Please note that this text is fictional but reflects reality in many, too many nursing homes of the public and private sectors.
It is 6 a.m. Like every day at the same time my favourite orderly delicately caresses my arm and wakes me gently. I open my eyes and see her beautiful and sincere smile. I am very glad to see her because she's the nicest and kindest of people and to top it all off she works five nights a week.
She undresses me and starts washing me with a facecloth in my bed. I'm not getting a bath today, I ask her. ''No sir. You know it's only once a week.'' Okay so when is it then? With desolation in her eyes, she counts the number of days on her fingers and tells me in four days sir.
''Ok sir. Ready to remove your underwear protectors sir?'' That's too fancy for me. I call them diapers. '
'Oh boy! What happened?'' she asks me. The answer is just as simple as it is unbelievable. Diapers cost money. They are counted. Three per patient per night. The orderlies have to use their imagination and take diapers from one person who doesn't use many and distribute them to the other who uses more. Seems like the Gastro going around used up all the supplies. She finishes washing me, applies lotion on my bottom and my genitals and dresses me in my nice blue pyjama given to me by my wife.
My wife? Oh she left me three years ago for a better world like they say. I really miss her a whole lot. Fifty years together. Following my cerebrovascular accident (CA) she cared for me during five whole years. But now, well she's gone. That is why I am here in this nursing home that they call a CHSLD here in the province of Québec. She died suddenly. Her heart. She was so tired. I worked a lot all my life, even Saturdays. She practically took care of our three children all by herself. I sometimes felt guilty for not being there. But my wife always reassured me by saying that I had no other choice to work as much. We had to feed and clothe our kids after all.
I don't talk about my feelings very often but I sometimes wonder why my two boys and my daughter don't come see me more often. What in the world did I do to them? I think they are mad at me because their mother passed away too soon. Maybe if she hadn't given all those hours, months and years she would still be around.
Well time to get out of bed. Since my CA one leg remained paralyzed and the other just won't support me. My orderly has no choice but to use the lift installed right over my bed. I'm not overweight but it would be impossible for her to sit me in my chair without that lift. Two minutes later and there I am sitting in my chair.
My favourite orderly has to go now. She has to help three other people before the end of her shift at 8 o'clock. As usual she holds my hand and kisses my forehead.
Time for breakfast. A man that I have never seen before walks in my room. ''Ok sir we are going to the cafeteria.'' He does not introduce himself, does not smile and speaks very loudly. I'm not deaf. I finally see his identity card. I notice that he is employed by an agency. Not another one. I do not understand how our damned healthcare system is organized. Day, evening and night shift. We often have orderlies who come from these agencies but very rarely the same ones. I already asked the manager and owner, that I have seen only two or three times since I am here, why there were so many people working here who are not permanent employees.
She answered me that she had great difficulty in retaining her employees. I remember telling her she could very easily fire 10 employees who are obviously not happy here and hire at least 20 more because the ''good'' ones have way too much to do and are very tired. The only answer she risked was a timid smile. After all I'm just an old man. Even though she is aware I had many companies and several hundred employees her respect for me was totally inexistent.
Here I am at the cafeteria. My water and coffee are thickened. Since my CA I have a very hard time to swallow liquids. I could easily choke on them. It's just like if you added corn starch to your coffee every morning. You get used to it I guess, but it's still not the case for me.
After a succulent(?!) breakfast my orderly who prefers his phone to his patients pushes my wheelchair to the community hall. On the way we pass by the washroom. I ask my orderly if he can help me to go to the toilet. ''But you have a diaper sir!'' He answers me as he continues to push me into the community hall. I try real hard to hold everything in but my bowel moves. There I am like many other times before in my urine and my stools for part of the day.
After playing Bingo and listening to the same two old women who sing the same songs day after day we go for lunch. remember I still have the same diaper. We then go to my rum because I need to sleep a little. I am tired. Once in bed I realize that I am dirty up to the middle of my back.
I turn on one side then on the other. My new friend washes me and applies crème. I must say he did a good job and I thank him.
I really don't want to bother you with what happens the rest of the day. It's always the same routine anyways day after day.
Do you know why they call this a living environment? My life before ending up here had nothing to do with the routine, boring days that repeat themselves endlessly. I used to bathe once or twice a day. Here if I am lucky and all the employees are present it's one bath per week. The other days I have my face, arm pits, bottom and genitals washed. I wonder if that woman who operates this place or the health minister wash themselves every day with a facecloth!
How much more time left for me to live? I should say to live this way. Bof! But who am I to complain? Just an old man. Before getting this old though I contributed in my own way to build this society in which you who are reading this story are living today. Not a perfect society obviously. But can we make it better? Yes but we need to put more effort into it and we must participate collectively.
Honestly I think that each and everyone of us prefers when things are quiet. Elders like me who are parked in nursing homes don't bother anyone. We are just a little cumbersome but I assure you we are all going to end up dying one day.
I just can't wait to see my nice orderly tonight at midnight. I don't fall asleep until I have spoken to her. You see even in theses places there are good people who are here for the right reasons. We say of them that they have the vocation. If only our politicians knew how devoted and compassionate these people are. They would surely stop hiring these firms who minute everyone of their interventions. After all this is not an assembly line here.
Oh well enough criticizing for today. I will just continue my day thinking about my beloved wife and to the times that just like you, I did not think of the fate reserved to elders.
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