Sunday, 30 March 2014

"They read the newspaper

to them in the mornings," my friend told me.
An elderly and most unwell friend has just been moved from one nursing home to another. The second one is much closer to her old home and easier for visitors to access.
I dutifully pedalled down there yesterday to see her in her new accommodation. It is supposed to be one of our better nursing homes.
Saturday afternoon. The place should have been buzzing with visitors? It wasn't. I didn't expect it would be. There was a major football match - of no interest to me or the people I went to see.
I tied the trusty tricycle to the flagpole in the front yard. I hope nobody thought that was disrespectful but there was nowhere else to park it.
I prowled in the front door because I did not know exactly where to find the room. (My previous visits to this establishment have been through another entrance entirely - to "low care", not "high care".)
The entrance to the area I needed was on the left. It was quiet. Most of the residents I saw were asleep - or so it seemed. There was a television set on in a sitting area. Two women in wheelchairs were facing it but slumped forward staring into space. A younger man was sitting in a wheelchair using his feet to turn himself around and around backwards.
I came across someone visiting. She was sitting there quietly talking to a woman who was lying there with her mouth open and her eyes blank. A little further on a man was showing his mother some photographs he had taken on his 'phone. His father was asleep. "I'll show Dad when he wakes up," he told her quietly.
He caught my eye as I went past. We didn't need to say anything. "Dad" won't understand.
I found a member of staff. She is, from her name and appearance, Thai. She is competent and cheerful and, despite being pulled three ways at once, pleased to see me. "Yes, I'll show you. Is she expecting you?"
"No, her cousin knows I am coming."
Oh yes, they are both pleased to see me. The older one sounds very wheezy but is, apparently, "much improved". I wonder about that.
We chat. The younger one tells me, a little too cheerfully, about the fact that there is "bingo with pictures" and that there are "quiz nights" and "exercise classes" and "an outing on the bus" and "they read the newspaper to them".
Oh yes, the paper. I wonder what they read? What does it mean at the end of your life? Eyesight is going. Hearing is going. For some, understanding is going. The people in this section have largely lost touch with the world.
As I leave the cheerful competent nurse stops me and asks how I think the older one is - and thanks me for saying hello to the man still turning circles in his chair.
"It helps so much if someone just says hello," she tells me.
"I know," I tell her and say I am going to the other side of the complex to see two more people before I leave.
"I'll let you through the staff door," she tells me, "It won't be so far to walk."
And I go through the door into another little world not so different from the first but at least they are reading the paper for themselves.

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