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Reminders of mortality

August 15, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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Ever since I have lived in a long-term care facility there are frequent reminders of my mortality. At any time we may have several residents who are close to the end of their lives.

“J” was a quite spry 92 when he came a few months ago after facial surgery. His extensive bandage told me that he probably had untreatable cancer. But he walked around, was pleasant, and got along as well as he could.

Over the months his bandage has grown as his disease has progressed. I cannot look at him without my heart hurting. I hope my face does not betray me.

J has grown weaker and is now pushed in a wheelchair to the dining room. When I think about the nurses changing his bandage, I know they are the Mother Theresa's of our part of the world.

“L” was on hospice care a few weeks ago. I heard he had a day or two to live. His family was here 24/7 and even slept in the lounge area. It can be difficult having a family death, as hospice advocates, here.

Then, suddenly, L went to the hospital. Since his return, he is no longer on hospice and is alone again. For the last two weeks he has been moaning most of the time. I just hope that he is not in too much pain.

Waiting for someone to die takes time. They do not die on the doctor's or on hospice's schedule. L seemed to perk up when his family was with him all the time.

Many times I feel the hallway to death that the residents follow. It opens and pulls them in while we are watching. It is not quick but it is determined. I think the hallway is always here even when no resident is ready to pass through it.

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I once lived in an Assisted Living Facility and saw so many elderly people left there alone with their family members never coming to visit. It is terribly sad. Terribly sad that they know that they will probably die there and, therefore die alone. Only afterward will family members "get the call" that their mother or father or grandmother or grandfather, etc. etc. passed away and then, even sadder, they will show up for the funeral!

No one gets out of this life alive but life would be so much better for so many people if friends and family members would SHOW, through their actions, that they are truly cared for.

Thank you for your contribution Kathleen!

Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...