memoirs, art and fragments by Thomas Milner

Archive for the ‘care of the old’ Category

Tom would love to hear from you

Hi everyone

Jo here, Tom’s niece, gatecrashing his blog again!

Tom is back at the Lar working very hard at getting better. He’s medically stable, well looked after but rehabilitation is slow and frustrating. Tom’s mind is sharp as a razor as ever, but he’s frustratingly not able to type, read or use the computer. However, he’d LOVE to hear your messages, words of support, notes or anything else. It really does make a difference and lift Tom’s mood. Do leave a comment here (They’ll get read to him) or email me jo[at]minestronesoul.com

x Thanks

Jo

Minnows in the shallows

There are lots of odd and surreal things about this place which lead me to think I have already arrived in that twilight zone between dream and reality.

MY SON - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

MY SON – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

Take the case of people tapping their head significantly (but medically dismissively) and jerking their chins towards some of the poor souls who get up from their places while a meal is still in progress and start to meander in slow motion between the tables as though exploring a maze to which they have forgotten the way out.

Logically we are facing a scenario whereby one half of the oldsters are tapping their heads significantly and jerking their chins towards the other half.

(Ironically there is only person here about whom they could validly tap their heads significantly and that person is me, with my recurring brain tumours, the fourth of which I’m about to have surgically removed any time now).

Tap tap they should go

Tap tap

Tap tap

We are all just

Minnows in the shallows

The mysterious case of the uneatable pears

An  inspirational book (for my generation at least) was CATCH 22 by Joseph Heller.

Wicked and hilarious this book with brilliant wordplay brings paradox to an inevitable  Zeno-like absurdity. Published in 1957 it dazzled our generations and spread across the Anglophonic world like a wildfire.

(Now, of course, we have spawned a generation which, not only has not read CATCH 22 but also hasn’t read much else either – poor them, so many lost conceits, so much lost irony).

Anyway there is a scene in the book where everyone on the base is issued with a pill to throw away into the bushes.

STILL LIFE WITH FRUIT - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

STILL LIFE WITH FRUIT – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

So it is in this place. Sometimes we are distributed with green pears so hard and unripe that those of us who still have our own teeth, should we actually attempt to bite into them … but not to worry the pears are not to be eaten but to be put into our pockets or bags and consumed in a couple of days when they are ripe.

That same impulse, the same força de vontade, which is so good for my physical improvement, impels me to be difficult about the pear situation.

I enter the dining room for dinner at 7.00 sharp and notice the small rock-like green projectiles – what’s this, I think, are we going to have a window-breaking contest after dinner or have some of us been distributed with uneatable pears again:

–          Excuse me, I don’t want this fruit because it’s not ripe, is it? I’ll have the fruit pap, please.

–          There is no fruit pap left.

–          No fruit pap left!

–          You have to warn us in advance if you want fruit pap instead of a green pear.

I’m entering The Twilight Zone again.

–          Can’t you just assume that I will prefer fruit pap to unripe fruit …?

Meanwhile someone else has tactfully produced one of the apples that they keep in the kitchen in reserve for difficult cases like mine.

STILL LIFE WITH APPLES - PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

STILL LIFE WITH APPLES – PAINTING by THOMAS MILNER

Bark bark

Bark on, sister, bark on

At the aged creature who dithers

Listless all day in a mental fog

Who’s queued all afternoon

In a gloomy crowded room

 with a thousand years

Of spent humanity

Nodding off in front of

The stultifying crassness

Of daytime TV

Whiling the long hours away

In senile topor

 

Suddenly whirled into tea

Mashed up dried biscuits

In an oversized heavy cup

Of milk or tea

Or milky coffee

Dunking bread

From time immemorial

Into the turgid liquid

Dazed and confused

Harried and hustled

Hectored and admonished

Muffled shouting

Hardly reaching

Into damaged mind

And broken memory.

 

Bark on, sister, bark on

But consider this:

Nothing divides you from them

But three odd decades.

Your present is their past

Their present is your future.

The Home where I live

The Home where I live is situated in the north of Portugal in a village called Maceda

that thread of good luck which has run unobtrusively through my life, I have found myself in one of the most reputable Old People’s Homes in the district. Modern, spacious, clean and fairly well designed, it’s a large building salubriously situated on a hill overlooking the sea.

The sea-view makes all the difference to me – satisfying my sense of aesthetics and soothing my troubled psyche.

The Home was the brain-child of the parish priest Sr. Padre Florentino Sousa and all honour to him for that.

Padre Florentino is the President of the Centro Social Paroquial S. Pedro de Maceda, (facebook ref. CSPSPMaceda) which includes a pre-primary school, a day-care centre and a meals-on-wheels service as well as the Old People’s Home, which was formally opened in 2003 by the then Bishop of Porto, D. Armindo Lopes Coelho. (There is a polished brass plaque attesting to this in the entrance hall). The funding for the project came from local worthies, one of whom donated the building land. The project is certified and supervised by the Social Security in Aveiro.

If the Padre is the President, then the driving force (the beating heart) of the Home is the Technical Director, Dra. Marta Reis.

This wholly admirable young woman has worked tirelessly to improve the level of care and professionalism of the whole team of care-workers. When I first arrived here not long after the place had been opened and before Marta & Co. came on the scene, some of the care-workers didn’t care and some of the cooks couldn’t cook and I was in too dark a mental place to be a position to assert myself.

Now, about eight years later, conditions have greatly improved, both with me and with the Home, thanks in no small measure to the efforts of Marta and her team and I would like en passant to express my gratitude for being so well and kindly cared for.

Here is a rather inadequate sketch I recently made  of the Home from the garden.

Memo from Terra

Name …………………………. Terra

Status ………………………… Planet

Location …………………….  Solar system on rim of Galaxy (Via Lactia) – North/West Quadrant

Mass ………………………….  5.974 x 1027 g

Volume ……………………..  259,875,300,000m3

Equatorial diameter …  7,926,381m

Polar diameter …………  7,899,806m

Age …………………………..  c 4,500,000,000 years

Surface gravity ………..  980 cm/s2

Escape velocity ……….  11.18 km/s2

Planet year ……………..  365.256 days

Core temperature …..  4500 degrees C (est.)

Water:land ratio …….  71%:29% (est.)

Report from Terra early 21st century CE 

Dem/S.Europe/Micro/Institution/old people/recruitment/subsection 3K.

To:               The General Council of the ISF (Intergalactic Space Federation)

From:          Agent 47sq – code name <Thomas> (N/W quadrant inspectorate)

Subject:      Care-home Recruitment Policy

Date:          20.09.2012  CE – LPT (Local Planet Time)

Your Excellencies:

The policy in an Old Peoples Home (such as this one) of recruiting all the staff from the same village has many advantages:

  • The Institution becomes the biggest employer and provides work in an otherwise inert and non-dynamic local socio-economic environment.
  • The carers, from top management to the cooks, together with the old people they care for, largely share the same socio-topographical background.
  • Thus the management is able to make value-judgement-based policy/decisions.
  • Many of carers and inmates are nearly or distantly related to each other thus a family atmosphere is engendered.

However there is a downside to the situation:

  • The policy of recruitment based purely on topography as opposed to a merit-based criterion (as is more usual) can sometimes lead to inappropriate staff/workers being recruited.
  •  It appears that in this particular area there is a culture of inter-communication by speaking loudly or shouting.  It seems to me that in sometimes treating the old people as recalcitrant or stubborn family members who are answerable to the norms of logic and correct social behaviour, the workers are drifting away from their core function which is the client/service-provider contract; moreover a few of them seem woefully lacking in what one would have thought a basic tool of their trade – an understanding of and empathy for the various types of senile behaviour/dementia.

CODE NAME THOMAS oil painting by THOMAS MILNER

(To be continued)

The Silent Ones

WINTER FLOWERS AT SUNSET

The time has come to consider the sometimes anonymous inmates of the Home.

The patients that one never sees because they are bed-ridden, isolated and never quit their rooms.

 

They are the silent ones and little sound reaches them from the outside world.

Everything is for done for them

(Existence in the Passive Voice).

They are washed and changed twice a day.

They are spoon-fed little bowls of soup or pap four times a day.

They are visited once or twice a week by their families but they are not edified nor are they stimulated.

They endure.

Oh, those lethargic and inert mountains,

Those skeletal ghostly wraiths with their sunken collapsed faces

Speechless in Gaza,

Now they’re on the last leg of the race,

Inching silently towards the finishing line,

They have run of steam and interest.

Thoughtless,

They are dying of old age.

OLD HANDS

We honour them.

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