Clothing and Citizenship: Nursing Home Money (#4 of 5, for now)

“I wish my boys weren’t so busy,” Greta commented.  “I’d really like to get some new dresses and I have no one to take me.”

Greta’s boys were always “busy.”  There were two names listed on the face sheet of her chart, but I’d never seen them or met anyone at the nursing home who had. When I asked Lynne, her social worker, about them, Lynne’s normally pleasant tone became one of controlled anger.

“Do you know how many messages I’ve left for them?  They never respond!  They just left her here!  I feel so sorry for her.”  We agreed it was a bad situation, made worse because Greta wasn’t a United States citizen and therefore had no personal needs allowance.  She was flat broke.

Greta lamented, “I came to this country because of them, and now they don’t have time for me.”  She glanced at a photo of her well-dressed youthful self.  “I just want to get some new clothes.”

I went back to Lynne.  “Do you think we can get her citizenship?”  A few weeks back the nursing home had held a touching celebration for two residents who had recently become U.S. citizens.

Lynne shook her head.  “I tried.  Her family won’t bring in the paperwork and they can’t grant citizenship without it.”

“That really stinks.  The poor lady just wants some clothes, and she’s got nothing to buy them with.  I actually brought in a couple of things for her,” I admitted.  “I try not to do things for one resident I wouldn’t do for any other, but I can’t help myself.”

Lynne smiled.  “I’ve been bringing her things too.”

“Out of your social work salary, huh?  Remember in school when we learned that the basic needs of human beings were food, clothing, and shelter?  I wonder why nursing homes don’t provide clothing.”

“They can get leftover things from the laundry,” Lynne pointed out.  “And sometimes people make donations.”

This accounted for the fact that Jewish residents sometimes had Christmas sweatshirts, non-drinkers wore beer t-shirts, and men occasionally sported tops proclaiming they were the “World’s Greatest Grandma.”

I sighed, and went home to search through my closet for good-looking items I wasn’t really wearing.

9 thoughts on “Clothing and Citizenship: Nursing Home Money (#4 of 5, for now)”

  1. Aw… how sad. It reminds me of a resident from Center America who also was placed in the nursing home and the family never returned. I ended up being almost his "adopted daughter" until the end. Literally. I was at his bedside when he took his last breath. It was a journey we shared for year and a half. He was my inspiration for "the chocolate milk thieves" story.


  2. I agree it is very sad when a family does not have time to visit a person who took care of them for years. I feel that that person took care of us and looked out for our needs it is time that we give a little of that back. It is the families turn to give love and care for the parent who gave so much for them. But so many families feel that they do not have time so they put them in a nursing home and forget them. More people need to step up and love the people that love them!

  3. Doris, how wonderful that you were able to become the "adopted daughter" for this man. I look forward to reading your story.

    Bobbie, I wish all families had your philosophy. Family members are a vital part of a resident's life and can be very involved in the nursing home community. Family relationships are complicated, and if things aren't worked through in earlier phases of life, the results can sometimes be seen in abandonment in later years. There's such potential for healing, though, if people are willing and able.

  4. I agree it is very sad when a family does not have time to visit a person who took care of them for years. I feel that that person took care of us and looked out for our needs it is time that we give a little of that back.

  5. Nursing Home, while it would be wonderful if everyone had family members to visit, not everybody does. This is where volunteers can transform a resident's life, and vice versa.

  6. It's been my experience that the people you do good things for are not usually the ones who return the favor. This is true even in families. We have residents whose families rarely visit, but their neighbors come by weekly. Even within families, sons and daughters may not come, but nieces and nephews will make sure their Aunt or Uncle is taken care of. And, of course, volunteers are a gift.

  7. You're right, K. Tree, family members sometimes don't or can't return the favor of help offered in the past. This can be a difficult realization for people who spent a great deal of time helping others and find themselves largely on their own when they need assistance. I often talk with residents about how to come to terms with their unrealized expectations. When volunteers, neighbors, or other family members pitch in, it makes things easier.


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