The shriveled old women and wizened old men—sitting alone in wheel chairs and recliners in a large, airy room—look upset. They have reason to be angry. Trapped in uncooperative bodies, they are forced to live in a prison for the weak and infirm. They might be recipients of love insufficient to place them in a son’s or daughter’s or sister’s or brother’s home. Or their requirements simply might be too great; the people who love them just cannot fulfill their needs. Regardless of why they remain tethered to a place they don’t want to be, they are here.
They are helpless to clear the air of the stench of urine puddling on sheets and chairs and the floor, courtesy of malfunctioning bladders. They do not control when they eat nor what they eat. They have no control over the music they hear, the television programs they watch, nor the when the lights in their rooms go on or off.
Were they in a hospital, they might be witnessing the people around them, and themselves, hurtling toward death. But this is no hospital, this is a place for long-term care of people unable to care for their personal needs. This is a place where residents needed help walking or turning over in bed or even getting out of bed.
This is a place where lives leak out of bodies slowly, where hope and happiness drain silently onto a concrete floor, washed away unnoticed in the daily ritual of disinfecting and decontaminating everything they touch.
I wonder whether, if given the opportunity, these forlorn residents would choose to make their next sleep their last? If I were in their slippers, I believe I would.