Native son: A nursing home in Amsterdam

by Charles D Novak

I made my first trip to Amsterdam over a dozen years ago and still have fond memories of the place.
I was overwhelmed by the 60 miles of canals. I spent more time on the boats touring the city then walking on land. Unfortunately they are now being polluted by the overflow of tourists.
Amsterdam has a population of 854,047. It’s is also the home of the oldest stock exchange in the world.
A book about the city that I wanted to read has finally been translated into English. The title is The Secret Diary Of Hendrik Groen 83 ¼ Years Old. It’s a hoot! A laugh on every page. It was so popular a second book came out with the same title but with the author’s current age of 84. It’s a fantastic series of stories of life in a nursing home in Amsterdam.
Nursing homes went through a series of name changes. They started out as old age homes, and then became retirement homes, then assistant living facilities, care centers and finally market-oriented health-service organizations.
I still like the name of nursing home. Falls are the leading cause of injuries in the nursing home. The oldest man in The Netherlands is 106 and the oldest woman 122. Their health care system must be doing very well indeed.
The 106 year old man wears a bracelet that says “ do not resuscitate.” In the Amsterdam nursing home a broken hip means at least four months confined to bed before you can even attempt using a walker.
The word “Alzheimer” is always whispered. The chance of a patient getting this is one in five and you can still live for another eight years with this condition. During the last stages of this disease you will be moved to the “locked ward.” Some people say Alzheimer’s Day is wasted on people who have the disease because they don’t even know what day of the week it is. Research has shown that video games make old brains come back to life again.
The biggest “oh my god” about the nursing home in Amsterdam is patients have the right to euthanasia. Those who suffer from terrible pain or those who simply don’t want to live anymore can ask for the “End of Life Care Counselor” who they have to convince to end their life. The doctor will listen to their reasons and approve a pill that will put them to sleep forever. When approved the pill will be put on a table next to the bed and it’s up to the patient to swallow it. It is a felony in Amsterdam to help anyone commit suicide.
The interesting thing about this is 50% of the people who get approval stop the procedure when it comes time to take the pill. They decide life is worth living after all.
There is also a well-known scientist in Amsterdam who claims there will be a cure for Alzheimer’s within 15 years. A group of people in the Amsterdam Nursing Home call themselves the Old But Not Dead Club. They believe you are born, you die and the rest is just marking time. I certainly hope life is a little more than that!