Whenever I visit a retirement home, I feel conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I experience tremendous joy because these fantastic centers exist that take care of older people. Any professional working in these places is admirable.
On the other hand, I can’t help feeling sad. When I was at university, I did my internship in a retirement home. One thing will be etched in my memory forever. A few employees told me that some of the elderly citizens who stayed there hadn’t had any visitors at all in months.
Every now and then I visit my uncle in the retirement home where he stays. This place is very well taken care of and so is he. The food is also very good.
Although he is not really old yet, he is not able to take care of himself. He has no partner and no children. It was a tough decision for the entire family to have him admitted to the retirement home.
He is happy there and has even gained a few kilos. The employees say he behaves well. I like to visit and have a cup of coffee with him. He is looking forward to it and greets me with these words: “How are you, topper?” Most of the time, however, he confuses me with my brother.
The sad corridors of the retirement home
To get to my uncle’s room I have to cross half of the building. I take the elevator to the floor where he is staying and surprise him. To get to his room I have to go through a corridor where several elderly people are always in wheelchairs. It’s like they can’t even move anymore.
Whenever I pass by, I always greet them with a huge smile. Some look at me and smile back. Others look at me and don’t laugh. There are also people who just don’t notice I’m there.
Some of them look so sad and distraught. I can’t help but wonder what’s going on in their minds. What was their life like before they moved to the retirement home? I especially wonder if they ever imagined they would end up in an immobile wheelchair and so overwhelmed by illness or by life itself.
I remember meeting an old man during my internship. He shared a room with a woman who just laughed and screamed. The man seemed very violent. His Alzheimer’s disease was so advanced that he could hardly speak.
One day I decided to make contact with him. I sat down next to him and started asking him questions about his life. I managed to get him to tell where he was born. After that I started to get more and more out of him. One day he even smiled at me. That was a surprise.
Elderly people in the retirement home only want affection
During one of the internship days I was walking in the hall and I heard him screaming. I went to his room and found two employees trying to give him a bath. However, the man did not stop trembling.
I entered the room. When he saw me, he relaxed completely. That was the key I was looking for all along. Behind the expressionless look and impaired cognitive abilities was a person who needed nothing but affection.
Getting love and companionship is so important to these people. Gea Sijkes, director of the Stichting Woon- en Zorgcentrum Humanitas in Deventer, has started a project on this aspect. In 2012, she decided to provide free accommodation to students in the retirement home. In return, they had to spend at least 30 hours a month with the older residents.
Souls eager to feel connected with others
In the retirement home where I did my internship and in the place where my uncle lives, I could see that most older people are very lonely. The employees who work in these institutions are busy. So they cannot provide the necessary support.
In addition, it makes me very sad that some elderly citizens get little or no visitors. Behind every elderly person is a soul eager to connect with another person. Little by little, the loneliness consumes them.
I feel that society has taught us that only functional things are worth taking care of. What I can’t imagine is that so many families decide to leave their elderly behind in a retirement home. They do this when they believe that the elderly can no longer contribute.
Worst of all, they rarely visit them. Older people have a story that is valuable to listen to. They are as important as young people. We should not abandon people just because they are getting old.
In many cases, retirement homes are great alternatives. This article only aims to highlight the loneliness and desolation that many elderly citizens go through. Unfortunately, some adults treat them as if they were a burden. They decide to leave them in a retirement home and then forget about them.
The great work in retirement homes
The hectic schedules and other responsibilities are why many families cannot care for their elderly when they can no longer care for themselves.
In those cases, a retirement home is a great choice. However, it is important that you remember to visit them constantly. Regardless of our age, we all need love.
Many elderly people do not feel bad because they live in a rest home. However, they languish if their loved ones don’t make the time to visit them now and then.
These settings do a great job. That is something for which we should always be grateful. Without them, many families would have to resort to desperate measures to care for their elderly.
So we have to start being a little more considerate of our elderly. You don’t always have to be with them. However, do visit regularly. We should never forget that they took care of us when we were younger. So let’s repay them all the positive things they’ve done for us.