Hate being old

Health system : Too young for the nursing home

How Tanja Herz hates this sentence. She stands in the corridor of an old people's home in Berlin, one of those 298 fully inpatient nursing homes in this city that she has longed for for months. The home manager runs up to her and looks at Tanja Herz with raised eyebrows. "Good day. But you would be by far the youngest here. ”That is the first thing she says.

Tanja Herz, gray, short hair, is 44 years old, in reality her name is different. Of course, she would like to live a woman that age, but she has no choice. She has had a malformed spine and a thickened skullcap since childhood. She could never run like the others in physical education class. In 2006, she suffered from an autoimmune disease that caused her to gain weight and fall asleep in the middle of the day. She has difficulty walking, hearing and seeing, and has had care level II since 2007. Her back, hips, knees, feet and arms are constantly aching. It is difficult for her to breathe at night.

She thinks she would be better at home. She imagines finding friends there. And helpers who take care of them. She doesn't mind that Tanja Herz is about half the age of the other residents. But in each of her twenty attempts so far, whether by phone or visit, she was told: She is too young.

Of 2.9 million people in need of care, 386,000 are younger than 60

According to surveys, 80 to 90 percent of Germans are afraid of having to move into a nursing home at some point. Tanja Herz doesn't. Tanja Herz is afraid of not finding a place in the nursing home.

She is not alone with this problem. Of the 2.9 million people in need of care in Germany, around 386,000 are not yet 60 years old. That is 13.5 percent. The Barmer health insurance recently drew attention to this with a report and criticized the fact that the younger ones were forgotten in the German care system. The staff is “often not specially trained” for younger patients, and the number of shared apartments and home places is far too few. Barmer CEO Christoph Straub was outraged: A 30-year-old has no business in a facility with 80-year-olds!

The director of the home gives Tanja Herz a brochure. She currently has no vacant bed and no one is "moving out according to plan" anytime soon. But she can put Tanja Herz on the waiting list. When she has thought it all over again.

Another disappointment. Tanja Herz sits down on a chair in the hallway, opens the buttons of her burgundy woolen jacket and watches as a nurse kneels in a wheelchair in front of a stooped man with light white hair. "How are you?" "Yes, yes." "I'm happy to see you. Do you hear me? "" Yes, yes. "

His face is deeply wrinkled. Tanja Herz's skin is rosy and smooth. “But you're as old as you feel,” she says. "When I sit down, I'm 60. When I walk, get dressed or have to bend over, I'm 90."

What are the highlights in your small apartment?

Tanja Herz still lives alone, for many people independence is a great asset. But what are the highlights in your small apartment? Most of the time she lies on the sofa and watches TV series, preferably "Storm of Love". She only smears herself rolls because she doesn't dare to cook because of the attacks of falling asleep. She can no longer wash her body on her own. “If I doze off in the evening without going to the toilet again, I swim away in the morning,” she says. “What's better at home? That I am lying in my own filth? "

A cleaning lady comes once a week to vacuum and mop. Once someone from the visiting service comes in for two hours, has coffee with her, plays cards, sometimes helps her to the bathroom, but two hours are up quickly. When Tanja Herz has to go to the doctor or the office, the escort service helps. Her favorite is Micha. As luck would have it, Micha is picking up a woman from the home where Tanja Herz is applying for a place. He does not understand why their search has so far been unsuccessful. “Some have to be forced to leave their homes at 70. But you know what you are getting yourself into and have made up your mind, ”he tells her. "Life just happened to you, but you don't hang your head."

Yes, she wants to make the best of everything. And the best thing for her, she is sure, is a life in the home.

Quiz round on Wednesdays, bingo on Thursdays, reading on Fridays

Tanja Herz would eat something warm there again. If I had contact with other people, I would get suggestions again. Here, for example, this week looks like this: on Mondays bowling in the foyer, Tuesdays a trip to the technology museum, Wednesdays quizzes, Thursdays bingo, Fridays a reading. She could fill her life with more content. Wouldn't feel so gross anymore because someone would help if she wet herself or wants to take a shower. If the pain becomes unbearable, she could be given an injection of cortisone right away.

She is also fond of old people. She grew up with her grandmother and always had gray people around her. Her first husband, who has since passed away, was 36 years older, and her current boyfriend is 19 years older. A few years ago, when she was feeling better, she led a senior group. Fiddled with participants, solved crossword puzzles. Heard songs by Peter Alexander. “I had so much fun,” she says. The younger ones, who rush around effortlessly, to jobs and families, have always been further away from her.

According to the Barmer Report, children and young people are cared for at home in the vast majority of cases. According to the Senate Department for Health and Care, there are two residential groups in Berlin, two children's hospices and seven homes for the disabled. There are no “statistical surveys” available for adults under 60 years of age.

From the old people's home, "I just wanted to get out of there"

Ten kilometers from Tanja Herz, Udo Rink, who also doesn't want to read his real name in the newspaper, lives in one of the very few assisted living options for people who are no longer young and not yet old. The 32-year-old, curly hair, glasses, little hump, moved to the St. Elisabeth monastery on Eberswalder Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg at the end of last year, where there is a station for younger people. Before that he lived in a nursing home in Hohenschönhausen. “I just wanted to get out,” he says and drives his wheelchair to a white table in the common room with two sippy cups on it. Back then, one man often threw his diaper on the floor in the nursing home, while another kept screaming. “Worst of all, however, was Bert, he had dementia and always forgot where his bed was,” says Rink. "Suddenly he was standing in front of mine because he thought it was his."

21 people live on the "Rainbow" floor, fourth floor. Some have had a stroke or have multiple sclerosis. A woman is so obese that she just lies in bed. Udo Rink is paraplegic.

One afternoon twelve years ago: Rink comes home and sees his girlfriend at the time cuddling with a colleague in the living room. How she giggles. Kisses him. He quietly sneaks outside, goes into a pub and gets drunk, Klarer with Coke. "I had several alcohols when I went to see her," he says. He cannot remember exactly what happened next. They argue. Then he goes out to the balcony. "She said I shouldn't jump, I remember that."

He is operated on for nine hours. He was in an artificial coma for two days. Then he wakes up. With a tube in your mouth. Can't move his legs. The doctor says that this will never change again. “That was a bad, bad year,” says Udo Rink. "I looked over to the window one more time."

Here he is one of the fittest

A resident in the corner of the room looks over at Rink. He has his mouth open and drools a bit, which is why a bib was tied on him. A woman can be heard shouting "Hello? Hello?" From the hallway. The residents look significantly younger than the old people on the lower floors of the home, but you can still see that they are dependent on others. The two men at another table, who stare in silence, are still sitting there two hours later. Without saying a word.

Udo Rink is one of the fittest here. He often drives out in his wheelchair, likes to the Schönhauser Arkaden, sometimes fetches a frozen pizza that he warms up in the microwave, visits his father in the nursing home or his fiancée. The day after tomorrow for a whole weekend. They have been together for eight years and the relationship gives him strength.

"Sometimes you have the feeling that the residents give their lives at the door when they move in," says one carer. “The days are only served. You wake up, eat, sleep. We want to take away the boys as best we can when they feel that it is the end of the line for them. ”They cook together. Visit exhibitions. If the weather is good, they will soon want to go back to the nearby Mauerpark.

Nevertheless, Udo Rink and the others cannot always do what they want. If you want to get out, you have to let me know. If you need anything you have to ask. Then they already feel unfree. Missing being spontaneous, making your own decisions. To be young.

Udo Rink has hung pictures of his fiancée next to his bed, which looks like it is in a hospital. One is painted blue with a heart on it. The other is red and cut out in a heart shape. “She thought it was funny to sleep with me in the nursing home,” he says. She did that once a month. She prefers to visit him here. Just staying overnight is not possible because he is sharing the room with someone else. "If I have a single room soon, I'll have peace and quiet with my sweetheart and can cuddle with her as much as I want."

"Clarify everything, must yes, must yes"

When he has saved enough money, Udo Rink wants to marry his fiancée. Preferably here in the home. He pushes himself to the elevator in his wheelchair. Want to show the perfect place for it. “Hey Udo, everything is ok?” Asks a resident who is sitting in a light brown corduroy armchair. "Clarify everything, must, yes." Two floors below is the "Evening Peace" floor.

Rink opens a large white door. The door to the chapel. Sunlight falls through the colorful windows, warms the room. In the front there is an altar with candlesticks, next to it a wooden wing, on the other side an organ. “Sometimes I pray here. Even if I'm not a believer, ”says Udo Rink. "But for me the world consists of quite a few question marks."

Most of the other residents no longer have such big plans. You will grow old here. Spend decades.

How much Tanja would like to exchange hearts with them. She used to dream of having children. Then she dreamed that her parents might want to get her from grandma after all and raise her themselves. This wish was not fulfilled either. Now she dreams of home. Although she saw her grandmother die in the home and her first husband. Although she knows that many of the carers are overworked. She sees the positive: a life in a home would be a life in society for her. She doesn't know whether her father is still alive. Her mother visits her every now and then in a care facility. Tanja Herz definitely doesn't want to go into the same. She cannot forgive her mother.

She cannot visit her boyfriend - he lives on the fourth floor

The only one who visits her and helps her find a home is her boyfriend, but he works and has throat cancer. “I don't want to burden him too much. Care is hard and exhausting, ”she says in her one-room apartment and covers herself with a woolen blanket on the leather sofa. Nor can she visit him at home. She can make every way only with a walker. He lives on the fourth floor with no elevator. If she goes to see him later that day, go and eat nearby. Then she drives back to herself. Is alone again.

Here, in the Märkisches Viertel, 40,000 people live in 16,000 prefabricated buildings. But Tanja Herz doesn't know who her neighbors are. If she fell and needed help, she wouldn't get any. Nobody rings the doorbell, knows that she is there, wants to know if she is okay. She'd have to hope that if she doesn't answer the phone, her boyfriend will worry at some point. “Someone in the home will notice and take care of it,” she says. "Maybe this will be my family replacement."

What she gives up for a place in the nursing home is not much: it's just her loneliness.

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