5th grade. Age 10. A young girl pencils her full name: “Shelly Zemrose” into her bedroom closet. Next up – the window sill – several times just to be safe. She’s about to leave her childhood home, FOR-EV-ER. She wants it to stay a part of her and she most certainly wants everyone to know…it was hers first.
Yeah you may think I’m embarrassed to admit I wrote my name about 20 times in the old bedroom of my first house in Alexandria, Virginia. But no, no I’m not. In fact….
I. WOULD. DO IT. AGAIN. Just doubledogdare me.
Why? Because I am super nostalgic, an old soul, and just a little bit weird. Well, a lot a bit. (stalking Mr. Gray isn’t necessarily “the norm”…………..yet. *evil smirk*)
But in my own defense here, homes mean a lot to people if you’ve lived there for a good while. I mean, memories were made there. It’s the place that keeps you grounded when things are shaky. It’s familiar. It’s comfortable. Where do you want to go after a rough day? Home. It’s also a place for laughter. It has that perfect spot for the Christmas tree where kids have opened gifts year after year. It’s where family has gathered around the dining room table every Thanksgiving- bickered and made up again. The good, the bad, and the ugly — it’s just human nature to love “home.”
Mr. Gray is no exception. At age 10 I was devastated to leave my home and go to a new place. Now put yourselves in Mr. Gray’s orthopedic shoes (hey don’t knock ’em till you try em) and you’ve lived somewhere for 10, 20, maybe 40-50 years and then —- you’re forced to MOVE. And often to a place where you don’t want to go aka a nursing hell (excuse me I meant nursing “home”) and downgraded to a shoebox-sized room with a roomate. SUNDAYFUNDAY!!!!! I mean, just look at the bright side Mr. Gray:
Seriously, this sucks for seniors, and it happens all the time for a variety of reasons: necessity i.e. the family can’t care for Mr. Gray anymore OR Mr. Gray can’t afford his home anymore OR Mr. Gray is simply in the way of progress. Here’s a little “uncool” story of the latter to show you how this type of situation goes down on the regular:
So my hubby, Abe, is a retirement planner and together we co-own the business. We specialize in seniors, so I mean, that works for me ;o) Well, recently, one of our lovely clients, age 75, emailed us and was reaching out to Abe for advice. She was concerned and I would venture to say, frightened, of getting kicked out of her apartment. Here’s a snippet:
Uhhh, talk about stuck between a rock and a hard place – except the rock is your HOME and the hard place is OUT ON THE STREET. Dude. It’s like, does anyone give a *BLEEP* about what happens to this elderly woman? Let me provide the short answer, NOPE. It’s all about the moneymoneymoneymoney. Who cares if this woman has lived in her home forever and would have nowhere to go?!
And no, this isn’t all folks — as another despicable example, I recently read in the paper (yes I’m in my mid 30’s and enjoy a tangible newspaper LOL) about a Washington D.C. apartment complex where many seniors had been living for years and was being turned into college housing. Off with the old on with the new! And BONNNUUUS, handicapped accessible doors are perfect for moving in those beer pong tables!!
NO. NO. and NO.
Cuzzzzz…ya DO building owner people.
Shoot, if people nowadays are forced to change cell phone providers, it’s WWIII, but I guess displacing Mr. Gray is totes acceptable as long as more money is to be made and forward progress. Well what about the fact that HE set the stage for us, created the infrastructure, fought in the wars to protect our buildings. Without Mr. Gray, we very literally, wouldn’t exist, but ya know, he’s past his prime now — old, slow, and wrinkly–so BUHbye.
Mr. Gray deserves his home, or at the very least, the CHOICE to stay in his home. When he can no longer stay in his home due to needing more care, and it’s time for an assisted living or skilled nursing facility, that’s one thing (and for another blog post!), but there are so many cases where Mr. Gray is able and willing to stay.
Most of us couldn’t even handle being booted off of Facebook, so I think it’s only reasonable to stop booting Mr. Gray out of his house. LET MY PEOPLE STAY!!!
Okay, no Adam and Eve eating the apple stuff here. Sorry.
But I do wanna talk to ya’ll about the The Eden Alternative. Raise your hand if you’ve heard about this?! Didn’t think so. Not your fault doh, but it is a shame because because BECAAAUUSE, because of the wonderful things The Eden Alternative does!
First, lemme show you why Mr. Gray views today’s senior facilities (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, etc.) like you view mushy peas. BLAND & GROSS! These places make Mr. Gray feel lonely, bored, and helpless. I mean, total sad face :o((((((((( Why? Because a few years in a senior facility is NOT a trip to Disney World. Personally, I envision the “Walking Dead.” This slideshow will show ya why (click on the pics to swipe right):
I mean, it’s just depressing…and not a place me, you, OR Mr. Gray wants to be.
I could go on explaining why Mr. Gray kicks and screams when someone says “it’s time to go to a nursing home”, but you guys get it. AND. Despite what you might think, it doesn’t matter if the place has crystal chandeliers and 25,000 activities OR if it’s an outdated inner city facility that smells of urine (sorry I know that was a bit TMI but it’s true). It might SEEM that Mr. Gray is better off when things are fancypants, but that’s not necessarily the case. You know that saying “you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”? Well that’s what these fancy facilities are — a beautiful cover up for the misery that lies beneath. And Mr. Gray sees right through it (he’s so keen like that ;o))
So, why is it that these places (dingy or gorg) that cost a fortune make Mr. Gray feel so blue? It’s because they were created based on an institutionalized model. Translation: They look, feel, and operate like a hospital/psychiatric ward/scene from “The Shining” aka not a home. The whole thing is just SO OLD SCHOOL. But without Will Ferrel. I mean it’s not the 1930’s – time to change the model people. For example, check out this nursing home that looks like a scene out of Grey’s Anatomy:
Not only does the layout still mimic hospitals with long ward-like hallways, but the care is also based on the staff’s convenience. It’s like if you paid for a week stay at a 5 star resort and the staff were helpful, but told you when to eat, sleep, drink, move, etc. UHHH REFUND PLEASE! Here’s the gist of it:
It’s all about keeping the residents alive and from falling, but it’s not about true physical, emotional, and spiritual wellness.
Sure, Mr. Gray can attend Friday night “game nights” and a Sunday sing-a-long, but that does very little to compensate for the failings of this archaic model. These facilities just focus on keeping him alive (with a little fluff on top). But survival is not happiness. It’s not fulfillment. It’s not enough for us as young adults, middle ages adults, and it’s STILL not enough for older adults. It doesn’t matter if he can’t walk anymore or he has dementia, Mr. Gray still has the potential to live life.
And this is where the Eden Alternative saves the day!!! [Cue inspirational comeback music]. Essentially, it’s a philosophy that attacks head on that loneliness, hopelessness, and boredom that Mr. Gray feels. Everything that an old school facility does, well it does the opposite so *put that thang down flip it and reverse it!* (Sorry, I really miss Missy Elliot).
Old School Facilities MR GRAY SAYS BOOOOOOO!
Meeting basic needs is the focus
Staff wear scrubs (i.e. they stick out like sore thumb & it’s all the medical feeeels)
Medical equipment & meds are out in the open
Strict and predictable schedules are followed as if the elderly were children (lunch now, bedtime now, etc.)
Limited access to other adults, children, and animals
The Eden Alternative Facilities MR. GRAY SAYS YAAAAAAAAY!
Elderly-centric (staff support & befriend the seniors)
Staff wear regular clothes and blend in like family
Unpredictability & variety are key
Seniors have autonomy and a voice in their daily activities and general operations (even involved in meetings!)
Growing, learning, and contributing are a focus (ex. seniors can garden and grow their own food)
Seniors don’t just receive care, they have opportunities to give it
Medications, medical equipment, etc. are hidden so as to not be the focus
Easy access to humans (including children) & animals i.e. normal interactions
Which one would YOU choose? EA ALL DAAAAAAAY SON (OR GRAMPS) I have a dream, that one day, all senior facilities will be EA APPROVED.
So there are 2 ways to adopt the EA model: 1. A facility can go through a program with organizational restructuring, etc. and receive certification in this philosophy or 2. Be built from the ground up (*started from the bottom now we’re here*). #2 is called the “Green House Project.” These Green Houses have about 6-10 residents and look just like a regular home. Check it out:
Pretty sure the Golden Girls live in this awesome rancher lol Note the garage, mailbox, and normal entryway. It’s so house-like in every way!
Now check out what goes on inside:
In conclusion, because I know this was a tad long but I mean, reading makes you smart and Mr. Gray told me to (his fault):
Mr. Gray doesn’t just survive with the Eden Alternative, he THRIVES, and isn’t that what he deserves?