Convalescent homes are places for old, sick, disoriented people. Don't ever put me in one - don't even think about it! Just take me out back and shoot me if it ever comes to that - at least that's' the way I felt before I had my knee replacement surgery in December of 2005.
When my surgeon told me I should plan on spending 3 to 4 days in the hospital and then 5 to 7 days at a convalescent home I immediately tried to envision alternatives. I considered returning home and arranging for therapists to come to the house. When I realized how hard it would be on my family (and on me), I grudgingly began to make plans to visit the local facilities.
On my first visit - which I made unannounced - I met a lovely young administrator who gladly showed me the patient rooms and common areas as well as the physical and occupational therapy rooms. She assured me she would do everything possible to secure a private room. She also said that I looked much too young to need a knee replacement. She flattered me, and it worked. I filled out the paper work and made a reservation.
Upon arriving at the convalescent home following my surgery and subsequent hospital stay of which I remember little thanks to my self controlled morphine drip, I found myself in a lovely private room overlooking the courtyard. I was immediately surrounded by doctors, nurses, therapists, social workers and the administrator whom I had previously met (obviously I looked like hell because she wasn't sure I was the same woman who had visited six weeks earlier).
I remained there for 10 days, much longer than originally expected. The days were a blur - pain meds, occupational therapy, physical therapy, lunch, more pain meds, more physical therapy, nap, more pain meds, shower, dinner, and finally, pain meds and sleeping pills. My physical therapy went well, as I was cooperative and eager to get better. My occupational therapy was harder - they wanted me to practice making beds, folding laundry and doing dishes. I wasn't interested and I let them know it. My occupational therapist persisted in finding activities for me to practice. We made chocolate milk shakes, played card games, and tossed a ball.
My days passed in a drugged stupor. I didn't have to think about the outside world. There was always someone around telling me where to go, what to do, and how to do it. I had no responsibilities - no worries other than helping my new knee to work properly. I felt safe and well taken care of.
I wasn't ready when my physiatrist walked in and told me I could go home the next day. He was sure I'd be thrilled. I was terrified - my safe haven was being removed. I cried at the thought of the outside world, which was overwhelming. I didn't think I was ready. I couldn't possibly leave - not ever!
But they sent me packing the next day (with lots of pain killers). My own home felt good. My own bed was wonderful. My incredible family took great care of me and I continued to improve. I realized I could survive outside of the convalescent home, and I gradually reentered the world.
The convalescent home experience was good. Everyone treated me great. I had made the right decision. I had given myself the time I needed to regain my strength. But, if anyone even thinks about sending me to a convalescent home just take me out back and shoot me instead!