As I’ve aged, I’ve tried to be responsible and consider the needs of my loved ones as well as myself. I’ve done the right things. I have an end of life directive, a will, a power of attorney, and I even left a list of ideas for my memorial service.
I’ve also tried to rely on the words of my doctors and my daughter and not just insist that it’s my way or the highway. I really want to be a rational senior.
All my life I’ve heard about difficult elders and I was determined not to be one. But after my recent time in the nursing home, I saw that my tolerance of unpleasant conditions is definitely very limited.
I’ve always thought of myself as adaptable but I didn’t do too well on my nursing home stay. I hated it and I certainly let myself slip into reacting to conditions rather than being an independent actor. I only give myself a grade of C minus when it comes to managing my reactions to those nursing home conditions.
As one’s powers diminish, life gets more frustrating. Bottle caps resist turning. Names hide in closeted parts of the memory. Technology sprints into new worlds leaving the senior user far behind.
As one’s powers diminish, it is tempting to become more demanding and more childish. We sometimes make foolish choices. If you don’t believe me, read King Lear. For example, a father of one of my friend’s called her at 3 AM and insisted she drive over an hour, in the rain, to his nursing home; because he needed someone to fix the remote on his TV.
I don’t do things like that but I worry about it.
That said – I really hated the skilled nursing facility I was in and I’m afraid I wasn’t very grown up about it. Instead of practicing gratitude, I complained a great deal.
I’m still not finished complaining… My room was disorganized and no one ever put anything back in the same place twice. The nurses were pleasant although they were harried and often confused. They took 20 to 30 minutes to respond to my call. The food was terrible and I didn’t agree with the doctor’s treatment methods. Except for that – I hated the lack of mobility.
This nursing home had good ratings and I’m assured it is better than most. If this is one of the better ones, I don’t even want to think about the others. My two weeks there were extremely irritating. The staff made several mistakes that I caught and that was scary.
Part of my irritation came from being treated as though I were senile, I hate it when people say, “It’s time for our dinner” – worse yet, “our shower.” It is my dinner although you are welcome to it. It wasn’t anyone’s shower because they announced it by saying, “You missed your shower time”.
Sometimes it seemed to me it might be easier if I were senile but I can’t imagine that is a safe choice.
I’d be the first to admit I’m not well suited to being locked up and cared for. I was born to be free. I inherited the blood of the Wild West. My mother once helped her sister pull the plugs and escape a very big city hospital. They just yanked out the IV tubes and went home.
While incarcerated, I contemplated a similar action. I wheeled myself out to the front doors a few times and stared at my options but I couldn’t drive and it was a long way home. I stayed the course and endured the travail while the ghosts of my mother and aunt haunted and taunted me.
I came three days ago, and immediately called my dear friend and mentor, Rev. Marvis Rodrigues. She is a safe for me to complain to because she doesn’t judge and she has her own experiences. In fact, her life story is a testimony to courage and endurance, She was born with a severe anomaly and has suffered many hospitalizations because of a birth defect she never talks or complains about. She is a courageous friend and helps me keep things in perspective.
Rev. Marvis had a successful ministry despite being physically challenged and she is now retired. She told me a delightful story about visiting a friend who was in a nursing home and was just as frustrated as I was. Together, with the approval of the activity director of the nursing home, they devised a wonderful activity to relieve stress and express creativity.
Marvis and her wheelchair bound friend created a drumming circle for the rest of the residents who wanted to participate. Most of them were also using wheelchairs. She, and several church volunteers, donated drums and percussion instruments and the circle met weekly. Everyone got to express themselves while making music based on the rhythm of the heartbeat. What could be more healing? More basic? More fun?
The drumming circle allowed everyone, including the mentally and mobility challenged residents, to express their feelings. According to Rev. Marvis, “The process of pounding on a drum or shaking a rattle or tambourine allowed the residents to release pent up anger and frustration. Plus, they all ended up with a smile on their face. It became a favorite activity the residents looked forward to”
The activity director shared with Rev. Marvis that after a drumming session, the residents returned to their rooms happier, more relaxed, and they took very sound afternoon naps.
Rev. Marvis’s story sounded like a great idea and I decided it might be an activity I could use to clear up some of my negative feelings about the whole experience.
I have been disappointed at my reaction to the frustrations of the nursing skills center. Up until now, I haven’t had any way to release my emotions and move on. Now, I have decided to pursue creating drumming circles. I will begin by talking to some of the people in my Center for Spiritual Living about creating a drumming circle for a nursing home in our area.
If any of you readers are looking for an outreach project for yourself or your church, you might consider setting up a drumming circle in a neighborhood nursing home yourselves.
I think it will be a fairly simple project. Instruments are easy to find in toy shops. Or you can get creative and use metal or wooden spoons, and pots and pans. Very often the activity director of the nursing home will utilize the idea into a drum making activity with their residents using coffee cans. Your friends and church people will probably be happy to help supply the instruments.
Residents enjoy the music concerts provided in the afternoons more than any other activity I’ve seen in nursing homes. Drumming is a very primal form of music making and it seems as if it would be an easy activity to set up.
I want to release the negative aspects of my nursing home experience and move on in my own consciousness. I know that there is always a new choice and a new opportunity and I can release my frustration. I also know I am not alone; a drumming circle could be wonderful for others as well.
Let me know if the idea appeals to you. If you follow through in your own neighborhood, please keep me informed.
How do I release stress?
Does this idea appeal to me?
How might I follow through?