I’ve been shopping for a nursing home for my mom this past week.
Ironic, considering all we have read about Pleasant Valley recently. And a little frightening, too.
My mom’s health took a turn for the worse about four months ago. She was in intensive care for a while, moved to a second hospital for medical care and therapy and finally to a nursing home for more therapy to get her up and walking so she could take care of herself again.
There have been good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks and times when my brother and I were sure we were getting our mom back, and times when we had to shed tears.
A few weeks ago, the folks doing the therapy said there was not anything more they could do.
They said our mom probably would not improve much more.
Our mom was not going to be the way she was before she got sick.
They said she would need a lot of help and care and we wouldn’t be able to provide it at home.
Mom was 84 on July 1 and seemed like one of those women who would go on forever. Arthritis has made a mess of her hands and feet. Her eyesight is failing and her latest illness has knocked her for a loop. She gets angry and frustrated sometimes, and often thinks she can still walk on her own. But she can’t.
At times, she seems so close, only to have another setback.
Mom came home for a few days last month and my younger brother, Dave, made a heroic effort to take care of her, but mom hardly moved out of her favorite chair. Soon, she was back in the hospital, then the nursing home again.
The hardest part was acknowledging the best place for our mom is some place other than home. Actually, we’re still trying to convince ourselves of that.
We know she wants to go home, but how do you tell her she can’t?
I’ve spent some time in the nursing home the past few months. They can be sad and depressing places, but I’ve been so impressed with the kindness and patience of so many of the people who have cared for my mom.
But I’ve also seen there are not enough of those people, and I’m sure they are not paid what they are worth. Staffing is often short when people call in sick or are on vacation. Sometimes when mom presses the buzzer for help, it is a long wait.
The care of the elderly is going to be the next great crisis in our country.
Baby boomers are living longer and growing older and the numbers of those who will need nursing home care are going to escalate dramatically.
Many of us will be there someday, too.
What happened at Pleasant Valley is a symptom of a far greater problem regarding the care of the elderly. Nursing homes are a growth industry. More will be needed and more people will be needed to provide care and those people are in short supply.
I know we have to take the next step with my mother.
We are scared of what her new life will be like.
Will it have quality?
Will it have dignity?
Will she have a reason to go on?
But most of all, can we depend on the kindness of strangers to treat her as her family does?
For people like my brother and I, and the many other families who have to face this difficult part of life, we can only trust that will be the case.
Ken Tingley is editor of The Post-Star and may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.