Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's with the Generalissimo: on the rocks, with a twist

     (dec. 30, 2012) Harris called me "flat ass." I took it as a compliment, even though it was intended as a playful insult. I was glad he didn't flirt with me. I wanted a father figure, and that's what he became.
    He was also a mystery. What, exactly, did he do in our office, anyway? He strode around in full military regalia, covered with ribbons and medals.What was up with that? Our young staff  regarded this middle-aged black man as a lovable, blustery eccentric who lived in a dream world. On New Year's Eve, I would discover just how neurotically grandiose he apparently was. And when he died, I would finally learn the real truth.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Darkness at "Sunrise": The $74,000 a year dementia warehouse

A mind is a terrible thing to neglect, deprecate or manipulate.

There are no hugs from staff (that's against policy) nor are there bright-eyed, stylish, healthy residents in the dementia wards.

    (12/14/14) When you step off the elevator onto the fourth floor of Sunrise Senior Living, and you enter the secure “Reminiscence” ward -- where dementia patients are housed -- you might well become overwhelmed with a sense of dread. The first thing you see is a large, semi-dark room – known as “the TV room” -- in which about 25 women sit virtually all day in theater-style rows, with their eyes closed and their heads either hanging down or thrown back. A couple of them gaze vacantly into the distance. There are no interactions between them, and the seating arrangement certainly isn’t conducive, even to eye contact. Is this what the website meant by "individually tailored care"?
    No one is watching “Let’s Make a Deal.” They ignored "The Price is Right" as well. It would be too bad if they were interested: The sound is turned off. These women look gray and dead. They seem unreal, as if they were in Madame Tussauds’ rendition of Zombieville.
    I am sick with grief and guilt as I confront the fact that my mother is moving into this $74,000 a year institution tomorrow.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wasting away again in our Dementiavilles

This disease needs an extreme makeover of its image.
Dementia testing and dementia facilities need major overhauls as well.
It should be this.................
..................................not this

    I have spent several hours a day for the past six months with people confined in locked dementia wards. I realize that they have a progressive brain impairment, but I fear that we are giving up on them way too readily, which leads to their becoming exactly what we expect: dull, bored, confused, sleepy and complacent. I believe that it is the institutions -- which ignore the "real person" who is still inside that head -- as much as the disease itself, that account for the blank-faced, slack-jawed, sprawled out appearance of these dear people, who are being cruelly warehoused and neglected by multibillion-dollar conglomerates, which own hundreds of facilities in order to profit from "economies of scale."
    We are throwing our loved ones to the wolves. Every day in these dismal surroundings makes them die a little bit more. When you watch as they become helplessly institutionalized, it breaks your heart.
    When I "embedded" myself in Dementiaville, I found that beneath those masks of stupor, sullenness and indifference, there were bright, lively, charming people. Many if not most of them still have beautiful minds, if you just connect with them. In their faces, the sun rises again.
    These concentration camps must be regulated. We are losing thousands of precious human beings, who are plunging deeper and deeper into oblivion.They are prisoners. We need to hatch an escape plot.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Neon Neurochemistry of the Drama Queen

 Are you one of these babes?

    I can hear Gigi's shrill laughter all the way down a long hospital corridor. "You are such a cute doctor!" she cries. "A cute doctor for a cute patient -- that's only fair!"
    I don't want to visit this exhibitionistic, narcissistic drama queen, but I promised her father I would make an appearance every few days while he's out of town.
    "I refuse to eat the food here -- it's like being in Auchwitz or something," she is telling a group of nurses as I approach. "I have my meals delivered from 'The Good Earth.' Beautiful food on the inside makes you beautiful on the outside. Look at me!"
    That's Gigi's implied motto: Look at me.
    I have known a few drama queens over the years, but she is like a caricature of a caricature. As I approach her, I see that she has rejected the hospital gown and is instead wearing a sheer, shocking-pink peignoir set, trimmed with a feather boa, and a pair of pink stilettoes.
    "Sylvia, where have you been?" she cries irritably as I approach. "Did you bring me the brie and pears?