Nursing Home Editorial

Oct. 18 - Just south of Muncie on Gavin Street lies Brookside Haven Care Center. Some know the road and the place but mostly, Brookside is unseen to the world and to Muncie.

Brookside is a nursing home, with nearly 60 beds occupied with some of Muncie’s least acknowledged people. These people share a commonality with the institution, being hidden from the public eye.

There are nearly two million Americans living in almost 17,000 nursing homes in the United States. Of the millions that call the often, drab facilities home, most go weeks, months and too often, years without visitors.

A fair assessment can be made, that the majority of Americans forget these people are just that; people.

As most of us are able-bodied, it’s hard to imagine relying on someone to help us eat, dress and bathe. Liberated from relying on others, it’s easy to take for granted and often despise everyday interaction with our coworkers and family.

These people sit alone most days in, their “waiting rooms (for death),” as one lady referred to her living quarters, on a PBS Frontline special about nursing homes. Without a public voice, they cannot plead with the community or their families to visit them.

“They love visitors,” Ronny Smith, a Certified Nursing Assistant at Brookside said. “Most even have family in Muncie but never come to see them.”

According to The Senior Source, a friendly visitor program in Dallas, Texas, nearly 50 percent of nursing homes go without visitors, every year. When asking staff members at nursing homes in Muncie about the statistic, a majority will reflect the sad claim.

Therefore, it is in the human interest of this newspaper to speak for those in the 11 Muncie-area nursing home’s without an audible voice.

Please visit those who find themselves in situations, most can’t imagine.

Take 30 minutes out of your week, without any authority-induced shove, to talk to someone that yearns for anyone’s company.

As charitable as people feel they are, this request will travel in and out the minds of the readers of this newspaper faster than their daily horoscope.

Why is this?

Perhaps it’s because people cannot see the benefit for those they will be spending time with. Or maybe it’s because they believe the stereotypes of nursing homes, as places people go to die.

But probably, they cannot see how visiting someone in a nursing home will benefit them personally.

Residents at Brookside awake between 7 and 8 a.m. every morning. They eat breakfast, do exercises, and then ability-willing; watch television, movies or take part in other recreational activities until lunch.

The residents look forward to daily activities and especially the occasional visitor.

One man said he loves when someone has a birthday because they get to have cake.

“I just love spending time with my friends,” one lady said, referring to the nurses and a group of ladies she sits with and watches TV.

They truly appreciate the simple things in life.

Something non-nursing home bound people can take a lesson from.

Of the roughly 50 residents at Brookside, of which this newspaper is prohibited from naming, many have had distinguished lives and careers.

One man is a Vietnam War veteran and Ball State University graduate.

Another was a teacher in the Muncie school system.

And another was even in city government at a time that, he said, “feels like hundreds of years ago.”

“I wish I could see my family,” one man said. “But, I can’t go to them.”

Heartwarming and often devastating stories fill the minds of the residents at Brookside. And as most are void of any visitors, these stories can be heard from anyone that is willing to listen.

“I don’t feel like I have anything to look forward to anymore,” one lady said. “I get up every day and can’t do nothing without (the nurses) help.”

Why not give these residents, often in dire situations, something to look forward to?

Why can’t Muncie do something comparable to what communities across the country are doing by establishing Friendly Visitor programs?

“Adopt” a resident or home, throw a party, or lead a craft making workshop, at one of the area homes.

Or, just visit someone. Talk to them, let them talk to you and learn something about them and you’ll probably make their year.

You might even make yours too and you might learn something about yourself.


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