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Jul 09

Chronicle from the Old Folks’ Home — Part 13

In Brief— A look at one of the departments and the old folks who live in this area of the warehouse. [Written in February 2017.]

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Old Folks “R” Us—

Like everybody, we’re all different…except we’re older. We may be getting grayer and more wrinkled in a comfortable warehouse instead of grousing and giving sage advice at the kitchen table, but a warehouse is the future…at least here in Scandinavia.

Some of my fellow residents are mere youngsters in their mid-sixties while others in their mid-nineties are challenging national statistics. Some are clear-headed if slower than a few years ago, but some sit staring into space and don’t even recognize their spouses and children. Tragically, one lady in the next department is only in her mid-sixties and suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s. I hate using “suffering” because she is clearly not suffering; she has glommed onto a guy there who endures her attentions. Visiting dogs, however, charm us all, including the personnel. A wagging tail and the warm slurp of a canine tongue are worth a thousand hugs.

At this end of the second floor corridor, the view from our windows is over back yards, trees, grass and playing children who noisily skitter about in the yard of the daycare center. Fortunately, it’s across the street. In the winter, it’s snow…at least most of the time. The hill and the forest are only a couple of blocks away to the right. Birds and occasionally deer are common sights here on the island. The bustling town of Östersund is just across the lake, accessible via a short, well-traveled bridge. Ewa lives there in our apartment…the apartment I used to live in, too.

The rooms here in the warehouse are much the same throughout the building except for the color-coding of the different areas. Ours is dusty rose…without the dust. The other colors on this floor are soft gray and soft green. I read once that colors affect our moods. Makes sense.

Relatives and spouses decorate the rooms with furniture that supposedly makes the residents feel at home. Mine features a work desk for the computer, book shelves and a comfortable chair where I can relax and read. Oh, and the narrow bed, Ewa’s art, family photos and a few of my pieces of pottery. Admittedly a bit spare, but it works for me.

At the far end of our wing is Ingaborg. She’s just a name to me because she’s unable to get about and join the others in the nearby dayroom. I see the personnel deliver her meal to her when I take my irregular walks at midday. From what I can tell, this invisible woman appears to be clear-headed.

Next is Aina. She’s a slight, clear-headed woman whose husband used to live downstairs and was the only other person here fed through a tube. He got off the train at his destination several months ago. Since her husband’s departure, Aina has faded a bit, looks considerably older and has fallen severely injuring her knee. She smiles, but she’s not the upbeat person she was before.

Between Aina and me, is Kjell (pronounced “shell”). He’s one of the guys who got into a tussle over a bowl of Xmas snacks. Short and stocky, almost exactly my age, he has all his marbles and greets me like a brother, albeit silently with a smile and a cheery wave. I’m told that he refers to me as “that American.” I really like him, but after the snack incident at Xmas, I have to admit he may have a bit of a short fuse.

Last but definitely not least on this side is me. I’ve described my room above and my yo-yo emotions in past pieces, but I don’t recall if I’ve told you how I came to be here. When Ewa became stressed by having to dance to the tune of my disabilities, I realized it and volunteered to live in an eldercare facility, a warehouse like this. A meeting with a woman from the kommun led to my being here after a short wait. It seems to be working. Occasionally, despite regular visits by Ewa and the family Sheltie, I miss the old days, but the future beckons and I’m okay.

I haven’t included the four old folks just around the corner. They’ll appear in another episode, but for the curious among you, Bengt (the three-time escapee) has descended sharply into dementia and looks like he may not last long.

Since my mandatory nap is whispering to me, I’ll tell you about my fellow residents next time. The personnel who work so hard to see to our comfort will also be on the menu. Their personalities, like everybody’s, make life interesting. Stay tuned.

The Weekly Sampler—

As a reminder, go to the Archives on the right side of the page and click on the month and year of that week’s featured Sampler. If you wish, go to the January 15, 2017, blog (“A Simple Reading Assignment”) for more thorough instructions.

If you want to read the entire piece, simply click on the box titled “Continue Reading.” When you want to read the next piece, simply swipe your cursor across the one you have been reading and you will find the next one. Do this every time you want to read the next piece.

Don’t miss the Comments and my replies. Even though the Sampler pieces are from the past, feel free to comment…or not.

Go to the Archives on the right side. Click on September 2015.

4 comments

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  1. Jim Newton

    Thanks for the update about your life in the warehouse. I don’t envy you but it’s clear that you aren’t despondent and have learned to accept your situation, maybe even to appreciate your surroundings. As we as a species become longer lived it’s inevitable that more and more of us will end up in a warehouse.

    I think you and I are lucky living where we do in that respect. In Victoria there are lots of opportunities to live in a pleasant warehouse with good care and pleasant surroundings. The population here is probably the oldest average age of any city in Canada, given the mild climate that attracts us oldsters. And many people of advanced age are also living on their own here. Chris’s mother is 99 and her aunt is 104 and they both live on their own.

    Anyway, stay as well as you can and keep the positive attitude.

    1. Don Bay

      We’re lucky to live where we do, but I confess that there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t look forward to nothingness…particularly when I’m surrounded by old folks with dementia. Yes, I make the best of my situation, but believe that my friend had the right idea in checking out when he did and how he did. I believe in personal autonomy, but I call Sweden a “nanny state” because they oppose my view. Anyway, I take it a step at a time. To you and Chris I echo Spock when I say, “Live long and prosper.”

  2. Donna Boe

    Your existence sounds comfortable, Don, although as you said, you prefer your previous situation. Here, persons who are too disabled to live independently, might have a home health nurse come in several times a week, might have a spouse who is their care giver, or might go a assisted living facility. All but the care by the spouse can be very expensive, so cost plays a role in decisions for the patient. With more and more people in the US getting older and more feeble, there’s got to be a better solution.
    For people who can live alone with just a little help or change in their environment, there are the retirement homes , which can range from pretty basic to pretty fancy. The person buys the apartment, then pays a monthly fee for meals, and almost hotel-like amenities.
    We have been watching our neighbor, a former champion skier and tennis player, suffer from the effects of terminal cancer. She now has difficulty walking, and difficulty speaking. But she enjoys visits from her many friends and relatives, and is still comfortable at home. I watch her stoic husband as he silently agonizes over her deteriorating condition. I know that both of them struggle with emotions dealing with the finality of it all.
    Hospice is a good alternative once patients have stopped medical interventions. Hospice provides physical, medical and emotional support. Families who have used hospice have been really grateful.
    Choices in Sweden must be similar for some cases, and very different for others. I’m glad you still have your full set of mental abilities and have your computer. I’m also glad that you have accepted the comfortable place where you are now living.
    Donna

    1. Don Bay

      Your description of healthcare in the USA is helpful and in some ways superior to Sweden. Examples of superiority are that a few states allow death assistance, and hospice care is usually available.

      Regardless of the Swedish way, it’s still a warehouse for the old and dementia cases. Like it or not, that’s the future in enlightened societies: the elderly are segregated into their own narrow communities. I accept that and recognize the inevitability, but it’s still segregation.

      Unfortunately, Sweden (the nanny state) will not officially accept the right to determine one’s own death. Since I’m too cowardly to deal with the pain of suicide, I’m condemned to live out my genetic inheritance. Although I still have all my marbles, my greatest fear is that my brain will deteriorate before the body gives out. Another fear is that Ewa will die or be incapacitated while I’m still compis mentis (sp?). That’s me. That’s Sweden.

      Thanks for the kind words and your comment.

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