Monday Morning Musings

Posted on March 19, 2018 under Monday Morning Musings with 12 comments

St.Patrick’s Day at the RK


“Every man (woman) desires to live long, but no man (woman), desires to be old.*

Jonathan Swift

(I don’t think Jonathan Swift was a feminist. Parentheses inserted by yours truly!)

I’m hanging out a lot these days at the RK MacDonald Nursing Home. Some people are convinced that I’m just scouting the place out for a room! Mom moved in as a resident a few weeks ago so daily visits have become the norm.

Years ago, I was driving around the Cape with my mom. Her health was in decline. We drove and sang together, in two part harmony. We stopped in Ballantyne’s Cove for an ice cream. As we made our way along the twisting road with spectacular scenery, she turned to me and said, “Don’t ever grow old.” It really hit me and has stayed with me ever since. Swift was so right. We want to live a long life but we don’t want to regress.

I’ve got news for you. Unless you are lucky enough to be drinking form the fountain of eternal youth, your warranty notice will show up one of these days.

I always thought of the RK and other nursing homes as places to go and die. There’s no denying that many people will spend their final days in a facility such as this. But nursing homes are SO much more than this. They are very much about living, loving and laughing. They are places that ooze compassion and caring. They are filled with physical, emotional and spiritual healing. They are places of grace and gracious people.

I have also witnessed the great work at other public nursing homes, including Milford Haven in Guysborough and the Sherbrooke Nursing Homes. These are also first rate facilities.

The staffs at nursing homes are quite remarkable. This is not easy work. It is tough physically and mentally. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that this is much more than a job for many employees. It is a calling and a passion. I don’t think you can feign enthusiasm when you’re cleaning up after an accident. I have found the staff at the RK uncommonly kind to residents and their families.

Lest you think that nursing homes are just for the aged, think again. There are young people who have been dealt life changing blows who call the RK their home. They didn’t choose to be unwell just as older people didn’t choose dementia, Alzheimer’s or physical incapacity.

And guess what? Many of us are standing on the precipice, staring old age and infirmity straight in the face. Our turn is coming soon.

Like so many other things that make small communities run, volunteers are an integral part of the day to day life at the RK and other homes. I stood at the back of the main dining room the other evening and watched Bill Grover, Ronnie Hull and their buddies, hold the residents spellbound with wonderful old tunes. The next night, it was the Lion’s Club who came by for bingo. I routinely see university students in the hallways. And Brenda’s greyhounds!The Family Council and Foundation Board are also key pieces in the overall structure of the home.

I will tell you that nursing homes are not the depressing places that one often conjures up in discussions about aging. Yes. We would all like to live long healthy lives and die at home shortly after spending our last dollar at the casino. But for many of us, that’s not how the script will unfold.

I was playing music the other day at the RK. I watched this gentleman as he smiled, obviously enjoying the camaraderie. A few hours later he passed away.

Needless to say, I was quite shocked when I heard of his passing. I spoke to a senior staff member. Her words resonated with me then and now: “Our job is to make every day as comfortable and enjoyable for people as we can. We honestly have to love them like it’s their last day.”

None of us know when the light will flicker for the last time.

When my day comes, as it surely will (unless I make it to the Casino!), I won’t mind one bit if my family puts me in a nursing home. As long as it has wonderful folks like those at the RK, Milford Haven and Sherbrooke, I know I will be in caring hands.

If you come and visit me, pull up a chair, take out your guitar and sing “Heart of Gold” (Neil Young).

Even Neil Young will be Neil Old someday!

Have a great week.


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