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The Long Hallway

June 29, 2015

By Mary Beth Wighton
The smell of urine has not left me.

Yesterday, Dawn made arrangements for us to visit a long-term care facility. At 2:00 p.m. we arrived. It a nice looking building. I sat on an outside bench trying to absorb what we were about to do. We were here to have a tour looking to access if this could be a suitable place for me to one day live at.

It started last week, when my case worker from CCAC gave me the necessary paperwork to fill out for submitting my preferences for long-term care. Having Frontotemporal Lobe Dementia (FTD), I will eventually require a great deal of care. It is our hope that I will always remain in our home. We will hire necessary workers to assist Dawn. Our home will be modified to accommodate my changing needs: bathroom renovations, wheelchair ramp, stair lift, etc.

However, it is also important for us to have a “plan b.” If I do require more care than is manageable at home, I must have my ducks-in-a-row. This means, having my name on a waiting list for up to three long-term care facilities. The search has begun.

Yesterday, marked the first visit of a potential home. From the exterior, the building seemed quite nice. Lots of trees, flowers and it was well kept. Check mark.

We were greeted by staff members who were quite friendly yet professional. Check mark. Our tour began. As we sat in a room listening to all the wonderful things this home offered, I was distracted by some grunting noises in the hall. A woman in a wheelchair was looking at us. I smiled at her and tried to refocus.

The intake worker, spoke to Dawn and me. I was not dismissed as having no value to add to the conversation. Check mark. I communicated the importance of living a life of dignity and embracing each day. She agreed. Check mark.

We began to look at the different kinds of rooms which are available. Depending on what you can afford, there are single, double and four people rooms. There is a large difference in each kind of room. Hmm. I did not know how to evaluate my choices. This tour was becoming harder to understand and make a decision. No check mark and no x. I would have to come back to this and mull over the possibilities.

We turned into another hallway. Immediately, my eyes stung and I was overcome with the smell of urine. I stopped. I interrupted our tour guide. “To be blunt, this smells like urine.” I informed her. She seemed surprised. She paused for a moment and then said, it depends on the time of the day I'm not sure what that meant, nor did I really care. Her talking began to fade away in the distance as I continued to take in the horrible smell. This is terrible, I thought. This is caused by more than one person. For me to smell it in the hallway, means there is a lot of urine. I was horrified. It depends on the time of day. Really? What does the time of day have to do with anything? How can a person live with dignity in this stench? I would NEVER live here. What happened to the comment about dignity?

I stopped listening to our tour guide. I went through the rest of the building so I could compare it to others.

As we walked down another hallway, the lady in the wheelchair, who I saw earlier, pointed at me. She motioned for me to come to her. I did and put my hand on hers and smiled. She took my hand and brought it to her dry mouth and softly kissed my hand. I looked into her eyes and told her thank you. I had a desire to sit down beside her and talk with her. Instead, she gave me another soft kiss. It was then time for me to go.

I was told that she never does that. I wonder why I was singled out? When she looked into my eyes, did she now how sad I was? Did my tears, that were starting to build, give me away? Did she have a room in the urine stench hallway? I can only wonder.

As I closed the building door behind me, I thought to myself, I will never be back here again. But unfortunately, the smell of urine in that hallway, will never leave me. On to the next long-term care facility.