Tuesdays at the Nursing Home- Kind Betrayals?

     I punch in the code to enter the locked Alzheimer's unit and hear Daisy's wails echoing down the long hallway. She's almost deaf, so communicating with her is tenuous at best. I take a seat beside her in the common room, aware of the circling patients all around me, swirling into and out of their own delusions and fleeting memories.
     I touch her arm, stroking her gently and realizing she's lost too much weight since my last visit. "Remember me?" I ask, knowing this is an impossible question, yet relieved when she looks into my eyes and nods, mouthing something that I take for acknowledgement. I look into Daisy's eyes trying my best to communicate everything I can without saying much at all. "I'm sorry," I murmur. "I'm going to do something about this."
     But really, what? I remember her from the other, unlocked, assisted living side, remember how terrified she was the time they put her over on this unit for punishment because she'd shoved her roommate in an argument over the thermostat setting in their room. I remember her eventual full-time transition to this unit and the way she'd seemed to accept the inevitability without protest. Now this, hours and hours of inconsolable crying.
     Without warning, a stout, bald man wearing a sweater vest rises up behind us, clutches the half-wall divider and peers out at the crowd before him. "I've got $104, can I get $105. $105, do I hear $105?"
     Daisy doesn't hear him. Everyone else ignores him. He turns, taps the man sitting beside him. "Come on, buddy, it's $105 to you."
     In a room down another corridor Faye sits in a rocking chair, eyes wild, mouth drawn up tight, her fingers so tight on the wooden arms the knuckles have blanched white. "Crystal's got a gun and she's gonna shoot me!" she says. I tell her I know she got "sent out" recently and put  in an unfamiliar psychiatric facility where they changed all of her medications and sent her reeling further into psychosis. "They made a mistake and sent you where the doctor didn't know you. I can get Dr. Jones to help get things right again."
     Faye glares at me. "I know what you're trying to do," she says, her words rushing at me through tightly controlled anger. "You're trying to cheer me up. Don't you dare try and cheer me up! I know who that doctor is- he's Sanford Haynes, a known Communist and a hired assassin. So don't try that on me! I'm not going to the hospital."
     I leave her for the relative sanctuary of the nurses' station and order her to be "sent out" again, this time to her usual psychiatric hospital and her familiar psychiatrist. She will hate me for this, I think, and maybe fight the police if they have to come and take her. She will wonder why she's been betrayed again and then, at some point weeks from now, she will return, cheerful and sane, to await her daughter's weekly visit and fast food sack full of bad-for-you goodies.


Jerry Bledsoe said...

Happy to see you and your beautiful writing back again.
Jerry Bledsoe

Nancy said...

Thanks, Jerry. You made my week!


LBDDiaries said...

Man, this is heartbreaking. I hate seeing lives stolen away. It is beyond sad. Way beyond.