I’ve visited with hundreds of elderly people living in nursing homes and other facilities over the last 15 years. My job was to listen to their concerns and, with their consent and participation, solve their problems. My experiences have motivated me to include the elderly in some of my books.
In Florida I met a man I’ll call George who lived in a nursing home and would probably remain there until his death. He needed help to eat, bathe and even to go to the bathroom. He was originally from England and had been a famous soccer player. He may have even been knighted by the Queen. He moved to the United States and ended up sick and alone. He was so ill he had to move into a nursing home more than six months before I met him.
Most of his care was provided by nursing assistants who probably liked him. He told me that they treated him well but teased him about his English accent. He hated it but was afraid that if he complained, they would treat him badly. Over the years, I had met many elderly residents who did not complain about mistreatment because they feared the staff would get back at them. I told George that I had had some experience with this and could guarantee it would not happen to him. He still said no. He did not want to complain and he did not want me to complain for him.
Leaving George’s room made me sad. George would probably live out the rest of his life being teased by nursing assistants who did not realize he hated it. Perhaps it was their culture or their personalities that blinded them to his pain. Here was a man who had been a famous athlete who now felt he had no choice but to live with unkind words.