I normally post about ways to get the most bang for your buck at senior housing communities. But, there’s an interesting story that I’d like to tell.
During my time as a consultant for senior housing communities, I traveled all over the country investigating properties. I spent a lot of time sitting in lobbies waiting for the marketing representative, and I remember one community in particular. It was in a poor neighborhood, and I considered skipping it altogether and moving on to the next community. But, it was late in the day, and I couldn’t make it to any other locations before they closed. So, I sat and waited for the marketing representative.
While I was waiting, a woman sat down next to me. She was about 35 years old, dressed in scrubs, and had just come off of her shift. I was bored, so I started talking to her.
I found out that it was her birthday. She was waiting for her mother to come pick her up. They had dinner plans. Her kids were baking her a cake.
I enjoyed hearing her talk, so I started asking her more questions about her job and how she spent her time. I learned that her job was the lowest, most menial job at the nursing home. She was basically there to change diapers and empty bed pans. She made it pretty clear that some parts of the job were pretty awful. But, then she said something that I’ll never forget.
“It’s interesting,” she said slowly. “I was assigned to one man for the last six months.”
“What happened to him?” I asked.
“He died,” she said.
“Yeah,” she continued. “I was in the room with him when he died. His children didn’t come to visit. No one was there except for me. I held his hand.”
I just sat there, unsure of what to say. She continued, “It’s funny, you know? We live our whole lives, and yet, the one person who was there when this guy died was me. Makes you wonder what it’s all about.”
At that moment, the marketing agent approached and asked me to follow her back to her office. I stood and shook hands with the nursing assistant that I had just met, thanking her for the conversation. I never caught her name. I never knew anything more about her than that it was her birthday and that she had watched a man die. But, the event will be forever etched in my mind. For me, it helped make the distinction between senior housing as a business and senior housing as a place where real people live and die. It solidified my appreciation for those who care for the sick and the dying. It also made me appreciate my own life and the time I get to be alive.
Today’s a beautiful day. Carpe diem!
Photo courtesy of Will Clayton on Flickr.