So babies are great, but as people grow older they also need more attention, care, support, companionship, and love. Do we, as a society, give them the same level of attention, devotion and dedication? And this subject often stirs an emotional feeling in me. What will happen to Sam when he is old and frail and my wife and I are no longer around to take care of him? Will his caregivers attend to his needs as we would? Will they check the temperature of the water before bathing him? Will they feed him and clean him with dignity and love? Will they hug him, sit with him and hold his hands when he is sad or upset? Will they truly care for him? And I end up crying every time this train of thoughts hunts me as I know the answer to all these questions is most probably no.
I believe that our society is not treating our elderly as it should. They should not be institutionalized and set aside by the society they built and the children they raised. They should not be taken advantage of, cheated or mistreated in any form or fashion. We owe them our respect, our time, and our gratitude.
A few days ago, I was attending to my patients in a nursing home. I came across a group of elderly sitting quietly in their wheelchairs looking sad, helpless and frail. People around them moving fast, trying to get their jobs done for the day, as though the seniors were invisible and already gone. I imagined how sad their parents and loved ones would feel if they were around. How they would beg the caregivers, nurses and the doctors to take tender care of their loved ones.
This reminds me of a poem left by an elderly lady who died in the geriatric ward of a small hospital near Dundee, Scotland. After she passed away, the nurses were going through her meager possessions and came across a poem she left behind. Its content was so profound and insightful that copies were made and distributed to every nurse in the hospital. It has since been published in the Christmas edition of the News Magazine of the North Ireland Association for Mental Health.
Let the voice of this remarkable lady be an inspiration to us all to give more and to be kind, passionate and caring when we have the privilege to take care of our elderly. Our elderly have worked hard for decades and gave our society their best years and youth. In their golden ages the clock turns, and now they need our support, devotion, love and strength."
An Old Lady's Poem
What do you see, nurses, what do you see?
What are you thinking when you're looking at me?
A crabby old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
when you say in a loud voice, "I do wish you'd try!"
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.....
Who, resisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill....
Is that what you're thinking? Is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse; you're not looking at me.
I'll tell you who I am as I sit here so still,
As I do at your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I'm a small child of ten ...with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters, who love one another.
A young girl of sixteen, with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she'll meet.
A bride soon at twenty -- my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.
At twenty-five now, I have young of my own,
Who need me to guide and a secure happy home.
A woman of thirty, my young now grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.
At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man's beside me to see I don't mourn.
At fifty once more, babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead;
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.
For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I've known.
I'm now an old woman ...and nature is cruel;
'Tis jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.
But inside this old carcass a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I'm loving and living life over again.
I think of the years ....all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes, nurses, open and see,
...Not a crabby old woman; look closer ...see ME!!