My friend in the nursing home is dying. For at least a couple years now, Mrs. B. has been hoping and praying for God to take her home soon. It has been later instead of sooner and so she is very ready. Fortunately, she is mostly comfortable thanks to strong drugs and is sleeping most of the time.
If we are lucky enough to live a long life, we may come to a point where there seems to be no point. Mrs. B. and my mother have reached that conclusion. Unlike Mrs. B., my mother’s health is good; it’s just her mind that is bad, and that frustrates her to no end. What good is it to live when you can’t remember anything and nothing is fun anymore. I tell her the sunsets are still pretty and the birds still sing, but that doesn’t placate her one bit.
There are many reasons our elders wish for death, but I suspect a major reason is boredom. What do you do when you become blind, can’t walk and have few visitors. What keeps you happy when you can’t remember what you just did and so you think you’ve done nothing for days on end. My mother and Mrs. B. are bored stiff and no one can really help that. One’s mind and one’s body doesn’t allow for happiness anymore. Both are now wayfaring strangers waiting to leave this world of woe. I tell my mother, “Take a number, there’s a long line of people praying to die ahead of you. Enjoy what you can while you can.”
So, if you have a relative in the nursing home, if you know someone who can no longer drive, please go see them or at least call regularly. Take them out of their dull routine. See if you can make them feel special, because they sure don’t feel special anymore. If their mind is still fairly good, ask them about their early days using specific questions such as what a parent was like, or what jobs they had, or how they met their spouse… “tell me again…” Prompt the memories of good old days. They may want to hear all about your life, living vicariously through you. The challenge is to engage them in life so that life is worth living.
In a world that is fast becoming ageist, it is refreshing to hear of people paying the elders the respect they deserve. Keep it up. Thanks!