Long-term care homes are not an uplifting place to visit, but they should be. When one is approaching the end days of their productive lives because of a debilitating illness their surroundings should be filled with bright colors, music, and art; easels of canvas and posterboard with trays of washable paints should be everywhere so when inspiration strikes any one of the patients can express it.
Visiting a friend a while ago in a long-term care facility I walked several hallways in which the infirm, the halt, the lame and the chair-bound patients were starring into the mindless space of blank walls; boredom is killing them more quickly than a disease.
What I’m suggesting is a change of internal scenery and sound in all long-term facilities. Let comforting music echo through the halls of hope. Have a sound-proof room with a karaoke machine. Let the brightness of color festoon the rooms and passageways. Let the drab garb of the dedicated caregivers reflect the lightness of life, instead of the medical seriousness with which they must contend every day. Why can’t we make their uniforms in fuchsia, celadon and cerulean blue, decorate them with colored lights and flashy trinkets? Distraction is often better than medicine.
My friend told me of one elderly woman who had not left her room for two years. She has no family and few friends. Being alone is a condition that seems to be a curse of old age when you outlive most of your generation.
This is America. We can correct this. All it takes is “intention” and action will follow.