Somehwere in England
The Year 2003
Behind this door is Mary’s home. When she arrived at the nursing home she took with her some photo’s, a bookcase that used to stand in her living room, a white linen table cloth that had been her Mum’s and a small lamp with a red velvet shade. There is a photo hanging above her bed on the slightly faded pink wall, a smiling young Mary looking at her husband on their wedding day. As I tiptoe into the room, careful not to wake her if she is still sleeping, I can see the rest of her home. Apart from the lamp it looks very much the same as the other 50 rooms in the nursing home.
The wash basin in the corner with freshly washed hard dried towels, a gift box of soaps (rose) that has never been opened, a small wardrobe, a chair and the commode. Mary must have opened her bowels since the night staff did their last check as the overheated room reeks of faeces mingled with urine and lavender talc. Mary is awake. When she sees me her old little wrinkled face lights up with a smile that could melt a bucket of ice.
I don’t think she is aware that I can see the tears that has run down her face. What did Mary think about this morning when she woke up? Maybe she felt ashamed and embarrassed about having soiled her pad? Maybe she thought that today would be exactly the same as yesterday filled with the same routine ? Or maybe she thought about her son who never comes to visit her apart from 10 minutes at Christmas? I don’t know what Mary thinks because Mary can’t speak .
I start to wash and clean Mary, whilst telling her how cold it is outside, just small talk to get her mind off the soiled bed. We laugh together when we realise she must have put on some weight since the dress I am trying to put on her gets stuck just above her waist. Mary can’t walk either. When her morning ritual is completed she looks at me and forms the words “thank you” and ” I love you”, again with the same smile. My heart overflows with feelings and I want to give her a hug, tell her I love her too, but then I remember. It is now abuse to give them a hug!
Somewhere, someone has been allowed to make this law. I wonder if they have ever been to a nursing home? Have they ever thought about that one day their own mother could be there? How would they like their mother to be treated ? Do they honestly think that the carers and nurses who are employed in these nursing homes work there for the money and convenient hours? No! They work there because they CARE!
I am aware that abuse in nursing homes does happen and there could be a simple solution to this. Put up cameras in every room. I would be more than willing to be watched every second of the day to make sure that all the patients who needed a hug could have one when they needed one. In most cases we are all they have! “They” may argue that money is in short supply in nursing homes and it can’t be spent on cameras. I have another solution.
The morning has nearly passed. Again we are short-staffed but somehow the five carers on duty have managed to wash and dress 51 residents (most of them in wheelchairs). We have tried our best to make their morning as bright as we can. Mary is sitting in a “comfy” chair, left there to watch the TV whilst we now get down to tackle the paper work. You see, it is far more important to write down what time they had a wee, how many ml the wee measured, what the shape and substance of the faeces are, than taking time to care for the residents.
This place is their last home. They are going to die here. Why can’t we make that time the best for them. All this paper work costs a lot of money. Save it and buy some cameras instead. Do “they” really care and worry how many times Mary has a wee per week. I doubt it . I think “THEY” are people who lack any common sense, are without feelings, without thought and have nothing better to do than make stupid laws. Maybe these bureaucrats were cut from the same cloth as those who decided that we should only import straight bananas! “The man (now woman) in Whitehall is always right!”
Every day a number of people sit, making up laws and regulations. We have less and less say. We are becoming puppets who “they” can control. We never argue. We never say we don’t want these laws.
As long as we keep quiet it is our own fault. They will continue to sit there, smiling and grinning, thinking how easy we are to control. They leave their office every day in the knowledge that they have done their job (it’s down on paper how many times Mary had a wee) and “they” are getting paid for that!
Before I started my business as Natural Therapist I worked for a year in a nursing home. I would like to thank all the carers and nurses for doing a brilliant job. Keep up the hugging and plead guilty if found in the act of caring for the elderly. And finally “God bless you Mary” you are always in my heart.
© Wenche Heard 2003