On one of our last days in the Dominican Republic we went to visit a nursing home that was located out in a small village. Before coming I did not really know what to expect. On my trips I have visited churches, daycares, villages, and rural areas, but I would have never guessed just how impactful this place would be. The nursing home was the first place on the trip that really got to me.
Walking up to the building there was an elderly man sitting in a chair with his cane against the wall just watching us. The smell of urine soon came apparent the closer we came. Overall the nursing home was nice and well kept. There were hard floors and a decent kitchen area. The bedrooms were bunches of beds lined up beside each other indicating privacy was not a concern. Most of the residences were all sitting out in a sunroom that had screens surrounding it to keep bugs out. Others were sitting outside under some trees just gazing off in their own thoughts. The thing that really got to all of us was just how lonely these people must be. I can’t imagine just sitting out in the sun all day starring at the person across from me or beside me. I think I would go nuts! But this is what these people did. They just sat and starred.
While walking through one of the bedrooms one of the people on the trip with me just stepped off to the side and started sobbing. I went over to her, gave her a hug, and asked what was wrong. She looked up with tear filled eyes and replied, “Where are their families.” At that moment I just took a step back and let it all sink in. I asked myself the same question, where ARE their families? We had seen no other visitors. Do their families ever come? Do they even have families? These questions deeply bothered me.
I had to get some air so I went back out to the sunroom and started passing out coloring pages that students had colored back at my school to give to the people in the Dominican. After I walked around and sat with some of the residents. Sometimes just having someone close gives a sense of comfort. There were a few blind people at the nursing home and I went to them and held their hands. One man in particular caught my attention. He was completely blind and missing an eye. The thing that caught my attention was his mumbling. He would sit in his chair and rock back and forth mumbling to himself. I couldn’t help but wonder what he was reminiscing about. Every time I went over and put my hand on his shoulder or held his hands he would start mumbling faster and nodding his head acknowledging my presence. To me he seemed like a very sweet man who just wanted to feel the touch of a human hand because he could no longer see the people around him.
Only one of the residences could speak English so it was very hard to communicate and have conversations with all the others, especially if they had a hard time speaking in general. There was one man who had been sitting on a bed all day. He would wave and give us a light smile as we walked by but was restricted to his bed because of his catheter and not having the ability to walk. I brought a friend of mine over who could speak more Spanish than I could and we started to have a conversation with the man on the bed. We came to learn that he had lived in another country before the Dominican Republic and had moved there later in his life. He had no family, no house, and no money to his name. We asked if he was happy at the nursing home and he joyfully said yes, explaining that the nurses took good care of him and that God had blessed him. After hearing him say this I felt much better about his situation, but was still troubled by the fact that he had no one who would be able to come and visit him.
Visiting the nursing home was a reality check for me. I came to realize just how grateful I am for my friends and family. I could not imagine being completely alone in this world. None of the things that I have accomplished would be possible if not for the help of others and the support or friends and family. The bus ride home was much more quiet than normal. Later that night after hearing the story of another girl’s experience at the nursing home I went back to my room and let the water works go because I could not contain my emotions any longer. I also thanked God for all He has blessed me with because I would be nothing without those blessings.
What about you? Have you ever been to a nursing home in another country? Leave a comment below!