Close your eyes. Now imagine this being a typical day in your life.
You awake to the sound of loud voices and carts moving in the hallway outside your door.
You want to keep sleeping, but someone has entered your room and thrown on the lights. It's someone you do not recognize. Your covers are drawn back and you feel cold and exposed. Your bottom garments are removed and then you are lifted out of bed and transferred into a wheelchair.
You are pushed down the bright and noisy hallway. Linen bins line the walls and the pungent smell of faeces and urine stings your nostrils.
You arrive in a bright room where your remaining clothing is removed and you are transferred on to a plastic bench. A shower is turned on. The temperature is not to your liking but you are unable to verbalize that. You are spoken to in short "friendly" commands: "lift your arm, "hold on," "close your eyes," etc.
You are methodically scrubbed with institutional smelling soap, quickly rinsed and then transferred back into the wheelchair. A small coarse towel is wrapped around you (you vaguely remember the large plush towels you had at home) and another is laid across your lap. You feel cold and exposed again. Then you are wheeled through the same hallway. People are bustling about and nobody seems to notice or understand what you might be feeling.
You hear things like: "Did you see the mess Mr. Jones made In bed this morning? Ugh!" and "When was Mrs. Hall's last bowel movement?" or "Has any one changed Bed 3 yet?" Back in your room, you are dressed in an outfit someone else has chosen for you and placed in front of your TV (which is stationed to a program you never would have chosen for yourself.)
Breakfast is served on a plastic tray with plastic utensils. Even the food tastes plastic. Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if it weren't cold again. You are wearing a bib and being served beverages from a Styrofoam cup. Before you have had time to finish one mouthful, another is fast approaching.
Everyone is on a schedule. It's hard to believe that you'll never have another cheese omelette prepared "just for you" or coffee from one of your favourite cups. Fresh fruit? Just another thing of the past. Mid meal, your attendant is called away. Eventually another appears and finishes the job while her eyes are on the TV.
Your bed needs changing and since you are "in the way," you are moved into the hall way in front of the nurse's station along with some other residents. Periodically buzzers go off and calls go unanswered. You spend the rest of your morning gazing at the wall tiles.
You're bored, lonely and depressed. You wish you had some small bit of control in your life, but you have none. You wonder where your family is. You desperately long for home. People assume that because you've shut down, your memory and mind have, too. But you know where you are, and you know very well where you've been.
Workers come and go, but no one takes the time to stop and speak to you beyond, "Hello." Minutes pass like hours and you measure time by the arrival of your meals.
After lunch you have a "bowel movement" and you're sitting in it. Won't anyone notice? (Of course whoever notices first will have to clean you up.) You know that only death will end your suffering. When someone else decides it's time, you are brought back to your room.
Dinner is "ground up" something. You don't know what. (They've taken to grinding your food because it takes so long for you to chew.) Half the time you clamp your mouth shut because they're feeding you stuff you never would have let past your own lips when you were in control of your life. They settle for getting a cup of Ensure in you. Again, when someone else decides it's time, you are changed for bed. You don't really mind though. Sleep is the only peace you know.
You're given some apple sauce that is gritty and tastes awful, and are encouraged (before being forced) to accept it. These are your medications. And since your teeth have already been taken out for soaking, you are left with that flavour in your mouth for the rest of the night.
You close your eyes and pray for sleep. But it's a long time coming because your room mate is crying, like she does every night, that she wants to go home. You wish that someone would comfort her (or you.) You wish that someone would lie down along side of you and stroke your hair until you fell asleep...
You have just imagined one day in the life of a resident living in a conventional nursing facility.
Now imagine that this was going to be how you, or your loved ones, were going to live out each day for the rest of your lives.
By Yvette Fuerderer