On my first night in the nursing home, I lay awake still watching the 2.30am world outside. There were small arcs of light in the great distance wondering if I would ever see these lights close up again, the warm glow coming from the loungeroom fire; as I looked around my room showing the traces of my life, I happily closed my eyes praying for sleep to overcome me.
As the morning sun poured through the window of my bedroom and over the plant boxes of violet plants on the sill that had to be watered, which I loved to do, I looked outside of my bedroom window and over yonder, I saw the vast sea in all its colours. I wished all the residents at the nursing home had this view. Some had smaller rooms with the view of other houses or freshly mowed grass with very few trees and flowers which were at one end of the nursing home.
The other day while I was sitting in my chair in my bedroom of the nursing home, I was overcome by the thought that old age, is a gradual giving up. It is strange but also very overwhelming when it all happens at once. A real test of character, a kind of solitary confinement. Whatever I have now is in my own mind. I say to myself that I am old even though my mind thinks differently.
I have been in this nursing home for one month and it has been the biggest adjustment I have ever had to make. The sounds and smells take getting use to. I remembered, on the second day of sleeping in my new room, I woke up during the night screaming after having an excruitiaingly painful nightmare for the first time in over twenty five years. I saw the Belsen concentration camp after WWII ended in 1945. I was working as a social worker there at the time, helping all the people who had been in the camp, because after the war they had no where to go. My thought on waking was that I was back in the concentration camp, but after ten seconds or so, a nurse rushed in and I realised I was in an aged care facility.
Sometimes, it is too much for a loved one to take on the care over a twenty four hour period which I also understood.
Yesterday, one of the residents was continuing to call out Sister, Sister which is what we called nurses back then. The elderly still use that term whereas young people tend to use the Nurse’s first name or Nurse, instead! I felt sorry for the nurses who had so much to do and were having to continually go into her room to try and settle her. They are indeed people to look up to.
The shouting went on for a good while and then it stopped as I am sure the resident was sedated to calm her down for a bit, but then she restarted about 1am while I was trying to sleep. I put my headphones on and listened to the sounds of the sea and eventually drifted off to sleep hoping that this would not be on a daily basis. I noticed when I woke up that the elderly woman had been moved from her room, close to the Nurse’s Station as she was having a very unsettled night. After a few days she was moved to the Dementia unit and I never saw or heard her again.
I often thought of the forty two year old woman Jill who had multiple sclerosis and whose room was down the corridor from mine. She needed twenty four hour care. It made me sad that she was in an aged care facility and not in a nursing home for the young. I often visited her and she was always smiling and chatty even though she was struggling more than words can say. I visited her every day and I could tell she loved my visits as I could see her perk up in bed for she didn’t have as many as I would have liked to see.
“Violet, its so lovely to see you”.
She told me once, “I have a lot of friends who say they will visit but don’t because they said, they don’t like coming to the nursing home as they find it too depressing”.
“Jill”, I said. “Your true friends won’t bother about that”.
Have you ever thought, “that these friends don’t mean to hurt you but for some it is just too overwhelming”. She nodded and agreed with me. “I do have some good friends who do come and see me so I shouldn’t complain”.