As you near the main entrance, the door automatically opens as if to make your entrance that much easier and inviting.
As you walk down the well-lit room, you can’t help but stop and admire the donated paintings on the walls.
As you turn left, you pass both young and elderly people freely travelling the open hallways. Comfortable chairs and tables and a television set are there for visitors and residents to settle in for a visit. Everyone is welcomed.
Down a hallway and turning right you come to a door that opens on a code and you can enter. The hall goes left to A unit and right to B unit. As a visitor, you are met with cheerful “hellos” from the staff on duty.
I enter to the left and sit at a round table to the left of the entrance to a large open room with a small kitchen. A half-gate keeps this area only for staff. A staffer comes by, mopping the floor that is already very clean.
I sit at a round table with chairs. As I get settled, an elderly lady stops in front of me and looks down. The chair I am sitting in at this table is her favourite place. She says nothing, and I know it is her favourite chair, so I move to a small, comfortable couch.
My uncle is sitting at a table nearby. I say hello in Kaska. He recognizes me and laughs his little laughter. His way of calling the caring worker “honey” shows a kinship has evolved. He is clean and well kept. He was asking for his favourite bowl of cereal and milk, which is promptly given with a lot of kind words to comfort my uncle.
He now has gone to the other side, passed on from this world.
A young worker mourns his passing as he has been in their personal care for a number of years. Over the many years, I have seen and visited friends that have passed on. I have seen mean-spirited individuals and very kind ones over the years.
I have seen tears flowing from caregivers who mourn the passing of individuals. A family-like relationship built up from daily caring interaction with these beautiful elders in the sunset of their lives. I have seen elderly married couples live in comfort, and I personally know these elders and family members who come from every small community. You know the caregivers are appreciated as they have been publicly acknowledged at potlatches by family members.
You get to know these elders as someone who controls the TV, tells jokes to you and those workers around. You get to see the not-so-happy ones who are loud and demanding. Caregiving workers who have and take bruises, scratches, verbal abuse as part of their work. The wounds are usually inflicted from people who are not too happy, for whatever reason they choose to be. It is taken as part of the responsibly, and shows they have to endure physical situations. Twenty-four hours a day, each one is looked after to ensure any slip or fall is taken care of immediately.
The privacy of each one is guarded rigidly so that their private life is protected.
While visiting, it was interesting to watch and listen to the elderly going about their daily lives in the common dining area. Some are loud, others do not say a single word as they go about their daily life.
As I get up to leave, I meet an elderly fellow in a wheelchair and a young man. I say hello in Southern Tutchone and the elderly man nods and smiles. I have known him for many years as well as the young man who sits quietly by and listens.
I continue to walk out to the main door and, as I leave, I wonder how many of these elders have family visitors. As I drive away, I could understand that in our busy daily lives our loved ones can be seen when we find the time.
My mother is over 80 and she still lives by herself. I feel a sense of comfort knowing that there is a clean, warm place that she can also live if the need comes to be.
Knowing from watching, firsthand, the loving care sometimes given the elderly, who are not able to say anything, is so rewarding in its own way.