One person had been on Hospice. Her tiny body had struggled to push her walker from her apartment to the dining room, laden with a container of oxygen, from which two plastic tubes entered her nostrils, filling her damaged lungs with life’s needed air. When she reached our dining table, she coughed heavily and spasmodically. The grating of her lungs ended when she banged the table in anger, whispering to herself and us at the table, “I need a new body.” Then, as always, her lips parted and spread sideward revealing her front teeth. She was grinning.
To allay the surprise a general announcement would have caused, her friends were each told of her demise. Then the community.
The other resident sat a table next to us. He was wheelchair bound, and paddled himself to his seat in the dining room. He seemed well enough, talkative at the table, but at one evening meal, he began a coughing jag, broke out in sweat, and was hustled back to his room. Soon after, the EMTs arrived and he was loaded on a gurney and whizzed away to the ER. The next day, the administrator addressed the congregation in the dining room, telling us the resident had a “medical emergency” – we are sooo HIPAA-conscious that friends never know about those who disappear. The next day it was announced he died. What happened? Big question mark.
Such is mostly the case. Here one day. Disappeared the next. The community is left to wonder.
What happened to our neighbor?
It could happen to any one of us.
Dick Weinman is an AARP Volunteer, and ALF resident and guru