Tag Archives: elderly

From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Sorrow

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Purple Hyacinth – symbols of sorrow (Image Amazon.com)

I have just had a long conversation with a friend. This is a friend of many decades, of similar age, who is also inside the ‘cocoon’ in a different part of the country. We had a long chat for over an hour, at the end of which, and out of the blue, came the revelation:

”I burst into tears without any warning and weep uncontrollably for 10 or 15 minutes – every – single -day.

For all that has been,

For a lifetime of loss – of family, of friends.

For all that we may never know’

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I answered truthfully –

So ….Do ….I

I wonder how many silent tearful ‘cocoons ‘ are there up and down the country?

I am reminded of lines by W.B Yeats in ‘The Stolen Child’

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world’s more full of weeping than you
can understand.”

Younger generations in particular and many more, will not understand.

Context

Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home during the Covid-19 Pandemic with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers. This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this is a series posts from inside the cocoon.

STAY SAFE. STAY HOME

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From inside the ‘Cocoon’ – Dying

Padraig Byrne peers into the hospital room where his brother Francis had just died. (Copyright Padraig Byrne)

This image will almost certainly become an iconic one. Here is Padraig Byrne, looking into the hospital room where his brother Francis had just died. Unable to be by his dying brother’s bedside, Padraig was desperate to be near him at this time and seized the opportunity to get as near as possible by pulling up a park bench and being able to see into the room where his brother lay.

Who would have thought that people are dying alone in hospitals, with family members unable to be there?

Such is the impact of the Covis-19 lockdown.

In Ireland, we ‘do’ death, dying and funerals very well, with huge rituals, crowds of people, plates of sandwiches, prayers, handshakes, all-night sittings at wakes, more plates of sandwiches and tea, more handshakes. Often unknown nooks and crannies of the life of the deceased are revealed by all who knew them, and often, that there are surprises that many knew nothing about. But these comforting rituals, like everything else during this crisis, has been turned on its head.

Now funerals are sadder and lonelier events with no church service and only a handful of mourners permitted in the cemetery.

No rituals

No comfort

No sandwiches

No handshakes and

No hugs.

Such hard and challenging times for all who are the bereaved.white-petaled flower illustration

 

And that includes a dear friend who lost her beautiful mother just a week ago. We could not stand with her when we should have been travelling from all over the country to share in her grief with our hugs, handshakes and words of sympathy.

It has happened and continues to happen all over the world, already more than half a million times, and counting.

We grieve for all of those who have been lost and for all those left behind. And this is for them.

  • Here in Ireland, everyone who is compromised by health issues and those aged over 70 must stay at home, with food and medication being delivered by family members or teams of volunteers.
  • This is called ‘Cocooning’ and this will be a series of short posts from inside the cocoon.

 

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Leaving the world behind #2 – Meeting Old Nick

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

Anastasia and Old Nick.

Anastasia was a truly lovely lady. She was here on a voluntary basis, had settled into her new home and was very content. She was shrewdly observant and made her way to the so called Library after tea each evening where she held court!  She was very proud of the fact that her parents were of a mixed marriage but that her father had insisted the children were all raised Roman Catholics.

She was one of many I met in here who was happy with her lot, content to be someplace where her needs were seen to, where she did not have to worry about looking after herself, about shopping for meals, about doctor appointments, about taking her medicines at the correct times. I do not recall her having had any visitors when I was there. Perhaps she had no immediate family nearby.

She usually announced her arrival in the ‘library’ with the immortal words: ‘Do you believe’? My standard reply was ‘In what? ‘, ‘In ‘Old Nick’ of course’ she would answer. ‘And who on earth is Old Nick?’ I would ask, knowing full well what she meant. ‘Old Nick is the Devil himself ‘ she said and  ‘If you don’t believe in him, he will come to get you’.

Anastasia felt especially safe in her bed at night as a priest had been the previous occupant.  He had been given the Last Rites and died in that bed that was now hers. ‘Can you imagine the prayers that were said in that bed’ she would say? Old  Nick would not dare go near her there!

Every night after my first meeting with Anastasia I wondered who had occupied this bed that was now mine, hopefully temporarily.  How many had slept here?  Had they died? Had they been anointed? And how many were priests?

I will be glad to get back to my own bed, that I have owned from new and that has not been an anointed death bed.

I need to get out of here!

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Filed under Ireland, Life in a Nursing Home, Older & Bolder, Older Generation, Seniors

Leaving the world behind #1 – the ancient mariner. 

In the summer of 2016 I spent 6 weeks in a care facility following surgery on a multiple leg fracture. Six long weeks. Six weeks when I wondered what ever would become of me, six long weeks when I had time to contemplate what might lie ahead should I need care that could not be given by my family. Here I observed daily life in a rural nursing home/ care facility populated by elderly who were cared for by enthusiastic young girls and men, and by mostly Phillipino and immigrant nurses. These are my thoughts on those surreal weeks.

The Ancient Mariner

Tall and distinguished, gold chain hanging from a waistcoat pocket, white shirt, with a perfectly knotted tie and wearing an exquisitely cut grey mohair suit, he arrives to the ‘library’. Probably in his 80s but looking younger, he is walking with a crutch, held backwards. He studies the library shelves, tilting his head slightly to one side to read titles on the vertical spines. Danielle Steele, Maeve Binchy, Patricia Cornwell do not stir any interest. Ian Rankin, Nelson DeMille, Andy McNab? No! The so-called Library consists of two lots of shelves in a chair lined room, with a table on one wall, covered in white linen.

He makes return trips on several consecutive days after his first arrival. The mohair suit and the beautifully knotted tie, to my surprise, are evident each day too. How long before these sartorial  items will be replaced by track suit bottoms and a tee shirt?

Sitting in the corner of a ‘library’ in a care facility, I observe the comings and goings of older people who must leave the world behind when they pass through the locked door. Some for weeks, some for longer, some forever. I wait for my broken leg to heal over possibly six weeks. In six weeks I hope to be on the outside again. Will he ever be back out there to choose his very own reading material, to peruse his own bookshelves for his reading of choice?

He turns and walks towards other shelves and I catch a glimpse of a hearing aid. Other residents are being escorted to the dining room for the last meal of the day, some walking with support, some in wheelchairs, some slowly making their own way on legs that are no longer strong. ‘What  do you like to read’ I ask, quite loudly. ‘SEX’ he responds, in as strong a voice as I have heard within these walls!  ‘ I don’t  think you will find much of that here’ I respond as he goes back to scrutinise the book shelves only feet away from a table shrouded in white linen, adorned with artificial flowers and a pair of  extinguished candles, that lies in wait for the weekly Wednesday morning mass.

SEX. Nothing could be further from life in a care home, in a nursing home, in a home for the elderly. Yet this man seeks it on the few miserable book shelves, populated by popular fiction, easy reading, chick lit, in all likelihood donated on a charitable basis by family of the patients.  What, after all would an older person want? What else could they be expected to read? Several times a day he returns to the bookshelves, almost in disbelief. Where are the books he is interested in? Where are the books suitable for a single former merchant navy seaman on these shelves beside the stark white linen altar, prepared for mass? Bent in disappointment, he swings his reversed crutch and klonks his way towards the dining room.

I need  to get out of here.

 

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Filed under Ageing in Ireland, Ireland, Living in Ireland, Older Generation, Seniors