Monday, 6 May 2013

The Promise

What scares me most is that woman,
the new woman, I never guessed,
it never crossed my mind
she could be a patient, dressed
as she was in the finery of designer labels,
and the jewellery, it’s the kind you see film stars wear
and that hair, all coiffured up, y’’know
I thought she was a social worker.

It’s cruel this dementia thing,
it’s cruel here too, what they do to them,
within a month, this woman who was able
to chat and laugh was just like the rest,
degraded, empty,
joined that naked morning crocodile
of skinny shivering souls
waiting to be hosed down,
and I mean hosed down – not showered.
I suppose they just give up,
how can they treat people like that?

I couldn’t live like that, couldn’t die like that
and what hurts me is that I am part of it,
working here as I do, but I try to change things,
be kind and things, talk to them and try to make them smile,
but it terrifies me this dementia thing
and I need to ask you, plead with you,
if I should begin, well, to lose my mind –
will you tell me please, promise me you will
so I can overdose myself on insulin?

Anna :o]

The above is a bit too ‘prosee’ for me – so not quite happy with it and it is definitely work in progress – and it is probable that I will tinker with it every time I read it. Mlm’s prompt at mindlovemisery is that of fear and this is my mother’s story.  Thanks for the inspiration mlm!

In the seventies my mother worked as a ward assistant on elderly female long stay at a local psychiatric hospital.  Care then was very much of don’t care as many of the nurses still possessed the ‘warder mentality’ and the patients were mere things to amuse themselves with.  It is true that the demented ladies were lined up naked every morning for a ‘shower’ and were the daily butt of jokes and cruelty.

My mother hated it – but stayed there for the ?right ?wrong reasons.  She loved the patients and gave them her time, so much so that some were able to remember her name.  The poem is based on a conversation we had in the grounds of the hospital on the day of a fĂȘte.

I promised her there that I would tell her if she was ever ‘losing her mind’ – but when the time came I broke my promise – how can you tell your mother it is time to kill yourself?  As dementia cruelly took hold of her – sometimes I wished that I had…

I entered psychiatric nursing several years later and on the elderly wards care had improved in that there was no outright cruelty – bar that of the cruelty of neglect, the neglect of the recognition that the patients were people.

Poem also entered at Poets United Poetry Pantry – thanks Poets United!

Image:  Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  Author: Gert Germeraad


Anonymous said...

Awww Anna this is an incredible poem deeply felt and very tragic. My mom has always told me if she gets really sick she wants me to just pull the plug (she doesn't even want to be old) I know its what she wants but damn that is a difficult call. What you must have been through torture. My grandmother had dementia and the strangest thing was that she actually seemed happier and far more sociable. My grandmothers past is a mystery but I know from glimpses it was traumatic/seriously fucked up, she had severe rages and started seeing demons but when she developed dementia very late in life her whole personality was transformed, it was so strange I had seen glimpses of that sweet loving side but then she fly into a psychopathic rage but the rages and demonic hallucinations went away completely. She died very peacefully, I can't imagine that her life with the memories was so bad that dementia was a relief it is a terrifying thought. You did a great job, I am very impressed and tear-eyed too.

Jenny Woolf said...

It is a very moving poem, Anna. Dementia is such a terrifying thing. And what an arresting picture. Your poem catches that sense of weird unease.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's very powerful. There probably are few things more horrific than the slow, awful decline of dementia. Really well written and conveyed. :)

Brian Miller said...

its heartbreaking really...dementia scares me more than most things...the loss of ones mind or to feel trapped in it or by it...your poem struck a cord....and made me shiver....

. said...

Working in active psych I do understand much of your writing ... everybody can lose their marbles ... I try to be a valuable marble in my client's life every day ... every marble has its day and its name ... one of the names is RESPECT. Love, cat.

VaNdAnA ShArMa said...


Yousei Hime said...

I doubt anyone who witnessed a relative suffer with dementia can escape from the fear they will share that fate. There is good writing in there. Be sure and go back to polish it to your own satisfaction.

anthonynorth said...

Heartbreaking words beautifully done.

Brother Ollie said...

this is part of my family history - sad and real

Jyoti Mishra said...

heartfelt n poignant writing..
only thing that matters so much are the memories we make..
and when it is snatched away.. it is real bad

Celestial Dreamz said...

incredibly moving ...

Marcelo said... unseen portion of the reality of life. The part unseen by many. Sad true life.