NIMBY, Granny!

Oh dear.

“Stonemill Farms will be the scene of many memorable days with family and friends alike,” according to marketing materials. The development, with its $300,000 to $500,000 homes, is “the perfect place to raise a family,” the website boasts.

Sounds like a nice place. At least until the influx of the brain-devouring proto-zombie hordes (Alzheimer’s patients).

But maybe not if your family is like that of Woodbury resident Marilyn Nehring, whose husband, Jerry, has few memorable days now because he has Alzheimer’s disease.

Residents at Stonemill are opposing an attempt to turn an empty retail site into housing for people with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Another man opposed it if there were “one-tenth of one percent chance that anything could happen to a kid.”

A woman holding a baby fretted that potential clients with brain damage probably led lives of daring and danger, which might return. They don’t have “the fear, the healthy fear, that the rest of us have,” she said.

Nearly everyone who spoke against the facility had concerns that their children might be attacked or see an elderly adult do something inappropriate.

Depressing. Just depressing. Now, I’ve had more experience with Alzheimer’s patients than many. Prior to college, I worked a summer in maintenance at a nursing home. The Alzheimer’s ward was easily the most depressing* of the entire complex, as some of these folks just didn’t have a handle on reality. For example, one particularly depressing patient constantly asked the nurses what time her (the patient’s) daughter would be arriving, since she was scheduled to come that day. Every day this woman was “waiting for her daughter”, and every day her wait was fruitless; I’m not sure she even had a daughter. Almost more heartbreaking were the families who would show up to see their loved one, only to not be recognized at all. I can’t imagine anything worse than having to go see a loved one in the hospital and dealing with the hurt of him/her not even knowing me.

As much as some of these people may need to be in nursing homes so that they have the necessary care around them, this doesn’t eliminate the potential for caregivers to abuse their positions. For example, sepsis caused by neglect in a nursing home is a real problem that creates all kinds of worries for the loved ones of the neglected individual. Often, legal counsel is sought in such situations. Thankfully, this is not a problem emblematic of all caregivers, but families should still be on the lookout for signs of abuse.

Even though a nursing home that specializes in this type of care is the best place for these people to be, I can’t help but feel that some of them may benefit from being somewhere else. Now I’m not saying that they can live anywhere they like, it’s just that I’ve heard that places similar to La Posada offer memory care for people who suffer from the various types of dementia, including all the care that they may need, as well as providing them with lots of different activities that can help them to remain active and sociable. Maybe this is what some of these patients need to keep them distracted from wondering whether their children will come and visit them.

That being said, there was no danger there.

The Alzheimer’s ward was locked down. Keycodes were required for entry and exit, doors were alarmed, and everyone in the place (including lowly maintenance workers like me) were well-trained on the security procedures. As well as that, many of the patients on the Alzheimer’s ward were reliant on wheelchairs. Nowadays, more often that not people use high-tech electric wheelchairs which means that the person using it is free to go wherever they like (learn more here), but back then these were less common and so the patients usually had to be pushed everywhere. Obviously, this meant it was easier to keep tabs on them, but I still very much doubt that any of the patients would have been able to leave the ward unattended even if they did have an electric wheelchair. Staffing was far heavier in this ward than most (as the patients needed much more individual care), but even those who were fully ambulatory weren’t exactly threats to the community.

The summer I worked at that home (the summer of my 18th birthday) was definitely one of the better learning experiences of my life. As depressing as some of the areas of the home were, exposure to reality is part of life. At the very least, having that experience made me thankful for what I do have in life. Now, as a parent it is my responsibility to control what access my kids have to that reality, and at some ages I wouldn’t subject a child to some of these things. But I would do so out of respect for my own child’s ability, at a certain age, to fully comprehend a situation, not out of fear for his well-being. Even though there are locks on the doors, this is a hospital facility, not a prison.

Often these types of misconceptions about people are only heightened by insulating society from their very existence. These parents are merely inculcating the same misconceptions and paranoia into their own kids**. How sad.

Hat Tip: Free Range Kids

* The second most depressing ward, of course, were the Medicaid patients. The Alzheimer’s patients in one sense were lucky: they’d long ago left reality. The Medicaid patients, on the other hand, were firmly grounded in the horrible reality that nobody in a place gave a shit about their welfare. Remember that, single-payer advocates.

** And, of course, they’re teaching their kids that you can and should tell property owners how they can and cannot use their property, merely by appealing to the local governing board. Another horrible lesson for their children.