Articles


The Tour

by John F Musser, SSC | July 17, 2019

elderly person using a walker in assisted living facility

Let’s go for a quick tour, there's something I want you to see. We've talked a bit about it, but it helps to lay eyes on. No, I promise, it won’t take long. We can take my truck.

Thanks, I like it. Lots of room, easy to get in and out. Yeah, I don’t like having to climb up out of a car either.

Here we are. Notice how small the parking lot is compared to the size of this damn building?

Where is that old guy going? Ha, who knows? Maybe making his high speed escape! Ehh…don’t worry, somebody will notice he 's gone and look for him – or maybe they won’t. Let’s park and head in.

Spray this on your shirt…shoes as well. Of course it stinks, it’s that perfect mixture of Industrial cleaner, human shit, and despair. Why? It’s so we blend in.

Just move slow, nothing too quick and we'll be fine. No, it doesn’t make much difference, you can look them straight in the eye, let your eyes wander, look at the ground. Doesn’t really matter. The worst is when they smile at you with a tiny bit of hope remaining. I don’t know why, it’s just sad.

Okay, so there are your “Health Care Providers,” sometimes called “Caregivers.” Yeah, the ones standing around smoking. That’s them.

Entrance is propped open, must be how that old geezer wandered out. It’s so damn hot in here. It’s hotter inside than outside! I know it smells bad. Even worse than we do. We could have put a little Vick's VapoRub under our noses, you know, to mask the stench. Sort of the way the webpage for this facility does.

Right over there is the medicine cart. Yup, that young lady “caregiver” with the big key ring is going through and cherry-picking some good stuff. Now, because of some pesky laws, the inmates – sorry, the residents – and their representatives have a right to inventory their meds. But they never tracked them at home, much less here. Besides, this shining example of a facility doesn’t encourage it, and if pushed, they will push back.

Push how? Could be as simple as denying someone help to the bathroom, maybe skipping one kind of med and doubling up on another, pulling the blankets off at night, or just pinching and twisting an old woman’s flesh on the inside of her arm until she screams into the pillow they are holding over her face. Yeah, right there, hurts bad, doesn't it, Sweetie? The list of evil shit someone can do to a helpless person is endless.

Move slowly up this hallway, right past the recreation room... yeah, I know. Let’s stop here at the first room. It’s a one person room – a Private Suite. Her or the family must still have some money. That won’t last long, then the Private Suite goes away.

That’s her granddaughter maybe? She used to come in every day to check on her Nanna. Then a couple times a week, then Sundays. You know the drill. You think that lady in the bed dreamed about a future where her granddaughter would get to watch her shrivel up and die for a couple of decades?

Oh, the Granddaughter left a long while ago. Did you doze off? You must have, it’s gotten late. Now that you mention it, the lady in the bed does look different...

No, you would think that guy is checking her for bed sores, but he's not. He is peeling the fentanyl patches off of her back. No, I don’t know who he is. He may work here, may be an employee’s son or boyfriend, maybe he just walked in, doesn’t matter much.

Feeling a little stiff? A little tired? Let me help you out of the chair. Let’s walk a little further, deeper in. 

The hallway does seem longer, and it is very dark. Sure, lean on me and use the handrail, there's no rush.

It's definitely colder. When it turns cold, they wait a long time before they turn the heat on, saves a few bucks. Yes, it's a different kind of cold in here.

Look, this room looks, yeah – empty. Nobody in the bed. Lay down right here. See? That’s better. Let’s get you covered up. Trust me, they don’t like empty beds around this place.

Tired? Are you tired, or just weak?

No, I'm sorry. You can’t go home. You don’t have a home. Yeah, it either got sold to pay for this fucking place, or maybe you lost it in a reverse mortgage scam, or perhaps some state official presented some paperwork in front of a corrupt judge and had you declared an “incapacitated person” and took all your stuff. Doesn’t matter, you were helpless to defend yourself, and your family was either too exhausted to notice, too overwhelmed by the system – or hell, maybe they participated. Doesn’t matter now, you have no home.

I know you're scared. Fuck, who wouldn’t be? I know you are confused, you can’t think clearly, it doesn’t make any sense. That's the drugs and the weakness. It seems like just earlier today you were young and capable and planning for the future and working and playing and making love and eating and drinking and…time sure does pass.

Yes, I'm crying. I'm sad. I am so sad I hurt. No! It won’t get better, there is no better, tomorrow is worse, and the day after that will be even worse. There is no better. There is no light. Only darkness, miserable absolute darkness. There is no hope here.

Yes, I'll hold your hand and sit with you.

Oh, you’re awake? Of course I stayed. I know you want to go home, but this is your home now. No, I don’t know how long you'll be here.

I’m trying not to cry. It’s just such a waste. I do remember when you were strong, when you could do whatever you wanted. And you're right, a lot of bad things have happened to you.

Hey, you remember when you were young and strong and you said, “I happen to shit, shit don’t happen to me”? Yeah, it was true. Not that long ago, it was true.

There were some bad things you couldn’t control. But anything you could have controlled? Anything you could have “happened to” before it happened to you?

Maybe when that doctor offered you another handful of useless meds just because of a number on a page or the wrong size blood pressure cuff, you could have said no thank you. And when he insisted, you could have said, “Let me get back to you on that.” And when he copped that arrogant prick attitude, you could have grabbed your crotch and said, “Here’s some medicine for you, you drug peddling piece of shit. You want some?” Like you should have done. Like you used to do. Like you used to be able to do.

But you didn’t. You didn’t get another opinion, you didn’t do any research, you didn’t ask any trusted friends –  hell, you didn’t even google it. You just cried like a lost baby sheep about your bad luck, and you took the pills.

When you could have had eggs and lean meat in the morning, but you had another muffin and a bowl of cereal. When you bought a new belt, instead of wondering why the old one was too short. The first time you said you “used ta do something” when you could have said you “I'm gonna do something.”

Maybe the first time someone offered to help you out of your chair, you could have said no thank you and stood up on your own. And if he insisted, the look you once had would have backed his silly ass down and convinced him otherwise. 

No, you don’t have that look anymore.

Maybe when you walked past the squat rack because your knee hurt, you could have said out loud, “I got an idea! Fuck you, weakling. Fuck your knee and your weak-ass excuses. Your knee hurts? Are you kidding me? Get under the bar!”

Because maybe if you knew that if you didn’t get under the bar you were on the path to loved ones looking at you with pity and resentment for stealing their lives. For making their last memories of you the only ones they had, for ruining every happy moment. You let your mind and your body get weak, and your friends and family went from being delighted about sharing time with you to dreading being near you.

Bad things happened, sure, but a lot of it happened because you couldn’t be bothered to stop whimpering and take care of yourself. You couldn’t be bothered to get under the bar. Maybe if you knew the horrors waiting for you in your new home, you would have made different decisions – maybe you would have done everything you could to get and stay strong.

I will not let go of your hand, I promise.

No, you can’t go home, this is your home, like I told you. No, I don’t know what comes next. No, I don’t know if there is a better place. No, I don’t know if your family and loved ones are waiting for you with open arms where there is no pain. I don’t know.

Is this how it ends? I don’t know.

Hey, I got an idea: it’s your story.  Stop asking useless questions and get your shit together and write your own ending.


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