ISSN 2330-717X

A Glimpse Of The Elderly At An Istanbul Nursing Home – OpEd

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My father stays in nursing home, I visit him in his single room. He is old, physically weakened, has difficulty to walk, his movements are slowed, he goes often to the toilet. However, his mind is solid, he reads the daily newspaper of his preference, he is following local political agenda, watching the news from the TV in his room, listening to classical music programs.

He watches everything around himself very carefully and records them in his mind. He’s classifying everyone with respect to himself. He’s telling me of the hard times of the past he had with himself, he remembers old times and giving specific places and names.

He eats a simple special meal for the elderly. His meals  comprise simple soup, boiled vegetables, cauliflower, beans, leek, then rice – rice or bulgur- or pasta, and finally yogurt. Together we drink tea without sugar.

I read to him out loud newspaper articles.

The home staff often takes him to visit other seniors on the first floor while I’m away. There they are mostly elderly with Alzheimers. Here the staff calls them “sick”. There are unresponsive old people looking empty. There is a former professor of physics, since I know his name I searched through Google,  he has a doctorate degree  from Britain, he was the department chairman in the university. He worked in high-level public institutions, he has written a lot of scientific papers, and now sits unresponsive in the TV room, lives like a dream.

There is another social scientist woman professor, her mind has gone completely, unresponsive. She is Watching Trt music TV program with empty eyes. She sits in the corner, quiet.

There is a very rich businessman who owned a bus business in his younger years. His children stop by the occasional weekend. There’s no money here, no wealth, nothing.

There is an old man who stayed in the US for many years. He was brought here since it is cheaper to look after him here. His children will pay here half the US nursing home care services. Nobody has visited him for 2 years. The man forgets where he is and he starts to speak in English, nobody understands, the staff doesn’t know English. The man speaks in English, explaining his desperation. He was obviously earning good money in the US at one time, he’s got insurance, he had income, but instead of paying more money in the US, they left him behind here where they could pay a more reasonable “expense”.

There is another group of “normal: elderly people, they are staying on the third floor single rooms, they come together on the fourth floor, to paint together, and chat. Among them there is a retired ambassador who speaks very good English and French. He served in Newyork, Riyadh, Accra and  in many other important centers in his youth. The ambassador is physically intact, dressed up nicely, but experiencing some dementia. He has difficulty of hearing, having the difficulty of remembering the names, difficulty in choosing the appropriate words while talking. He reads a daily newspaper of his choice, he watches TV and listens to classical local radio, he goes out and walks around on a daily little trip. He has no money in his pocket, just socialising, no way to shop.

There is another lady who happens to be a late ambassador’s wife, she has difficulty in moving, but her mind is intact, she is participating in wood painting activities on the fourth floor.

There is an old man in the room next to my father, he sits in his room, if he can get permission he comes out of the building at the front door to chat with people.

The nursing home has well -trained, young hard-working, knowledgeable, helpful staff. The home has capable experienced husband-wife owner- operators. It is not easy to solve the problems of more than 50+ elderly, caring them, caring their health, shelter, caring their  nutrition. The staff are young most of them are from south eastern provinces. Here they work at minimum wage. Friendly, well-intentioned, long-term work is not easy work  to care seniors. If the elderly’s health is good, if his/her mind is good, it is relatively easy to survive. However if his/her mind is turbulent and his health is not so good then everything gets harder,  it is not easy to ask anything from the staff, then it is the difficult times for the elderly.

The daily visit and care of  elderly relatives is extremely important. My late mother had speech difficulties occurred due to calcification in the brain vessels in her last years, she gave short answers to questions, everyone thought she was suffering from dementia, but probably she could see, hear, feel, and understand everything around herself, but she couldn’t talk.

The life of elderly  people in the nursing homes is not easy, but the situation of those who are forgotten is more difficult. Life begins, and ends in a way, there is no going back. This beautiful gift given by the Creator should be spent in the best way possible.

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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