The young parents had their arms full. Standing in line at the Beachwood Winterfest, our chamber of commerce’s annual community pancake breakfast, they were trying to keep three small children close while holding five Styrofoam plates. The parents were talking with Mark Nolan of WKYC. Local politicians, several of whom had their nominating petitions conveniently available, were kvelling over the little boys. The kids just wanted to eat pancakes with blueberries. They didn’t care about the festivities or the celebrities, but no one was asking for their opinion. It took awhile, but eventually we all knew what the children wanted.
My friend Marc lives in Israel. His mom lives in Menorah Park. I visit every other Sunday. This week I brought chocolate.
Menorah Park is the most beautiful, best staffed, nicest nursing home I have ever seen. If I wasn’t Jewish, I would schedule a meeting with a rabbi just to make sure I could move in there when I get older. But, it is still a nursing home. Fantastic facilities and wonderful, dedicated caregivers can’t hide that fact.
The elderly men and women in the area I visit never forget that they are in a nursing home. They are constantly reminded of their physical limitations. They are painfully aware of how dependent they are on the staff for their most basic needs, things we take for granted. One example is going to the restroom.
Many of the residents are incapable of transporting themselves from their rooms to the dining area, from the dining area back to their rooms, from the comfort of their chairs to the restroom. They all can’t be moved at once. Invariably, many wait while someone is being assisted. Every moment of waiting reinforces their helplessness. Every unanswered call reminds them that they no longer have any independence. And every moment spent alone waiting for the aides makes them feel even less significant and more invisible.
I think, sometimes, that our job is to search for the invisible and let them know that we can see them and that they are not alone.