Cross My Heart and Hope to Write
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Sunday, May 12, 2013
What We Can Learn From The Elderly: Aroysgevorfen
I currently work part time at a nursing home on Long Island. It is sincerely the best job I have ever had (aside from being a writer). I have volunteered at nursing homes before, the most memorable of which was when I spent time at Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island, NY. I spent my time in the dementia and bed-ridden wings of the chronic care facility and realized how such a simple gesture of sitting down and speaking with this someone, visiting them, sharing in their company, can brighten their day and bring a smile to their face. If you have a family member in a nursing, rehabilitation, or long-term care hospital, PLEASE go visit them, go spend time with them and make them feel loved.
Some of my friends have expressed an inability to work with the elderly. They tell me they couldn't handle it emotionally and it's too sad for them. Similarly, I have read articles lamenting nursing homes, saying their happy exteriors are just a farce. It's a societal problem; we shouldn't shun the elderly, we should incorporate them into our lives, no matter the state of their decline. A nursing home is only as positive as people make it, that includes the visitors and staff.
The one thing that the elderly have taught me is to appreciate the present.
No matter their mental or physical state, people can still react to things moment to moment. Though they may not remember you in a few minutes, they appreciate what you're doing for them at that moment. Though they may be trapped in a delusion, a smile no less fills them with joy and a happy gesture can capture their misplaced fascination, if only fleetingly. It is the simple things that count. Pay attention to their mannerisms, listen to what they have to say (no matter how nonsensical), for not even age can snatch away the grandeur of compassion. Give them your respect and your love, and they will sense it. Respect them for who they are and were, and realize that it is the tiny moments of now that matter to them most.
A senile man said to his mirror,
“I’m not Dorian Gray,”
And as he shook his bony finger,
He said, “You too will fade away!”
Stubbornly he stared it down,
His face contained within,
Pacing, naked, stern, his scowl
Refused to let this reflection win.
“You’re not the man I was,
You’re the child I am now!”
He scrutinized the scaly hubs
In which his tired pupils bowed.
He traced the lines that donned this shell,
Like a fractured Faberge egg,
Into the cockles of Time’s vast dell
And succumbed to its vicious phage.
The impudent structures of this cask,
Feeble, adulterated, and gross,
Possessed no tokens of their past,
Which was forthright tarnished when juxtaposed.
The cicatrices, faded, absorbed;
The supremacy mislaid within;
Hair, sallow; allure, usurped;
Disturbed, he returned to the eyes again.
They seemed foggy with cataracts,
Their fiery glint snuffed out.
His skin resembled melting wax;
His knees, consumed by gout.
And starring at this ransacked body,
The crusade of life had pillaged it bare,
He could not recognize the shoddy
Chrysalis that met him there.
Where was all the jubilance?
Where had that effervescence gone?
Played out like a game of Risk
Or some old-fashioned song.
“You’re not the man I was,”
He whispered once again,
“You’re the child I’ve become.”
But whatever happened to the man?