Less Assisting, More Living | Teen Ink

Less Assisting, More Living

June 22, 2011
By ael429 BRONZE, Waterford, Michigan
ael429 BRONZE, Waterford, Michigan
3 articles 10 photos 20 comments

I’ll never forget my first visit to a nursing home. My great great aunt Margaret’s room had one window, which would be better suited for a dollhouse, a sterile tile floor, and stark white walls. She had a fabric Christmas tree adorning her bedside table, but my mom told her we would go pick up a real miniature tree instead to bring some life into the room. Margaret responded, “No, I set up that one because the attendants walk past and knock my things off the ledge without picking them up.” You’d think they were paying her to stay in the place while, in fact, the money Margaret had earned throughout her life was being transferred to the hands of those careless attendants, just so they could knock her few remaining possessions to the ground.

Elderly treatment is not a topic to be taken lightly, even though it seems it often is by the facilities that offer care to seniors who can’t quite care for themselves. I’m employed at one of these facilities where I serve the food in the dining room. The building is an assisted living residency but many of the people who I serve dinner need more than just assistance – they need around the clock care. At times, I’ve found myself catching people from falling, opening medications, and my boss has even asked me to join the Home Healthcare team where I would be bathing and helping residents out before bed, even though I have no training or certification regarding elderly people. I should not have the responsibility over a person’s life that I’m handed working at an assisted living home.

Many of the residents in the building can’t afford to come down for dinner and countless others don’t come down because we can’t cater to their dietary needs. The reason most of our customers do come to dinner is to socialize. Some arrive early just to strike up conversations with me. Bill used to play basketball, met his wife on a blind date, and has a grandson who is the quarterback on his high school’s football team. “Bill, you’re extra early today,” I said as Bill scooted in forty minutes ahead of time with his walker. He replied, “I got tired of watching TV up in my room all day alone.”

Every person has their own stories and wisdom to share yet they’re being treated like a bag of rocks. In this society, we don’t put our children in assisted living homes when we decide we can’t take care of them. A child would have a lot of difficulty surviving more than forty-eight hours in one. Our elderly relatives can’t be expected to either. Sucking the elderly of this country into the multi-billion dollar business of assisted living homes is unjust, unethical, and sad. In countries such as Singapore and India, having respect and dedication for elderly relatives is a part of the culture. When older family members can not care for themselves anymore, the younger relatives do all that they can to help. When I am grown and my parents are aged, I will spend my life caring for them before the thought of an assisted living home crosses my mind. People need to be better informed about the reality behind assisted living homes so they think twice before convincing their elderly relatives to live in one.

The author's comments:
Working at an assisted living home was a huge learning experience for me. Hearing the residents' stories was the highlight of my day. Seeing the residents' living conditions and how they were far from ideal really inspired me to write about the facilities and spread the awareness, so that maybe everyone can appreciate their own and others' elderly relatives more.

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