It’s early dawn. Aside from the low hum of an airplane flying high overhead, only nature can be heard.
High-pitched cheeps of small birds escape from the surrounding woods. A large dog barks nearby. The sky is clear. It’s cool on the deck, but not too.
So many birds and wildlife can be heard, so different from the city. I’m not far from the city, but this morning it feels like cities don’t exist.
I am here for one reason, one person. I can see her through the French doors from where I sit. Nearing a beautiful 90 years old, Mable* sleeps alone in her giant country house.
Her companionship comprises of home care workers, neighbors and an orange tabby that just keeps getting fatter. This is how it should be, though.
The other day Mable said, “I don’t deserve you,” and “I am such a burden.”
All I could think to say was, “Absolutely not! You raised a family and worked when you were young. If anyone deserves to be cared for, it’s you,” and I meant it.
I was a Certified Nurses Assistant just out of high school. I worked in a facility that was then known as a convalescent home. They tend to be called “rehabilitation hospitals” these days.
There I had anywhere from 15 to 25 residents to care for. They shared rooms in twos and threes. They had no furniture from home, the antiques they’d collected over their lifetimes or their special collections of spoons on display.
If a resident had their own television set up, they were able to choose what they wanted to watch each day. However, more than one in a room would cause a battle of volumes and the subsequent squabbles between roommates.
My long-term care residents were not living life; they were waiting to die.
So many of them had their homes sold off by greedy children who then abandoned them with only strangers and busy care workers to talk to. Mable’s husband worked hard and spent frugally to provide her with this home.
When she was young she sold movie tickets and worked in a factory during World War II. Together, they raised two beautiful daughters who grew into successful women.
With in-home care, the house that Mable so carefully decorated herself was not sold. The television is on the channel and at a volume chosen without conflict.
She made the curtains herself and upholstered much of the furniture, a skill learned as a young girl of 13. Her clothes are in the closet where she left them.
Mable chooses what she eats and when, a privilege lost for long-term care residents.
Her care is one-on-one. Strangers do not surround her. Everything has its place and is not moved without her express permission or instruction.
This is what her husband wanted and what Mable deserves. Someone who has led a life such as hers could never be a burden.
We all need care as children, and then we grow up and raise our own children. We do not send them off to be raised by strangers in homes full of unrelated roommates.
Our parents and grandparents should be allowed to stay in their homes as well.
Besides, in-home care can cost less than long-term. Especially if the client’s home has been fully paid for.
Aside from a little light housekeeping, Mable is my only focus. No bosses hovering over me. No other residents demanding my attention. No family members to please.
Mable may not have family nearby, but in her home she is administrator, president, queen and prime minister. Anyone who comes here is here only for her.
She remains in the home she herself decorated down to every small, impeccable detail and she has the last say about what happens around her and in her home.
In my experience, this can make a considerable difference in the quality of Mable’s remaining years.
*Name changed to protect client confidentiality