Marooned in No Man's Land: A nursing home

I now know what living was like for Robinson Crusoe — not shipwrecked or floundered on some shoal, but a victim of cruel circumstances.  After decades of toil, I retired.  An over 55 retirement community became my destination.  Lovely grounds right out of a storybook.  Activities that would put a cruise ship to shame.  Extensive dining room options. Farm to table.  What could be better?  That is where the good part of the saga ends. 

Because this is an over 55 retirement community, it comes complete with what is called continuing care, home care, assisted living, and what is known as a nursing home.  All the mandates the government imposed on nursing homes fell upon the entire community as well as the retirement management wanting to keep us "safe," they say.  I can be charitable and say what is being done is in our best interest.  If not, I can say it is a cruel measure being perpetrated upon the voiceless. 

The "shelter in place" notion is no less harmful than the virus itself.  Essentially, everyone is locked down.  Socializing?  Nope.  The cruise has ended.  We are no more than inmates.  Meals being delivered with a knock on the door by a faceless person with a mask and wearing purple gloves that make them unrecognizable.  They drop the package of food — our meals — on the floor.  You see, there can be no human contact.  They scamper away long before one can get to the door.

The bus trips for "excursions" to faraway places have long ended.  The local shuttle several times a week into town to get whatever we need has ended as well.  Remember: this is for our own good.  We are not to visit our fellow humans.  No outsiders are allowed in.  We are not allowed out.  No family members.  No one who isn't required to keep us alive is let in — if what we are doing is living.

I have exhausted Amazon Prime and Netflix movies.  I am a lucky one.  I have binged and binged.  I am able to amuse myself, at least to a point.  I like to think I still have my faculties.  I have a car and able to drive.  I can escape.

Spiritual care called.  They asked if I had talked to anyone.  They could set up face time.  That was nice.  Did I need anything?  Nope. 

I didn't watch the congressional COVID hearing.  I wondered if it was a sign of depression.  They warned us about that.  Perhaps because it would be pouring salt in my wound.  This COVID thing.  They might discuss nursing homes.  Perhaps a sign of my potential xenophobia.  When I saw Trump at the latest presser attacked because he suggested that the "reporter" (some kid there to hassle him) ask China for the answer to her question.  (She was Asian, don't you know.)  I have had enough of this nonsense.

The designated nursing home. Killing with kindness. 

Those whose mates live outside our designated nursing home but whose partners still have a cottage or apartment cannot visit their partners.  Those who live in the designated nursing home are essentially not permitted outside their rooms.  No communal meals — thus, little physical activity or mental stimulation.  None of the group activities that give meaning to daily living.  Loneliness, which is a proven killer. 

Just whom are we saving for what? 

In a study of elderly Americans who moved to a nursing home for their final months or years of life, 65 percent died there within one year, according to an investigation by researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco.

"One quarter of all deaths in the United States occur in nursing homes, and that figure is expected to rise to 40 percent by the year 2020," says Smith.  Smith describes the average and median length of stay before death as "surprisingly brief."  The average age of participants when they moved to a nursing home was about 83.  The average length of stay before death was 13.7 months, while the median was five months.  Fifty-three percent of nursing home residents in the study died within six months.  Men died after a median stay of three months, while women died after a median stay of eight months.  Married participants died a median four months sooner than those who were unmarried. 

The implication, he says, is that "we need to engage nursing home residents in planning conversations about end-of-life care and treatment preferences very soon after they are admitted. We have only a brief amount of time to address their concerns before they become seriously ill." 

I can assure you that isolating these poor souls for the months they have remaining on this mortal coil is not in their game plan. 

Robinson Crusoe: 

I cannot explain, by any possible energy of words, what a strange longing or hankering of desires I felt in my sould[.] ... O that there had been but one or two; nay, or but one soul sav'd out of this ship, to have escap'd to me, and to have convers'd with!  In all the time of my solitary life, I never felt so earnest, so strong a desire after the society of my fellow-creatures, or so deep a regret at the want of it.

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