The past few days I have been volunteering at a nursing home here Leon, Mexico. It is close to where I’m staying and the people there vary in infirmity. Some are terminally ill and are spending their last days there. Some are mentally sharp but are in long-term recovery after a surgery, while others are purely mentally ill.
So far I’ve helped people eat and bathe, I’ve helped at the market to get food for lunch, and I have done general cleaning. The people working there are really nice and take what would otherwise be a depressing atmosphere and lighten it up.
I have talked quite a bit to Luis. He is the only one there who speaks English and despite my replies in Spanish he insists on speaking English with me. He was assaulted by someone and hit his head on the ground. It affected his memory and other things such that he often exaggerates and/or lies. I don’t know when a story goes off the rails into fantasy land with him, but today he told me he’s meeting the president on Thursday. That was a good indication.
But Luis is also very clever and we have good conversations. Donations are periodically dropped off and today a bag with some clothes and movies were dropped off. One of the movies was The Bucket List. He told me to go tell his two friends they should watch it. He liked the message of the movie. When he was depressed after his attack, the movie helped him realize that although he had changed he could still do almost everything for himself. And finding that dignity, which is severely lacking amongst a group of people who can’t bathe, eat, or use the bathroom on their own, is certainly a key to healthier living.
My other amigos include Pepe and Rudy. Pepe has circulation problems which necessitated the cutting off of his right leg and removal of his left foot. Rudy was a police chief in Guadalajara, but was shot several times during a shoot-out with drug traffickers. He was hospitalized for two years and now has been in the nursing home another two years. The doctors tell him that with a few more surgeries he can start the process of being able to walk again.
Although I am not able to help out in many practical matters since I am not trained or qualified, I think just having normal conversations with these guys helps them pass a part of their day. I wouldn’t say they are depressed. They are doing their best given the circumstances. I’d say they are somewhat optimistic about life. But I come in and talk to them like we’re friends instead of like a patient. I’m sure my accent is amusing too!
Today the director came in and talked to the patients. Rudy told her that the three of us (Rudy, Pepe, and I) had a nice intercultural exchange today. And it’s true. We did. We talked a lot about Spain, Mexico, the US, Rudy’s experiences, Pepe’s as a truck driver throughout all of Mexico, and my experiences. It was fun for all three of us.
I’m guessing I’ll volunteer there the rest of my time here in Leon, but I’m waiting to hear from youth organizations to see if I can help them in some way.
All in all, another great volunteering experience underway. I hope to put up another post with pictures inside the nursing home, but first I have to find out the rules about that.