Friday, November 20, 2009

Hard days

I've was fortunate enough in the past week to visit an old friend of mine confined to a long-term medical facility. He's in his seventies and he has Multiple Sclerosis. It's not a good disease for long-term thinking. He knows it and he makes the best of it by roving in his battery wheelchair through halls and rooms and being helpful to others. People there suffer from a myriad of afflictions including stroke, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

His smiling positive attitude is the antithesis of the general demeanor of most patients.

Granted, it is not an uplifting place to visit, but it should be. When one is approaching the end days of their productive lives because of a debilitating illness their surroundings should be filled with bright colors, music and art; easels of canvas and posterboard with trays of washable paints should be everywhere so when inspiration strikes anyone of the patients can express it.

I walked several hallways in which the infirm, the halt, the lame and the chair bound patients were starring into the narrow space of blank walls; boredom is killing them more quickly than disease.

What I'm suggesting is a change of internal scenery and sound in all long term facilities. Let comforting music echo through the halls of hope. Have a sound-proof room with a karaoke machine.  Let the brightness of color festoon the rooms and passageways. Let the drab garb of the dedicated caregivers reflect the lightness of life, instead of the medical seriousness with which they must contend every day. Why can't we make their uniforms in fuchsia, celadon and cerulean blue, decorate them with colored lights and flashy trinkets? Distraction is often better than medicine.

My friend told me of one elderly woman who had not left her room for two years. She has no family and few friends. A condition that seems to be a curse of old age when you outlive most of your generation.

This is America. We can correct this. All it takes is "intention" and action will follow.

1 comment:

Gabi K said...

Unfortunately it's not only America. It is the same here in Germany.It is so sad to see these circumstances where the elderly and those who need help are only be taken care of by kept clean and full. And even that is not guaranteed everywhere because there is nowhere near enough nursing staff.
Very sad to watch that... and very soul-destroying for a trained nurse...

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