Dear Nursing Home, A Letter

Dear Nursing Home,

This is a hard letter to write. We have been together almost 30 years. That is a long time. But I need to tell you something.

I don’t think this is working. I can’t do this anymore.

It’s not you, it’s me.

Well, that is not true. It is you.

But I can’t blame you for who you are. I know how you were raised. “Be a medical model!” they told you. “Just worry about the body, not the spirit!” they said.

“Remember, safety first!” was burned into your brain.

“Don’t worry about what people want. Worry about what the rules say they should have!”

“The most important thing is to be efficient!”

It must have been difficult to have heard this over and over again. How could you not become what you are?

Of course you don’t know how to have joy, to live well, to focus on meaning and purpose. Of course you don’t value normalcy and community and connectedness. No one probably gave that to you when you were growing up. They tried to make you compliant, hard, sterile.

You are exactly what you were raised to be. How can we fault you?

Yet I do. I have. It breaks my heart.

I can’t watch you treat the people around you like this anymore. Don’t you see how people give their heart and soul to you? You barely acknowledge this.

You see people for everything wrong with them and you want to fix them – but not because it is what they want. I think it is because you are afraid. Afraid to see people for who they are – complicated, vulnerable, mortal, self-determining, full of risks. Yet also full of possibilities and life.

It is never you. It is always “them” – the people who live with you, the people who work for you, the people who visit you, the people who make the rules, the people who pay you. But it IS you!

I am at a point where I don’t think you can change. I guess I have to accept that.

But I am so angry about it. And sad.

I mean, do you really want to be this way?

No one wants to go to you, you know.

Why would they? You are not going to give them what they really need.

Why can’t you be the nursing home I want you to be?

There were good times, of course.

I sometimes still think I can change you. Because I see glimmers of hope in who you can be.

But I have been fooled by you before. You get a different “look” and try to trick me that you are different because you look different. You change your name. You tell me you are doing a new “program”, like that sticks around!

You start using different words to describe yourself. By the way, just because you use these words to say you are doing something different doesn’t mean you are doing something different.

I guess you think you are doing the best you can with what you have. Maybe that is true. But I don’t believe it. I know you could be better. But I am not sure you want to be. I am not sure you know how.

So, what is a person to do? Stand by and watch you self-destruct?

Just don’t take down everyone with you. These are good people. They deserve better.

I deserve better.

That is the reason why I have trouble letting you go.

With love (and many other emotions),