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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Second-Last Stop on your World Tour: New London Health Center

            The New London Health Center is in Snellville, GA. It’s an old-fashioned kind of nursing home, if you know what I mean. It smells like the Brussels sprouts that were served for lunch, has too few nurses for the kind of care the residents need, and there is always someone down the hall yodeling out of tune opera or frantically wanting to know where they are and how they got here. It’s the kind of place that makes you hope you’ll get hit by a bus when it’s your time to go. You don’t want to end up here.
             
Lily is 85 years old and bedridden. She has been a resident at New London for two long years now.  A former teacher, it’s hard to believe that she’s content to simply sit and stare out the window of her room. She was so vital, raising four children of her own and educating hundreds of other people’s children. Her room is filled with books, but her eyesight is so bad she can’t see well enough to read. She can’t stand to watch TV; the news shows repeat a litany of disaster and doom that would depress anyone. Two of her sons live in other parts of the country, one son committed suicide last year, and the one who lives nearby never comes to visit. She can’t blame him, really; it’s a sad place to visit and she’s a sad shadow of herself. If you visit her, she’ll ask you to tell her why she’s here. She doesn’t mean New London; she wants to know why she’s still alive.

Gertie hasn’t been at New London quite as long as Lily has. Gertie is the “difficult” woman on the hall. She curses at the nurses in German, refuses to do as she’s asked, and sometimes rolls her wheelchair into places that are off limits to residents. If she feels like it, she’ll tell you about her struggles to get out of Germany during WWII. If she doesn’t feel like it, she’ll tell you to go to hell. Sometimes, she gets confused and thinks that the home is a Nazi camp. She’ll whisper to you to get out while you still can. If you visit her, she’ll ask you to tell her why she’s here. She doesn’t mean New London; she wants to know why she’s still alive.

Helen is one of the few women at New London who can still walk. You’ll see her pushing her walker all around the home. She smiles when she sees you, and she wants to know about life outside of New London. She’s charming and patient with the nurses. Unfortunately, she has a heart condition, and has to wear a monitor. She needs the nursing care that the home provides, and she knows she’s never going to leave New London. It will be her home for the rest of her life. Some days when she’s down – and those days are rare – Helen will ask you to tell her why she’s here. She doesn’t mean New London; she wants to know why she’s still alive.

Life takes us on a wild ride. The opportunities that present themselves and the choices we make lead us…somewhere. There are too many variables in life to be sure of the consequences of any decision we make. Many times, we can’t even connect the dots; life seems random. I have no answers for these women who have lived full lives and now want nothing more than to have the pain stop. I can only tell them that they are making a difference in my life, that I am a better person for knowing them. Some days that’s enough.

General Information for New London Health Center

New London Health Centera nursing home in Snellville, GA received a 2 out of 5 overall rating from CMS of the Dept of Health and Human Services on January 7th 2011. This score means that New London Health Center is rated below average overall based on health inspections, nursing home staffing and quality measures.
2 out of 5  Overall Rating

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