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Photo by Sebastian Schaeffer.
Photo by Sebastian Schaeffer.

Caring For Our Elders

Jan 24, 2012

Many of us do not like to think of our own death, we would much rather focus on living. Still, as I ponder my life and future I have to think of where I want to be when I die. The older we get the more practical it seems to plan ahead. It is never too early to arrange for your final days.

Today we have numerous elders living on the reservation. Some of our elders live in the tribally operated nursing home in White River, SD. I would bet money that those elders would much rather be at home. I remember several years ago when I attended the elder games in St. Francis, SD and the nursing home residents were there. One of the residents said to me, “Can you get me out of here?”

We also have elders who are sick and need constant attention. Illness may be the deciding factor when a family admits an elder to the nursing home. Still, some of the residents in Rosebud’s nursing home are not sick at all. They just do not have anyone in their family who can care for them.

We also have many people who are terminally ill. From what I can see many of them die in the hospital. They spend their last days away from the homes and families they love. Even though many of them may be surrounded by family members when they die in the hospital, I believe many of them would prefer to be at home in their own beds when they die.

If my death is to come from an illness or old age I most certainly would want to make my journey to the other side from my own home. The only way I can do this is to prepare legal documents in advance. I also need someone to care for me if I am going to be bedridden in my own home for any reason.

I want to tell all of you who care for family members in your homes that you are providing an invaluable service. Some of you are also caregivers for people whom you are not related to. The life and work of a caregiver is sometimes not appreciated. I have had experience in the caregiver area so I do want to tell you that there are people who pray for you to have strength in the service you provide to the ill or elderly.

I pray our people are someday offered the opportunity to die at home with dignity instead of in the hospital surrounded by machines. 


Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She can be reached through email at


09:35 pm - Tue, January 24 2012
Bernie Hunhoff said:
Vi, our 90-something neighbor recently had a fainting spell, went to the hospital and is now in a nursing home and very unhappy. We've visited her a few times, and while the nursing home staff is outstanding, and she agrees, it's easy to see that she has lost her swagger and independence already. Thanks for a great piece on a subject that people my age talk about a lot, because we're seeing it happen to parents and neighbors daily.
08:01 am - Thu, January 26 2012
Laura said:
It's not easy putting a loved one in the nursing home, but sometimes the demands of caring for them at home are just too great. We were lucky enough to be able to keep my grandmother at home for the last month of her life, but it required the cooperation of the whole family.

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