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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Schism Sunday XII: The Golden Years

Would you want to spend the last years of your life in an glorified dormitory with strangers as your neighbors and shower mates, with strange people in monochromatic outfits “checking in” on you a few times a day? Would you want to spend the last years of your life with the complete inability to select your daily schedule and with the d├ęcor of plain walls, handicap rails and fluorescent lights? How would you feel if you didn’t get to pick your own meals, your own bedtime, or when and where you took your meds? How would you feel to lose all privacy and all independence? How would like to face condescension and baby talk from those who purport to take care of you? Doesn’t sound like the best way to spend the golden years does it?

Would you like to spend the last years of your life wasting away in a nursing home?

There are a growing number of people who are forced to live this fate. People who are still able to care for themselves but need a little extra help. People who have a harder time getting around and people with heart conditions are many times put into nursing homes just because their families don’t want to have to worry about them anymore. They haven’t lost their minds and they aren’t shitting their pants or burning down buildings, they are just older and have more health problems than the rest of us. There are also those who are in the beginning or middle stages of dementia- they’ve forgotten their families and what to call a dog but they know how to bathe, cook, dress themselves, and clean. But more often than not they are shipped off to nursing homes because they are an inconvenience to their families and let’s face it because nursing homes make money off of them.

And if you walk down the halls and into the rec rooms of these nursing homes you’ll notice an interesting trend. The majority of the “residents” are white. There are very few black, Hispanic, Asian, or Native American residents in these so-called homes. Is it because there aren’t elderly minorities? Hardly, it’s because minority cultures value taking care of their elders. It seems that America is the only place, and whites are the only race, that doesn’t hold their elders in esteem and in a place of honor. It is normal in many cultures for 3 or 4 generations to live under one roof and sacrifices are made to ensure that the all are taken care of. The older generations are held in a place of respect and ensured to spend their last years in the comfort of home watching their grandchildren grow. These comforts and privileges, unfortunately, are stripped from many elderly Caucasians.

Why do you think whites are more likely to put their parents and spouses into nursing homes? Would you ever consider putting your parents or your spouse into a nursing home? Would you consider moving your parents in with you to avoid this scenario? Would you, yourself, like to spend your final years on earth in a nursing home?

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