Last week marked my 16th year of living in nursing homes. It all began with me as an emergency admission to a rural southeastern Ohio facility, frightened to death and wondering how I would make it.
I arrived with almost nothing. Former caregivers brought some of my belongings a couple of days later, and the nursing home staff helped set up my computer and typewriter to keep me busy. I was surprised at their generosity and pleased that they seemed to really care.
At 47, I was the youngest resident. The administrator said he was concerned and wanted me to get along well with everyone. But it would turn out that the administrators deserved our concern.
That first administrator stayed three years. Succeeding administrators lasted little more than a year before leaving. And by the time I left more than a decade later, administrators came and left yearly.
In the beginning the facility had more aides. I was adapting and tried to be more patient and seemed more able to wait. But over the years I have become more anxious. Despite my frustration I know that because I am quadriplegic and need the assistance of two to three aides—waiting is a part of my life.
I have also learned that getting care in a nursing home follows the law of diminishing returns: Resident need continues to exceed the caregiver supply.
I moved to this facility a year and a half ago and it looks more institutional than the facility where I had previously lived. To me the wall colors seem stark. But my sister always positively points out that my room's walls are a Williamsburg green, which was very "in” when I arrived.
So after 16 years I still find myself working on me. I must adjust each day to changes that I cannot control, but I am lucky that I can go out each week and spend some time away. It truly helps my mental health.
Writing this blog allows me to share my thoughts on nursing home life as I experience it each day. Hopefully, if I work hard enough, living in a nursing home may become easier.