Lost in Elder World (Excerpt)

by Darlene Zimbardi

NARRATOR:
Besides my 20 year old niece, Monique and her daughter, Daphne the other constant compass in this storm of trying to find an assisted living facility (ALF) for my 82 year old mom and her dog Chili, in four days were texts from my hubby each morning. Little buoys, from across the country, sent to hold us steady. Monique and I watch Daphne sleeping:

DAUGHTER:
The big thing keeping me up is the sadness I feel for those in the hospital who have no one to advocate for them. I see the evidence in the trash room. If there are no caretakers every keepsake and heirloom’s pitched by strangers The permanently incapacitated elder is transferred to an unfamiliar terrain without a single familiar treasured landmark.

DAUGHTER: (Next morning)
Steaming forward. Get calls on to do list done. When I wasn’t demanding things from people, guilt took a firm hold on me and wouldn’t let go.
A bit of smooth sailing. Our favorite ALF’s pet friendly, and has space. Affordable – nothing was. We’ll cross the Medicaid bed bridge downstream. At the hospital. Mom’s trying to get the nurse to wheel her to the driver’s side, she’s not used to being a passenger. We call my Aunt.

AUNT:
Since you’ve had these health scares, do you believe god?

NARRATOR:
Silence throughout the car.

AUNT:
Heaven and hell?

DAUGHTER:
Can you grab the phone please?

NARRATOR:
We arrive at the ALF. We give her a tour of her new home. Daphne’s running down the halls with Chili. Monique’s pushing my mom’s wheel chair, then “Help me, help me.”

DAUGHTER:
Did you hear that?

MOM:
Hear what?

NARRATOR:
Is this a candid camera test? Monique kicks me and points to where she thinks the sound’s coming from- an open door – there’s an elderly woman lying on the floor between a bed and a nightstand, like those commercials – I’ve fallen but I can’t get up. I kneel down, she grabs my hand, There has to be a call button somewhere. Shit, this old lady may be lacking in some areas, hand strength isn’t one. I pull her fingers away from mine to releasing her grip, find the button, press, health aides arrive to life her into bed.
Dazed, I put a call in for the ALF nurse for a meeting. Could I find another facility? I cannot NOT leave her here.

DAUGHTER:
Uh, I need to tell you something…

NURSE:
Go on…

DAUGHTER:
We were giving my mom a tour when…I found a woman on the floor crying for help. Her call button was out of reach.

NURSE:
Sorry, lousy timing. Listen, falls are the reality of assisted living. When we give our residents the independence they desire stuff can happen. This’s why we ask but we can’t demand they wear their necklaces. I bet she wasn’t wearing hers. I’m sorry this happened on your mother’s first day but the positive thing is, happy hour starts in 5 minutes. Grab your mom.

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