Elderly Life: Loneliness at the Nursing Home
Every time I visit a nursing home, I feel conflicting emotions inside me. On one hand, I feel an immense joy for the existence of these fantastic centers that take care of elderly people. Every professional that works in these places is admirable. On the other hand, I can’t help but feel sad. When I was in college, I did my internship in a nursing home. Something that will forever be etched in my memory is the fact that a couple of workers told me that some of the senior citizens that resided there hadn’t received a single visit in months.
Every so often, I go visit my uncle at the nursing home he lives in. The place is very well cared for, as is he. They also feed him very well. Although he’s not very old, he’s unable to take care of himself. He doesn’t have a partner nor children. Taking him to the nursing home was a great decision for the entire family. He’s happy there and has even gained a few pounds. The workers say he behaves well. I like to go visit and grab a cup of coffee with him. He rejoices and greets me by saying: “What’s up champion!?” However, most of the time he confuses me with my brother.
The sad corridors of the nursing home
I have to cross half the building to get to my uncle’s room. I take the elevator to get to the floor where he resides and surprise him. In order to get to his room, I have to walk through a corridor where several elderly people are always seated in wheelchairs. It’s like they can’t even move. When I pass by, I always greet them with a huge smile. Some look at me and smile back, others look at me and don’t smile, and others simply don’t notice I’m there.
Some look so sad and crestfallen that I can’t help but wonder what’s running through their minds and how their lives were before moving to the nursing home. I mostly wonder if they ever imagined they’d end up in an immobile wheelchair feeling so overwhelmed by illness or life itself.
During my internship, I remember meeting an old man who shared a room with a woman who would just laugh and shout. The man seemed quite violent. His Alzheimer’s was so advanced that he could hardly speak at all.
One day, I decided to interact with him. I sat next to him and began to ask him about his life. I got him to tell me where he was born. After that, I slowly but surely started to get more out of him. One day, he even smiled at me. That was a surprise.
They just want affection
On one of my internship days, I was walking down the hall and heard him screaming. I went to his room and found two workers trying to get him up to bathe him. However, the man wouldn’t stop shaking.
I entered the room and, when he saw me, he completely relaxed. That was the key I had been looking for all along. Behind that expressionless look and affected cognitive capacities, there was a person who just needed affection.
Receiving love and company is so important for these people. In this regard, Gea Sijpkes, Director of the Stichting Woon- en Zorgcentrum Humanitas Deventer in the Netherlands, started a project on this. In 2012, she decided to give free accommodation to students in the nursing home in exchange for spending at least 30 hours a month with the elderly residents.
Souls dying to feel connected to others
Both in the nursing home where I carried out my internship and the one where my uncle resides, I’ve been able to observe that most elderly people feel very lonely. The health professionals who work at these institutes have a lot of work and can’t offer the necessary support. Moreover, I’m deeply saddened by the senior citizens who get few or no visits. Behind each and every one of them, there’s a soul dying to connect with another person. Loneliness consumes them little by little.
I feel like society has taught us that only functional things are worthy of being taken care of. I can’t fathom the fact that so many families decide to leave their elderly at nursing homes when they believe they no longer contribute to anything. The worst part of it all is that, then, they rarely ever visit them. Elderly people have a story worth listening to. They matter just as much as young people do. We don’t have to abandon a person just because they’ve grown old.
Undoubtedly, nursing homes are great alternatives in many cases. This article only aims to highlight the loneliness and abandonment to which many senior citizens are subjected to. Sadly, some adults treat them as if they were a burden and decide to leave them in a nursing home and then forget about them.
The great work of nursing homes
Due to hectic schedules and other responsibilities, many families can’t care for their elders when they’re no longer self-sufficient. In those cases, a nursing home is a great option. However, it’s important to remember to visit them constantly. We all need love no matter our age.
Many elders don’t feel bad about living in a nursing home. However, they wither away when their loved ones don’t make the time to see them every once in a while.
The great work these institutions carry out is something we should always be thankful for. Without them, many families in need would resort to desperate measures to take care of their elder.
In brief, we need to start considering our elders a little more. You don’t need to be by their side all the time, but just remember to visit them often. It’s forbidden to forget that they cared for us when we were younger. Let’s repay them all the favors they did for us.