This past weekend I had to make a run to the local county landfill. The dump. Waiting patiently for all the big 4×4 trucks to unload, I noticed a sign that read, “No Dumping Past This Point”. I could understand this sign if it were placed behind the dumpsters, but it was placed at the entrance of the landfill. Why would we be told “no dumping” when that is the very thing we had come here to do? We have all waited patiently to have our turn to discard our trash and the items we no longer have a need for.
Finally it was my turn to “use the dumpsters”. I was struggling with my curbside can, when a nice middle-aged man came over and offered his help. Graciously I accepted his help. I asked him if he had seen the “NO Dumping ” sign at the entrance.
“Yeah, what I think they mean is, use the landfill for what it is meant for. Use the right container for the right things”. He explained how each dumpster to our right had a purpose. The dumpsters each had their own designation. Cardboard. Plastic. Tires. Used oil,Electronics. Batteries. Cans. Newspapers/Paper. I never knew the landfill had almost as many choices as Wal-mart.
Suddenly, I realized the interpretation of the sign. Dump trash to the left, recycle to the right. It made sense; use the right container for the right reason.
Today when I arrived at work, someone said , “I hate how residents just get dumped here. Half the people in here never get visitors and it burns me up”. Sadly enough, she is correct in her calculations. I would even project as high at 90 percent of those living in nursing homes and assisted livings, do not have regular visitors. During the Christmas season, we see people that we have never seen before, rushing in to hug “mom”. We never see them again.
We have some family members who lovingly escort “daddy” into the facility, expressing sadness, heartbreak and anxiety over the decision to place him there.They shed tears and hug tightly as they say goodbye to him at the door. We never see them again. We mail the monthly invoice for his room and board, we never receive payment. Daddy has just been “dumped”.
We don’t know the reasons why people choose to abandon their loved ones in long-term health care facilities. Emotional detachment. How can we do this to our parents? Every situation is different, and some families are dysfunctional from day one, causing “dump day”to be no different from any other in their lives.
Maybe I should get one of those signs that read “No Dumping Past This Point”. I would place it on the outside of the front entry. When families would ask of it’s meaning, I would offer the following:
1. Place your loved one because he/she needs o be here, not because they inconvenience your lifestyle. This is the “container of necessity.”
2. Provide for your loved one. Do you know how money we as health care providers spend on your parents? We buy everything from to clothing that fits to denture adhesive because your parent needs it. This is the container of provision.
3. Come visit your parents. They may not recognize you due to the disease process, but what is your excuse for not recognizing them? They are still your parents. This is the container of respect.
4. Hug your parents. You would be amazed at how dementia patients respond to affection. Hugs. Human contact. This is the container of love.
Lastly, I would explain how we are health care providers, health care workers, health care professionals, who have chosen this profession because it is what we are called to do. Our existence in your loved one’s life does not excuse your obligation to “honor thy mother and father.”