I remember when I was just a girl, my paternal grandfather had his leg amputated due to not taking care of his diabetes. He was to go into rehabilitation, once he was released from the hospital, in order to heal and then to learn to walk again once he got his prosthetic limb. The rehabilitation facilities back then were just plain old nursing homes – the place where nightmares are made of (in my estimation at least!).
The reason that I say this is that nursing homes back then were not just to rehabilitate, but they were actually places that some families dumped off other family members; leaving them and never looking back! This included young children if they were severely mentally retarded or had Autism (although not much was known about it; first cases diagnosed in the U.S. around 1945).
Grandpa had a young boy like that where he was placed. This boy still haunts my nightmares to this very day. I believe (since I previously worked with kids with Special Needs), that no matter what, everyone has feelings, and the feeling of despair and loneliness that this boy must have felt (not to mention abandonment issues), were just too much for my young self to absorb. Every time I went to visit grandpa with my parents, I felt physically ill afterward just from thinking how I would feel if I was that little boy.
Thankfully there is more of a separation in today’s facilities because if this affected me so harshly as a child, just think what it could do to the already fragile elderly psyche! At least someone realized in this type of situation that With Age Comes Respect!