Finding a nursing home for my mom is proving to be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do. It’s not even because of all the bureaucratic bullshit I have to face, like getting her assessed, applying for Medicaid, and finding an available bed in a place that’s not a million miles away from me. Well, it’s partly those things. But more than that, the challenge is in finding a place where I think she’ll be happy. That just seems impossible.
One place I’m considering has a reputation for great dementia care, but the unit and rooms are ugly and spare and hospital-like. Other places have fairly nice rooms in bright, open environments, but the dementia care is minimal and the patients are kept locked on their units. Another place seems to offer good care in a nice setting, but it’s so far from where I live and work that I won’t be able to visit often. The tradeoffs we have to make seem huge, and I can’t imagine how we’ll manage.
But even if I could find the ideal place, it wouldn’t make my mom happy.
Nursing homes are not happy places. As my friend Judi said to me, they’re waiting rooms for death. They’re the places where old people who’ve lost nearly everything go to lose what little they have left, from their assets to their dignity. There’s nothing happy about that degree of loss. And I have to wonder if it’s possible for anyone who enters a facility, even on a visit, not to sense that loss and get depressed by it.
I’m pretty certain that even with her dementia, my mom will feel it. I imagine she’ll go on feeling it for a while, at least until she’s lost herself completely.