Take Me Home, Country Roads

August 12, 2012

About a month ago, I found out that a place I used to work at, one that I left at the end of January which caused my schedule to change significantly (for good), and which I have talked about many times in this blog, is closing.

The girl who took my place there, L,  called me the day she found out, and the following week I paid a visit to the residents there to whom I promised I’d come back, and simultaneously participated in their music therapy session.

Before I went back though, I had several thoughts.  I thought about L – how she had just taken that position at the end of January and how now she’s losing her job.  Subsequently, I had a selfish thought about how lucky I was that I left when I did, and now don’t have to deal with some of the issues she is currently dealing with.  Of course I thought about the staff and how they may have a hard time finding another job, but most of all, I thought about the residents.  Where are they going to go?  How are they feeling about all of this?  Are they going to be able to keep in touch with the friends they’ve made there?

So…during the group I visited, the new MT asked if anyone wanted to talk about the news they had received.  The residents started out by saying cooly, “What are you gonna do?” “There’s nothing to say,” and “It is what it is,” among other very vague and apathetic-sounding answers, but as the hour wore on, more information came out.  Some became tearful and talked about how “I thought I’d live out my days here,” “we are losing our home,” and “we have nowhere else to go,” and talked about how their families (or lack thereof) can’t care for them at home, so they’ll have to go somewhere else, and how scary it is not knowing where or when that will be.

How terrible it must be, having literally no control in the matter. When a natural disaster occurs – a fire, an earthquake, a flood – I wonder the same thing.  There’s something about the lack of control in all of this that must take a lot out of a person.

The group ended up being a good forum for people to discuss their feelings and I can only hope that they didn’t stop there.  I hope they found solace outside of the group in talking to others about it and commiserating on their uncertain futures.  I hope they were able to keep in touch.  I just hope that it doesn’t kill them in their such fragile conditions.  Or maybe (for those who are emotionally ready to die) I hope the change does something to make whatever end someone might be experiencing more quick and less physically painful.  I’m sure it won’t take away the tasking emotional pain – in fact, it may make it worse, though I hope not.  I have probably too much hope, because I can’t bear to think about one hundred miserable elderly people who have to move AGAIN in the last years of their lives into a new place with strangers and an unfamiliar set of norms.

When I talked to the MT who took my position the other day, she told me there were 34 residents left in the 120+ bed facility.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like to go there right now.  It must feel like a ghost town.

I wonder…when someone’s home is gone, what do they do?

I discuss the idea of  “home” a lot in my sessions and what it means to individuals.  It can mean a country, it can mean a city or state, it can mean a specific house one once lived in, it can be where someone currently lives, and it can be a feeling you get when love and comfort is surrounding you.  The residents at this facility that is closing will have a new home, but I wonder how long it will take for it to feel like home.  It doesn’t happen overnight, and these elders don’t have a lot of time.

I’m going back to visit this coming week, one last time.  I wonder if the reality of it all will be palpable.  I’m sure I’ll get a lot of answers that I didn’t have the last time, and I’m sure there will be more questions.  Here are two more:

In a society that depends on elder housing and relies on space in skilled nursing facilities, how can we avoid this kind of thing from happening all over?

Building codes change and inspection criteria gets more nitpicky, but people still need a home.  Without a home, who are we?

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