I think working at a nursing home is getting a little, well, old…no pun intended.
I actually am in love with several residents, and I really enjoy working with them. The first week, I was seriously depressed. I imagine it was the whole dealing with the mentally/physically disabled aspect, not to mention the near-dying part, but I cried every day. It broke my heart to see the the old husband come in every day to eat lunch with is wife who barely remembered him.
However, in about my second or third week, I talked to a different couple: this one includes the most adorable old man (who always kisses my hand!!) on hospice (sad) and his wife who faithfully comes in every day right after breakfast and leaves right before dinner.
The wife and I were chatting as I cleaned the dining room, and I got to asking how they met.
“Oh we met in California, got married a few years later, and lived happily ever after,” she smiled, patting his shaking hand. The husband is in his late 90’s, barely talks (although when he does he’s the sweetest guy ever) and is on hospice with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and a host of others issues. His heart is beating so slowly he shouldn’t be alive. Yet his wife still considers it “happily ever after.”
That sort of changed my mind about my job, and I began bonding with all the residents (the elderly seem to find my incessant questions and talking charming) and as I said, I love ’em.
However, the close proximity to death is what’s getting to me.
My residents are often right at death’s door and present the great fear of our society: the inescapable destiny we all face. While “to the well-organized mind, death is but the next great adventure” (thank you, Albus Dumbledore) our society still carries a stigma attached to death.
This week, one of the aides brought up paperwork for a recently deceased lady accidentally…which was met by some amusement when the story of the mortician asking if said lady would need her glasses was told.
(Perhaps she needed them for her paperwork…it’s nursing home humor).
To continue the theme, my grandparents were also visiting this week and discussing their will. They’re probably the most organized couple ever (perhaps they relate to Dumbledore’s above quote). I’m sure we’ll all be grateful when they do pass and everything is tied up in a neat bow; for some reason when I fast forward 50 years and see myself going through my parents’ stuff, I see an image from this episode of Friends (“The One Where Nana Dies Twice,” if you’re interested) where Ross finds his grandmother’s collection of Sweet N’ Lows.
I’m not sure what I’ll be getting in the will (not that I’m terribly concerned)–they were just double checking my middle name (which should be easy as my younger cousin has the same one, and there aren’t that many grandchildren, plus I was the first granddaughter, so you’d think that would command some space in the brain, but whatever, they are 80) but I do know I won’t be getting the antique beer steins my great-great-great-great something brought over from Germany. (Aw, bummmmmmer).
My mom thinks that her youngest brother (younger by the rest by at least 11 years) will get all the “good” stuff, since he got all of her grandmother’s interesting items. I pointed out that he did help clean out her house, and from what I can tell all he got was a weird rocking chair that for some reason my mom and her siblings all really wanted.
I lost the point of this post–mostly that I’m not used to being around death so much–it’s weird. Every day I am consumed with thoughts of how short life is, and so every decision becomes quite weighty.
Well, not every, I don’t think that picking out which shirt to wear is that monumental, but even spending a year with a job in Denver seems long and I am constantly questioning whether I should just head back abroad.
In the fall, I’ll begin working as an AmeriCorps member with the Colorado “I Have a Dream” Foundation.
courtesy of americorps.gov
Which will be an incredible experience. Which I will in no way regret doing–but it’s still a tangible decision and direction.
Despite my contrary nature, it will be fun working with the young. Although I’ve enjoyed working with the old (and I won’t be finished until August) it will be nice not to have to PROJECT my voice at decibels my vocal chords clearly find uncomfortable.
There are many more benefits–that’s just the start. The great thing about working with kids is the amount of hope and innocence they still retain. (Although if I recall my 7th grade year, I remember a lot of brats…maybe that was just my personal experience?)
In conclusion, though, my residents seem to like me a lot more than any kids ever have…so wish me luck.