My New Year’s started with a visit to a nursing home to see my grandmother.
Placed behind the cut for those who have no interest in someone venting on personal matters.
What I saw has horrified me to the point where I have no idea what to think, and I can barely see what’s in front of me because I am just this dismayed, angry, and shocked. I know that the social systems are strapped for cash, especially in Far Rockaway after Hurricane Sandy, but what I have seen just got to me in such a way that I cannot keep quiet about it any longer. My discontent with Mayor Bloomberg has been building steadily, more and more whenever he enacts something utterly nonsensical as a soda tax, but will not so much as take a look at what’s going on in the city in regards to its most vulnerable residents. Instead, he slices the services that they depend on to such a degree that I truly have to worry about the future of New Yorkers.
Bear with me, please, because this will get personal, but it all just has to be said. And I will not name the nursing home in question. They are having it bad right now, and it’s just a foul situation all around. It’s like this everywhere in the city, and especially terrible for the homes that were near the water at the time that Sandy had hit. Several had actually shut down altogether because of the damage.
I just seriously need to vent.
But gods, nursing homes… You would think that when you’re past a certain age, when you’ve lived your life, when you’re that close to the end of the line, that you can rely on being even marginally taken care of, right? You’d think, right? BULL. This doesn’t happen. In today’s world, unless you have the means to afford in-home care, you can forget any sort of quietly living out the last of your days at home. And for everyone who thinks that your kids will care for you when you’re old, you cannot possibly be more deluded. Each and every person from Grandma’s nursing home was someone’s mother or father. The number-one complaint from them, all of them, is that their kids don’t see them anymore and that they left them there. And the most unfortunate part is that none of the kids in the equation have a choice. Because Mom and I and everyone has to work to survive. None of us can quit our jobs in order to take care of our aging loved ones, especially when they can no longer care for themselves.
Your kids will not take care of you when you’re old unless they have a big house and enough means to hire a home-care nurse when they’re not around. But the rest of us have to, whether or not it is as a last resort, approach a nursing home about our loved ones, and cross our fingers that insurance, be it Medicare or whatever private company, can cover it.
My grandmother’s nursing home is in Far Rockaway. Far Rockaway has been devastated by Sandy. It only now got heat back to most of the residences. Only now has power been restored. There’s no direct train service from Queens to the Rockaways because the train bridge over Broad Channel has been washed away in the storm. The home had to evacuate everyone; there was no power, no heat, food was running out, and the basement flooded. I’m glad now that it’s just the basement. But the operations in there have been all but shut down until about last week.
The fact that my grandmother has no knowledge of English whatsoever doesn’t help matters. She may have Alzheimer’s, but she still has enough clarity to read, and she is sociable, capable of socializing with other people, so long as – of course – they know Russian. In the prior-to-storm arrangement, she was so situated that she had been surrounded by Russian-speaking staff. Right now, the home is being repaired to come back to full operation, and at the same time, they are getting their residents back, into a partially-finished building.
And what I found yesterday was that my grandmother has, quite simply, been drugged up in the morning. Heavily. Why in the hell would anyone give a heavy sedative to a sedentary/bedridden 92-year-old? Is it because she can’t communicate in English? For fuck’s sake, if you want to keep my grandmother occupied, give her a book! We brought her over thirty books. She might not know what year it is, but she will read the translated Charles Dickens if it’s in front of her.
Oh, and it gets better. She was hospitalized. With severely depressed breathing. She has only one functional lung; the other one had collapsed in her teens. The doctors know this. This was a direct consequence of the sedatives given to her. Again, why in the fuck would anyone drug up a 92-year-old like that? Especially with a history of depressed breathing? What sort of hellhole is this where basic medical considerations for their patients don’t even exist anymore? And then they try to override the families’ wishes while in the hospital – and we have specifically stated to consult us before certain medicines because we know that Grandma may not be able to handle them. What the hell did this get to?!
This, ladies and gentlemen, are the conditions right now. This is the old age that awaits us New Yorkers, if we hadn’t made enough money to sustain living in even the assisted-living facilities, and if we have no children or grandchildren, or if ours can’t cover the bills. If this is what I will be facing when I’m in my late 80s, as women in my family tend to reach, I would much rather end my own life first. I would sooner do that than be drugged into an oblivion so intense that I’m nodding off while sitting in the dining room, and the nurse doesn’t do much more than give me a pillow to lean on so that there’s no tableface effect.
And on top of that, Congress cut Sandy relief aid.
So now what? Because this just effectively tells us that the nursing home might be left in that half-finished state of repairs. And what then? And what about the residents? What about my grandmother? What about the woman next door to her who was crying for her daughter? What about the stroke patient who was trying to talk to the nurses, whose speech was severely impaired? what. about. them.
I can’t quit working to take Grandma into our apartment; it is a bit bigger, but still no room to house one more person. Mom can’t quit working either. And neither of us wants her anywhere that would treat her like this. It wasn’t the case when she was still on the Russian floor, while that existed. But that’s the current state of affairs. And I am outraged, angry, and feeling ultimately powerless, but for the power of putting words to screen, or to paper if need be.
What can any of us do for our loved ones, when the only way for some of us to ensure that they’re looked after has been crippled first by the storm, and then by some fuckwitted politicians who think that hurricane relief for a city that had has barely seen a passable comparison to a hurricane in the century prior to Irene, relief to buildings that are, sometimes, the only living that a person might have, is just not anywhere near a priority?
And what does that say for those of us with aging parents? Or those of us who are only too aware that we won’t live forever? Let me explain to you what it says: it says that we’re disposable. That unless we can continue to work, unless we continue with our nose to the grindstone, that we’re useless. Either we make enough money to support ourselves for 30, 40 years after we retire – hey, people are living longer, which requires even more money to sustain – or we’re shit out of luck. And it’s really nice to know that we’re worth only the work that we can produce, and nothing else as human beings.
My grandmother had saved countless lives as a surgeon, both in WWII and afterwards, in hospital practice. What’s her worth, as a person, now that she’s bedridden?
I’m so angry about all of this I can’t even think straight.