunity to greet all the diners, most of whom were amused by my get-up. There were a couple residents who weren’t sure how to take me, and one who was alarmed that I was allowed in. My friend was absolutely gleeful to see me, especially all decked out. The staff were also dressed for the occasion, although not as dramatically as I.

I made the rounds through the facility wings, peeked in whenever someone was in their room, wished them a “Happy Halloween!” and had short conversations with those who were so inclined. It is easy to tell who is adjusting well to their environment, and who is not. I understand that there can be anger and sadness when you can no longer live on your own. But it’s all about attitude.

My two friends who were hospitalized are struggling now with the likelihood of being placed in care facilities. They’re not too happy about it. But while one has a pragmatic outlook on life, the other is convinced that death is the only outcome for the situation. My pragmatic friend does not want to uproot her life and be placed somewhere where she can receive around the clock care, but I think she will accept it, if she has to.

I don’t know what is in store for my fella. He is not doing well, and he does not see any acceptable alternative except going back home, alone, to die. It’s all about attitude.

Nobody wants to leave their home, especially if they have lived there most of their life. Our lifestyles, for the most part, do not make it easy to care for one’s aging parents. Distance is a deterrent oftentimes. I hear phrases like, “I took care of them when they were little, why can’t they take care of me now!” It isn’t that simple. Changing the diaper of a six month old baby is very different from changing the diaper of your mother or father. There is joy in watching your baby learn to eat from a spoon. There is only sadness in watching your parent struggle to eat a few bites from a spoon they can no longer hold.

I hereby give notice to my children: if you cannot give me the care I need in my twilight years, put me in a nursing home where I can make new friends.

Visit me often, however, for this is an incentive for proper care by a staff who are understaffed and overworked. It will be all about attitude.

Robyn Near is a Ripley resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com

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