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,
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?
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 fête.
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