Daily Aging: What freedom is most important to you?
“Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” Williams Jennings Bryan
I believe much becomes lost when you enter a nursing home. The worst loss is the loss of autonomy, or choice. The ability to make choices for yourself is empowering, you have the control over your own destiny. This right is achieved as we learn and grow from a small child into adulthood. As a child, I remember I had to earn the right to make choices and decisions based on earning trust with my parents. Times were different then and respect was a very important part of growing up. You respect your elders, or anyone older and wiser than you. Face it that sometimes included your siblings as dis-respect could in fact earn you a slug in the shoulder.
As a small child my mother let me pick my clothes, my bedtime story, and if I was especially good, I got to pick my favorite radio show. Adventure stories were my very favorite. I dreamed that someday I too would embark on a great adventure and discover a buried treasure. My greatest adventure, adulthood.
As a young adult my choices became more about daily survival. I had choices in managing my money, my friends, what I ate, where I went, and my daily entertainment. Did I always make the right choices? Of course not, who does? But what is life without some risk? These are the stories we share with our grandchildren and our best mates. Some of my choices landed me in some pretty hot water.
Life winds down as the body slows. I kept my power of choice until I moved into a nursing home. I found myself at the mercy of a 20 something-year-old aide with a pretty bad gum chewing habit and a mouth to go with it. The first day I arrived I was instructed to dis-robe so my skin could be checked for wounds and bruising. Of course I had bruising, I had fallen and broken my hip. The nursing home did not want to take a chance with being blamed. My next choice to be taken away, my eating time and what I ate. I lost the power to shower when I wanted, go out when I wanted, take my medication when I wanted, I even lost the power to get a midnight snack. 2am cookies are the best!
I knew I could not live alone anymore and really I did not want to be alone. For me, losing the power to make my own choices is worse than being lonely.
Did you know that even the littlest choices make the most difference? I want to go to bed when I please and get up when I please. I want my morning coffee and paper when I first wake up. I would prefer to have breakfast later in the morning. I want to socialize when I please and I prefer my shower before bed. I want to help decide what is on the menu, what activities are on the calendar, and when I want to take a nap. I want the youth that assist me to respect my wishes and no matter how risky my decision is, I want them to know that taking risk in life is about growth. You never stop growing, no matter how old you are, so stop trying to keep me in my wheelchair or lying in bed.
With everything that I gave up in my personal world in exchange for safety, the freedom I find most important is choice.