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Enter Mourning: A memoir on death, dementia and coming home
By: Heather Menzies

Chapter 8: Next: Finding a Nursing Home (excerpt)

…Mum didn’t just fade away and die that week. Her vital signs indicated that she’d “stabilized,” though at such a low level of function that she was barely there. It was like she’d gotten snagged on a branch nearly at the bottom of a cliff. She wasn’t coming back up; there was no hope of that. But she wasn’t dying either.

Now what? They wanted to discharge her, preferably to a nursing home. I drew a big, ragged breath, trying to get my bearings in the world beyond Mum’s hospital ward, including the rest of the family….

Compared to family stuff, checking out nursing homes was a cinch. They all followed pretty standard procedures and standard staffing practices as well. Still, I made a point of asking, as Gail had cued me to do: what was the ratio of registered nurses (RNs) to nursing assistants versus aides. Aides have little medical training, mostly practical stuff like how to change linens and help to turn patients. Another key question: what was the staff ratio and competence level breakdown at night, and on weekends?…


The “bath” rooms bothered me the most. So large, so full of chrome apparatuses: a lift, a hoist, straps and other devices that were beyond my comprehension. Still, they left me with the overwhelming knowledge that here people didn’t have baths, they didn’t get into baths. They were put into baths, they were given baths. There was no aesthetic relief. Clearly, other, more functional priorities took precedence. The large and engineered space made it clear, the bodies that entered here were largely inert, acted upon, not acting of their own volition. Mum would be one such body on their list. So I made a point of paying attention to details in the “bath” room, ranking ones with the most supportive technology ahead of others, though the sight of them depressed me the most….

All Contents Copyright © Heather Menzies