By Dan Smith
For many of us, the chances of landing in some sort of care facility at the end of our lives are pretty high.
This is scary. A loss of independence, the high cost, being looked after by strangers - it's not something I have anticipated happily, to say the least.
Over the years, there have been several well-publicized instances of abuse of the elderly by unscrupulous employees of some assisted living facilities. But I have inside information that makes me feel better about my chances of being well-cared for. My daughter Shayla and niece Amanda are both certified nursing assistants who work in elderly care centers. Both of those young ladies exhibit an extraordinary level of caring toward their clients. They say that attitude is more the industry norm. If that is true, we can all breathe a sigh of relief.
My daughter speaks of those in her care as though they are members of the family. She revels in their successes, hurts for them when they are ill and mourns their passing - often attending their funeral services. That is the kind of care we all hope that our seniors are receiving.
Something else I didn't know - but again, makes me less scared going to a home - is that many of the residents find love.
Shayla and Amanda say each shift brings unexpected drama as the elderly men and women experience the flirtations that we all had in grade school. When you take those youthful flirtations and add the senior affliction of Alzheimer's and dementia it must make for an interesting stew. When I asked Shayla if the care centers condone that type of interaction she told me that they do within reason. It seems that most of it only results in handholding and light petting. Anything more is frowned on, but not unheard of. After all, these are consenting adults and the facility is their home.
Amanda tells me that it is mostly just cute. A lady will strike up a relationship with a gentleman and begin calling him by the name of her late husband. He will in turn call her by the name of his own deceased spouse. The caregivers have a tough time keeping the names straight when two women have their eye on the same fellow and each calls him by a different name, neither of which is actually his own.
There are rules about how late a senior may visit in another's room but sometimes a boyfriend or girlfriend will try to stow away. Just as when we were in school, jealousy is a constant. Ladies vie for the attention of the most "eligible" men and those select old gents insist on being players. All in all, it seems they are having fun and I say more power to them.
My daughter tells me that some of the families frown on their parents having nursing home love affairs and I can imagine it's difficult to see their family members taking up with someone other than the spouse they had for years - especially if that spouse is still around, but I say lighten up. If the old folks can find a moment's pleasure as they near the end, good for them.
As for me, since I have gained all of this insight, I won't fear my own time in a care facility nearly as much. You see, up to this point I have never been a player. Maybe that will be my time. I can see myself romancing several elderly women at once, having fun doing it and not caring at all what they call me.