THEY CAME AROUND EARLY IN THE MORNING and handed each nursing home resident a black trash bag. The residents were told to pack everything: their clothes, toiletries, family pictures and Bibles. They were being moved to a different nursing home—one not being closed for health and safety violations.
The residents—most in their 70s, 80s and 90s—collected all their belongings, pausing to study pictures of family members long gone or to read a cherished letter or Bible verse. Most had fewer than four changes of clothes. In went their brush, comb and toothbrush. Before noon, staff came by and collected the bags and stacked them in a hallway outside the dining room.
The other nursing home’s staff arrived to transport the residents and their belongings. They were directed to the hallway, which they found to be empty. Someone remembered it was trash collection day. For many of the bewildered residents, their only possessions had been taken away and dumped in a landfill.
These residents are some of South Carolina’s less fortunate elderly.
FOUR GENERATIONS OF HER FAMILY either live with her or are part of a stream of relatives dropping by the spacious home she and her husband built more than 50 years ago.
She collects sock monkeys, those classic stuffed toys that look like monkeys and are made of, yes, socks. She sleeps in a recliner because her bed is full of monkeys. It’s obvious that she prefers the recliner. She’s 85, and it is much easier to get in and out of than the bed.
My family and I are guests in her home, invited for the weekend to watch Carolina play LSU. She is dressed for breakfast at 7:30 a.m., her hair and lipstick perfect. Her family cooks while she reads the Myrtle Beach Sun News andThe New York Times. She starts with the business section, not because of any investments, but she is concerned with the economy in general. Then, she moves on to the sports section and asks her adult niece what the Vegas bookies are saying about the day’s football games. She wants to know not only the spread but also the over/under on each game. She does not gamble. She is just getting her “game face” on.
After lunch, she talks with me about the World War II veterans who went on our April and September Honor Flights. Her husband was a pilot in the war, dropping supplies to Patton in North Africa and gliders in Normandy on D-Day. Together, they built a family and a business. She flips through the book profiling 100 veterans from the April flight. A widow, she blushes when I point out eligible suitors. She says, “I’m too old,” but she does it in such a way that tells me she is not.
At 7:30 p.m. she comes out in her USC jersey and leads the family in the cheer—“Game! … Cocks! … ”—and the Carolina fight song.
She is one of the state’s fortunate elderly.
THIS MONTH'S COVER FEATURE by my friend Sen. Glenn McConnell—I cannot call him “Lieutenant Governor”; it would be a demotion—examines the importance of planning for the financial, legal and health-related issues that we all face in our senior years. In his role as lieutenant governor, McConnell heads up the Office on Aging, where he is leading an effort to educate our state about the needs of the elderly. His article shows us why the best plan for enjoying the “golden years” is one that starts early in life.
As you read the article and ponder the best way to ensure the quality of life you desire for yourself and your loved ones, I ask you to consider what you can do in your community to help seniors in need. Many of our state’s electric cooperatives are working behind the scenes—through WIRE chapters and Operation Round Up—to help our most vulnerable citizens, but there is always more to be done.
If you would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities and the issues surrounding the state’s growing elderly population, please visit the website for the Lieutenant Governor’s Office on Aging or call 1-800-868-9095.