I Guess Her Mother has Pneumonia
August 10, 2017
The Palm Reader
August 10, 2017

Behind the Nursing Home Curtain

The Allure of Being a Redhead

We All Deserve to be Proud of our Appearance

The fact that my mom, Sylvia, is almost 91 years-old  and a resident of a nursing care facility doesn’t dismiss her sense of self-respect and vanity, characteristics that have been etched in her personality for as long as a can remember.

Until I was about 13 years old, I believed my mom to be a natural redhead. Big surprise: she’d been coloring her hair for years! When she became homebound, and subsequently entered a nursing care facility by her own choice, she was determined to keep the allure of being a redhead, as she had done her entire life. I see her weekly, and get “reminders” every month or so that she needs a “cut and color,” something I am happy to do. Often she’ll ask me if her hair needs attention, knowing that she can trust me, as her daughter, to tell her the truth. With all that I cannot do to improve her mobility or medical issues, I feel pleased that there is something of importance that I can do for her.

Afterwards, I can see from the look and smile on her face that she feels like herself again. The fact that she has very little sight doesn’t matter, it’s about how she feels. She is most gracious when I help her to feel her best. Wanting her hair colored as it was all her life means that she still “cares” about herself and has not “given up on life“, which reassures me, as well. She may be 90, chronologically, but doesn’t want to feel or look like an “old lady.” In her head, she is not, and coloring her hair provides confirmation.

To complete the beauty régime, she’ll ask about any stray hairs or blemishes on her face that need attention. She loves that everyone notices her revived hairdo and of course, comments that her “beautician” was there. A small effort for me to bring such joy to her! So, just like the rest of us, for a woman who cares about her appearance to be ignored in her cleanliness is devastating. The policy of this nursing care facility places no emphasis on these basic human rights. Often viewing them as indulgences, they lack the insight, or desire, to acknowledge the impact of these gestures on residents’ self-esteem and self-respect. As in my mom’s case, they are clueless about how a resident’s positive perception of herself affects her well-being and sense of self, a basic human need.

There are, however, resident aides who attempt to break this pattern. My mom has one aid who is sure to bathe and groom her regularly. The other, although not as proactive, will at least alert her that she needs a haircut and color, knowing it is important to her and that I will attend to it. Thank goodness there are still some who include these aspects in their mission. We all deserve to be proud of our appearance and the self esteem it brings, regardless of our age or standing in life.

Donna Jacobson

2012 October four

Advocate noun

Synonyms: exponent, advocator, apostle, backer, booster, champion, expounder, espouser, friend, gospeler (or gospeller), herald, hierophant, high priest, paladin, promoter, proponent, protagonist, supporter, true believer, tub-thumper, white knight.

Age noun

: the time of life at which some particular qualification, power, or capacity arises or rests 

: one of the stages of life

: the length of an existence extending from the beginning to any given time

: lifetime

: an advanced stage of life