Sunday, December 6, 2009

Helping the Elderly and Eliminating the Home

WWII Morale poster, source: Northwestern University Poster Library (via wikimedia), public domain.

Nursing homes weren't as common in the past. The elderly used to be an important part of communities, and you can still see this in many books written from a previous time.

My Grandma has told me about the people in her neighborhood who fix things around the house, make her meals, drive her places she needs to go, especially at night, and are available if she's in trouble. Her church is always there for her, providing her a tight web of connections from which she can draw every form of support, and in exchange, she uses here substantial finances to take good care of the church as well, and can lend her support and aid of every sort that she is able to the people around her. She's 86, has been in a major car accident, and has very limited energy. But she's kept her house.

She still lives there, just as she did when she was young, and people still visit her from around the neighborhood. It's a friendly neighborhood, upper-class, in a large city where most people know a decent neighbor of their neighbors. She's lived there almost her entire life.

She has told me many times that the biggest reason she has been able to stay in her house is because people help her.

Now to business. A society that utilizes people for 40 years and then discards them when they are no longer of use to it will, in the end, lose it's humanity, it's individuality, it's respectfulness and lawfulness, it's spirit and cultural soul, it's inner strength, and it's touch with any deeper emotional connection among human beings. A society that does not value those who have worked for it, lived for it, loved for it, and in some cases, fought in wars for it, even sustaining injuries, will, in the end, value no one. If we burn whatever is of no use, we will be left with ashes, no loyalty, and no dignity. These people provided what you have, why do you deny them a small portion of it?

What do they do in nursing homes? They make food, they clean, and they check on people. Nothing they do in a nursing home has to be done in a nursing home, and very little of what they do in most nursing homes requires a paid professional. Now, I understand the burden of boarding your grandmother in your own house (though I also see the beauty of it, having three generations of a family in one place together, the young benefiting from the wisdom and care of the old, and the young taking care of the old) but as a community, each and every one of us by ourselves, we can take care of just a little bit of what each and every one of these beautiful, valuable citizens and people need to stay independent, healthy, and in a way, productive, while enriching our own lives through true community and relationships that can last forever. Even something as simple as helping an old man who has trouble up a staircase can, even, save a life, a limb, or the health of a man with osteoporosis or serious disorders of that sort. Merely feeling like they're able to ask for help can keep these people out of homes with disrespectful employees, low standards of living, and isolation from a real, balanced, diverse community, and destroying the finances of a family that must pay for care that, honestly, it usually doesn't need.

I'm not saying that every single person can be kept out of a nursing home, but these people have given their lives, their labor, their love, for a lifetime to all of us around them, and continue to give even today, and just helping them occasionally when they need it will make them feel like they can ask for help. And our society as a whole will benefit not only from their presence, and their lives, among us, but from the better attitude created by actually taking care of people. With that attitude comes respect, reverence, dignity, honor, all the things that you see none of in our human-hating modern world.


Derek said...

Yeah, nursing homes are definitely not ideal. And I think most people probably recognize that they can potentially be dehumanizing, etc. But i guess it gets back to the know, are you just ditching your Grandmother at a nursing home b/c it's "inconvenient for you to put up with her"? If that's the case, one should examine his or herself. But perhaps there are times when nursing homes can provide healthcare, community, etc. and other good things. Regardless, at the end of the day, family is more important than inconvenience.

Tony Cartman said...

I don't see nursing home as a bad thing. But also I agree that it wouldn't work nowadays

Anonymous said...

I heartily agree - I would add that having kids later in life adds to the problem, because if you are in college, say, when your parents begin to need assistance you are less able to care for them without sacrificing a lot of your opportunities to work and provide for yourself.