“Do not judge a book by it´s cover” goes one English saying and so is this Swahili one, “Nyumba njema sio mlango, fungua uingie ndani” translated as a good house is not judged by the door. These are both used to warn people not to be too quick to pass judgement and draw conclusions. With this in mind, I have learnt to be very patient before I make any conclusion on my cultural abnormalities I encounter during my stay in Norway.
While in Kenya, I heard about it and that it greatly happens in the West and I thought it was really inhuman. I am sure as an African, I am brought up believing in certain values and one of them is strong family ties. So, just like my parents took great care of us while we were young, then it is my obligation and that of my siblings to take care of our parents in return during their old age.
I am talking about nursing homes for the old! For a long time I never figured out why these homes were set in the first place and wondered why the aging parents had to be taken to these homes. I have no objection to having childrens´ homes like we do in Kenya, where orphans, HIV and Aids infected children and those with special needs are taken care of.
In my quest to find out why Norwegians have old peoples´ homes I have changed my perception about it. I am better informed now and even think it is important to have such homes even in the African setting. I was lucky to have seen my two late grandmothers during their sickness through death, where both had their children make turns in taking care of their sick mothers. I literally remember the many times my mother and my aunties spent their nights at the hospital. This was all organised at a family setting and depending on the individual schedule, then they made it upon themselves to volunteer and spend at the hospital.
I know the old might require close medical attention, rehabilitation, social contact and personal freedom, however I imagine this isolation would yield negative results, bored and depressed old people because of being indoors either watching TV or just staring. It is said, nearly everyone experiences decline in some aspects of physical and physiological functioning as they grow older and combined effects of these may induce feelings of lack of sense and hopelessness. So for me I think, this is the time the old would need their families close by.
“We also do that, but in many occasions, we believe that our parents need special care and because we are also working and very busy in most cases, then they are safe at the nursing homes and we do not get worried because we can call the nurses and talk to them directly.” Said my friend Ane who has her mother in one of the nursing homes around.
If you asked me before, I would say, these people will suffer most. Helplessness arises when people lose control over events that happen to them, they lose motivation, become passive, intellectually slow and socially impoverished. They develop cognitive problems, depression and stress crops in.
So I wondered how does a family come to a conclusion that it’s time to take their aging father or mother to an old peoples´ home. ” We did not make the decision for her, after our father died, she lived alone for many years and at some point she fell very sick for about two years and opted to go to the old peoples´ home. It was her own choice and she even went ahead to ask the social community which is in charge of such projects to get her a place to stay, and of course the doctors had to confirm that she needed help,” said my other friend Tobjørn.
“Could it be because you were not taking good care of her,” I ask? “No Patience, we did all we could and we would call her everyday. She is one tough kind of a woman and never wants to disturb any of us, she likes to stay where she thinks she is more comfortable and we allowed her that freedom. We visit her very often as a family and she likes it so much,” he added!
My colleague Sigtour too is in a similar situation. His mother is also living at the old peoples´ home and ask why is that so? Over Christmas time, her daughter picked her up to join the family and then she was taken back after the celebrations. So I ask, “Why is that so?”
“She lived in her flat until 5 years ago when she got ill, very thin, and she went to the hospital. She could not swallow any food, so she got piped food direct into the stomach for many months. From the hospital she came to a house for old people who need help for a short time. She could not stay at home by herself. After more than a year she started to eat a little bit, and today she eats normal food, and as you saw during Christmas Eve she didn’t like to sit by our table, because she gets tired sitting. At the Nursing home, she gets help and we are all settled that she is being taken good care of and we visit her very often,” said Sigtour.
“Are you convinced about this decision, that your mum has children who could take good care of her but now, she is all alone without any of her children?” I ask?
We are happy about it!
“We are all happy she is there, she is comfortable that way. You see she needs help to go to the toilet, washing and clothing, and she is getting very good care at that place. In Norwegian it´s called “sykehjem”. All of us are visiting her, and she says we just have to go when we have time. Now I have so much to do to move out of my old house, so I don’t know when I’m going there next time, but I will tell you. We can go together after work one day next week,” he said.
Of course I will join him to visit his mother; I liked her a lot and just wished she had her family with her all the time.
“You see, the old also like it that way. It is a Norwegian tradition that dates back many years and in most cases, they also meet their friends there and they start a new life. They have entertainment programs and once in a while they are taken for tours. Others have their laptops with them, so they can keep themselves busy, most of them have mobile phones, so they are always in touch with their families, so we are not worried about them,” said Tobjørn.
“The old, need emotional and social care most of the time, and hiring someone to take care of them does not guarantee 100% care, because some are ailing, so we opt for nursing homes since they have medical attention within reach, they have friends, other old people and they can share life´s experiences now that they are all old,” said Ingrid who has her mother too at the old peoples´ home.
Now I am convinced, there is a positive intention behind the invention of the sykehjem and I believe that it´s not an act of inhumanity, as I had earlier thought of. Of course I am in the process of visiting some of my grannies and will definitely let you know how my encounter’s at the Nursing homes turns out to be.
Do enjoy your weekend, won´t you!