May 24, 2005

Rest Homes

One of the things I wish I'd read more about on blogs is a discussion on how to treat the elderly with care and respect and when the use of a rest home is necessary.

A couple decades ago they were to be devoutly avoided, thought to be houses of abuse. My grandmother recently went to one and I was surprised by the quality of the rooms and beauty of the building. The workers there are by all accounts wonderful. But she obviously misses her house and I wonder if there couldn't have been another way.

My wife says, bravely, that our parents will never go to a rest home because we will take them in. Which is only right, as there is a good symmetry to it as in the saying, "we'll change our parent's diapers as they changed ours". But speaking for self, I'm not sure I wouldn't prefer a stranger do that than a loved one. Is it in some way easier to be vulnerable in front of a stranger than a loved one? Or is that squeamishness a part of the larger problem of a culture which likes to farm off to strangers less than pleasant tasks?

I guess an obvious case of the need for a rest home is when it is too dangerous to leave them alone for even short periods of time, which seems to be the case with my grandmother. The around-the-clock availability of a nurse on call is comfort. But rest homes feel unnatural, a kind of re-institutionalization.

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