Life in a nursing home A normal human being in revolt

Frances K. Sill

November 14, 1990|By Frances K. Sill

I WOULD never have believed just four months ago that I would find myself taken by ambulance from intensive care at Greater Baltimore Medical Center to a nursing home.

I was placed in a pleasant sunny room with an adjoining bath. The first 10 days I was weak and had nursing care around the clock. After a week of not doing much beside feeding myself, I was growing stronger and hoped to return to my apartment. But my children and doctor said no, that I needed at least a daytime nurse and someone to make sure that I got my meals.

I began to realize the necessity of giving up my apartment -- my home, with my beautiful things I had inherited or bought, taken care of and loved.

I soon learned that my accommodations were expensive and that some of my things would have to be sold to help with my bills here. But much of the furniture and silver could be absorbed by my children and five grandchildren. I could see them in their homes if I ever got to the happy condition of going out.

But to give up my home! I cried -- yes -- often. I tried to steel myself, to be reasonable. I am in my late 80s. I've been healthy a long time.

I should have felt grateful. After my illness, I still had my sight, my hearing, my clear mind. But I wasn't grateful. The transition had BTC been too sudden, giving up so much so drastically, without warning. I was a normal human being in revolt.

I remember being taken out from my apartment in the middle of the night and placed in an ambulance, flat on my back. I was driven over rough streets to the hospital, wheeled first into the emergency room, then into the intensive care unit. This I recall; then I draw a blank.

I was very ill; my family believed I would die. Why did I not? Good care, I suppose, and a strong constitution. They call me a "tough old bird."

After the first week here, I had a talk with myself and decided since I hadn't died that I might as well get strong and walk, try to enjoy life. Physical therapy has helped to relieve the pain from my arthritis and sciatica.

Slowly, I walked, first in physical therapy, then in my room, then out in the long halls, determined to become independent and to give up my wheelchair. Now I go out with friends and family, all who have been wonderful. My grandson brought me my TV, a small bookcase and some of my favorite books. These help.

The residents on my hall are much worse off than I. They cry out at night and in the morning. It is not pleasant. I close my door, but I can still hear them. It grates. I know that I too may become like them.

At lunch I share a table with two articulate ladies and one gentleman. I look forward to this hour. There are many activities -- old but good movies, crafts, exercises, bingo, music, etc. They do try. But when I go back to my room, with its mahogany furniture, pretty curtains and my many family pictures, I still know I'm in a nursing home where, when I go out, my friends must sign as to who they are, where we're going and when I'll return.

On my walks, I see many people -- men and women who are so old, in their 90s, some even 100! I pray I shall never reach such an age. They sit waiting to die, their poor heads bent over, hardly touching their trays of food. Some are spoon fed. These are the real heartaches.

You wonder. Yes, you wonder.

Frances K. Sill writes from Baltimore.

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