Nursing Homes and Daycare—Icons of Collective Neglect
I’ve got a lot to do.
I have much to accomplish, many places to go, lots of business to conduct.
I really don’t have much time for distractions.
Kids? We have daycare.
Old people? Well, you know.
Our nation worships youth.
Our nation worships beauty, well, youthful beauty.
Consider the extreme lengths to which we go, to prolong life, to defer aging. We diet. We exercise, good things, mind you. We developed a cottage industry revolving around retaining a youthful appearance. Gimmicks and fads, creams and lotions, wraps and other accoutrements, all to tighten and tone, lift and smooth…in other words, make you look younger.
Some folks butcher themselves with plastic surgery in a futile attempt to retain a semblance of youth.
“Why you haven’t aged since college!” the pinnacle of complements.
Old is bad, something to be avoided and resisted.
Our nation neglects our parents.
My wife is unique in more than few ways.
She is a great nurse and loves old people, and they love her. She has almost always worked in a nursing home where she treats the residents with dignity and respect, as if they have value. And they respond. Even the most crotchety old buzzard inevitably comes to lighten up when she brings his meds.
She often comes home in tears.
“My little man is dying,” she confessed the other morning. Death is a part of life and certainly a part of any medical profession, but the nursing home thrusts death to the forefront. No one gets better and leaves a nursing home.
I’ll make the concession here. Obviously medical situations exist that require professional care just like life situations exist that demand daycare (I see you single mothers). But in general:
A nursing home is where we put our old people to die unobtrusively.
They all die. Most of them die alone.
Many are on hospice but even for the ones who are not, death lurks in the corner. It’s like a waiting room for eternity, eternal glory or eternal suffering and the norm seems to be loneliness…and fear. Maybe a family member will show up toward the end, but most make the sad, lonely march to death in utter solitude and often with much trembling.
Ami’s little man died a few days later (she wasn’t on duty), alone in his room, gasping for breath, calling out for help. He was a father, and a husband, and he walked to his grave for years completely alone…
…not hindering anyone.
Our nation worships ourselves.
Old people get in the way. Kids too.
They are inconvenient, so we invented daycares and nursing homes to safely squirrel them away so that I may live unimpeded.
This is the sad reality, sad and harsh.
I could never accomplish all of my professional objectives if I had to care for my aging father. I could never do all of the things I want to do if I’m stuck tending to my elderly parents. I just would not be happy if I had to alter my life in any way to account for them.
And it’s not like they won’t be taken care of.
The nursing homes are nice enough. They have a professional staff. It’s a five-star facility, each star ratcheting down my guilt a notch until it’s tolerable. As a matter of fact, they’ll get better care than I could ever give them!
It’s for the best. It’s what they would want.
As an aside, did you know that Adolf Hitler cared for his dying mother at home in her battle against breast cancer. Her Jewish doctor remarked, “I have never seen anyone so prostrate with grief as Adolf Hitler,” over her death.
I guess it should not surprise us that a nation so quick to allow strangers to raise our children would just as quickly allow strangers to accompany our parents to their death.
Our nation rejects the Commandment.
Interestingly, the Fifth commandment stands unique amongst the Ten.
Honor your father and your mother…
…Okay, we’ve heard this before, but the rest…
…that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving to you. (Exodus 20:12)
This commandment is the only one of the Ten Commandments to offer an outcome. I could infer a righteous outcome from obedience to the others but God plainly says, honor your parents so that you may prosper. It’s conditional.
What does it mean to honor your mother and father?
I’ll leave the specifics of that to the individual conviction of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of His people. We value them. We esteem them. We consider them. We recognize that, at a minimum, they gave us life.
Notice God gives no caveat for worth. He does not say, honor them if they are good parents. He does not say, honor them if they honor you. He doesn’t even say, honor them if they are godly. Only, honor them.
Notice He gives no caveat for time. Honor them, not, honor them until you grow up and figure everything out on your own. Honor them until you no longer need them. Honor them until they become old and irrelevant or until you are too busy to honor them.
God commands it. They deserve it. They are entitled to it.
And the endstate…prosperity. You will live long in the land.
My family’s neglect.
I wish I would’ve known my grandmother. I mean, really known her. I knew her as a young boy. She even beat me with a flyswatter once when I gave her the finger, not really knowing what it meant, but I never really knew her.
She was a good, godly woman who literally gave away everything she had, consistently. So generous was her heart, you couldn’t give her anything without her giving it to another. She loved the Lord Jesus and her family.
Yet, in the transience of American life, my family moved away from her, to another state for my father’s job. We prospered in the new state. My father made better money. Our family did well and quite frankly, we moved on without her.
We just had no place for her in our new life. She was too old to move, to entrenched where she was. Ashamedly, we even mocked her a bit for being a packrat, for living in poverty unnecessarily. We prospered. She wilted.
She died just a few years after we moved.
I feel as if we missed out on something important.
Why did she give everything away? Why was she content with so little? I would’ve loved to have learned from her. As I came to faith in Christ, we could have shared our faith. We could have laughed about the time I gave her the finger.
I wonder if our family’s reluctance to honor her contributed to our falling away from the church, and the godlessness that pervaded the early years of my life.
Clearly, I was not dwelling long in the land.
A different way.
Nursing homes represent pervasive self-centeredness. This is the bottom line.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Let us look to the legions of old people dying alone and repent. Let us see them with dignity and respect, with value and worth. Let us see them as our fathers, as our mothers and let us go to them.
Let us seek them out and listen to them. Let us glean from them the decades of wisdom, the lifetime of experience. For those no longer cognizant, let us lavish love upon them all the way to the grave.
As my parents age, I know that one day I’ll be confronted with a decision. I’ve already made a vow. My wife, lover of old people, wouldn’t have it any other way.
That our nation would make a similar vow.
Author - Founder
Soldier, Pastor, Author – Bradford stays busy, with his wife Ami, raising their 9 children, serving the nation, pastoring, preaching, and writing books (#3 is due out October ’17).
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