Sunday, December 26, 2010

Old Age

Emil and his great-grandmother have a smoochfest

The boys and I went with Cameron late yesterday afternoon to take gifts to Grandma and have a visit with her in the nursing home. When we arrived the old folks who hadn't gone out for the day (they've moved her into the dementia ward now, which has more staff and fewer residents) were dozing in easy chairs in front of a rerun of Bonanza. We woke Grandma up and she recognized Cameron although didn't know who he was. If that makes sense.

She raked in a shitload of new tops and a couple pairs of slippers, and was quite pleased. Grandma has always loved her clothes and that is one thing that hasn't changed. We hung out in her room for an hour or so and then left when it was time for her to go to the dining room for supper.

I woke up in the middle of last night, remembered all the other residents sitting together at the lodge in the afternoon, and thought "Where are their families?" It looked like these old people were simply out of sight, out of mind, while the youngsters they raised and the grandchildren they spoiled were all off doing their own thing now and not giving a second thought to these people they owe their lives to.

Of course that's not the case and I was being harsh in the wee hours of the morning, when shadows and light can be stark and unexpected (I really hate the middle of the night sometimes; there is no sugarcoating anything, then). Many families had probably taken their elders out for the day or had already visited, or had other celebratory obligations or live too far away or were travelling, or have come to the realization that it just isn't such a big deal to their old folks so they might as well do their own thing ... Christmas is just another day, to these residents, and they prefer their settled routines and are more comfortable being left to them.

Also, it is not easy to see your loved one, or the others, living in an institutional environment. They may be happy enough and very well looked after and even treated with kind affection by the staff and other residents, as is the case at Kelvindell Lodge, but it still gives you a regretful pause when you go there. I felt like shedding a tear as we were leaving, even though I know there is no better place for Grandma right now and I'm grateful she's not further away.

You mourn the past that is long gone—the better times—and you dread what the future may bring.


  1. Oh, this is a heartfelt, thoughtful post, Katie! Those middle of the night bugbears...unbelievable how the mind can so quickly wander to the darkest part of the lane.

    It's true there are people in the care homes who do not have visitors, some for the reasons you mention. I also know that some don't see anybody because when they were younger they were not particularly nice people to their family, their friends and acquaintances.Many, when they become incapacitated, then find it is too late to make amends. It's where hospice comes in, visits every day to those who want to see someone. I've seen split families come together after regular visitations from a hospice volunteer and that's really heartwarming.

    I felt like I was abandoning my mother, when she was still alive and living in a care home. I visited every day and still felt like this.I think every body does.

    Thanks for this post...I'm glad Grandma loved her new clothes!!

  2. Thought^-provoking post. I fear the day when I no longer know my family---I won't be me anymore, and I hope my family doesn't agonize over visiting with not-me.

  3. Visiting my grandparents at their homes on holidays - I ALWAYS wondered where their families where too. And then I would leave and assume that their families would just show up sometime that day. Sadly, I don't think many received visits at all.

  4. I met a man on my last visit with M&D who clearly thought that my parents never receive a visit.... but it was the first time I'd ever seen him. Just goes to show, you never know. Just skyped my Dad in his room. Lessens and deepens the

  5. And then there are the people like my grandmother who, even if you visited her every day, would forget five minutes after you left that she'd seen you. And tell someone that she hadn't seen you for a long, long time.

  6. Oh yes both my parents do that too! Or they will tell me that they don't see anyone from one year's end to the next but I have emails from all and sundry who've been to visit in the last few days!


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