Nursing Homes Scary to Some People

Commentary by Marsha Rizzo Swanson

            Homeless people have a hard time trusting nurses or doctors. I know myself that I had shocking experience with one nursing home. My husband nearly died, it was terribly frightening to me. I did not think that a nursing home could be so horrible or that there could be such a difference in care between one nursing home and another. Now I know why a homeless woman or man would say, “I would rather stay on the streets then go to a nursing home.”

            I understand that people don’t need to live in fear, but our society will not set up any protections. So our society doesn’t understand homelessness, but people are very quick to judge homeless people mostly out of fear. And most people can’t face the facts because they are not familiar with the problems facing homeless people. “What do they know?”

            My husband was a Grapevine Vendor. He got very ill, and often times he was out of it. I was very devastated to see my husband in this condition. In fact, he almost died. So, when a homeless man or woman has a hard time, the fear that was in me, you would not want to know. I was devastated and alone. I hated to have to put my husband in a nursing home, and I am sure that many homeless people face this horrible decision. He was mistreated in the first home that he went to. They ignored him, and he almost died.

            Many homeless people don’t want to put themselves in a nursing home, but we all know that they need affordable housing, free health care, plus mental health care. We have a big problem with homeless people not being able to find help for the their mental health or for other health problems. We need more people to stand and say, “We are supposed to be Americans, and we need to help each other, not condemn each other.” People need to start thinking about what they will do when their brother, or sister, Mother, or Dad, say to them, “I am homeless!!” Many just don’t care? That is the bottom line to what many people respond. I am directing this to you, me, all of us, to step back and remember that we are supposed to be one nation under GOD .

            Let’s not be ignorant and stigmatize our homeless friends, relatives or fellow citizens. They are human beings, they need LOVE. I know I would want someone to treat me with love, because who wants to be treated with hate?

Copyright to the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless and the Homeless Grapevine Cleveland Ohio December 2003 Issue 63.