Wednesday 4 May 2011

Uncle (again)

So, having been rescued from my impecunious state at the filling station yesterday, I continued on my journey. First, I saw my sister, which was fine. And then, my uncle...

I have posted about him before, but I think the subject bears re-visiting. Uncle is ninety-four, in a home, demented and frail. The other residents on his floor are in a similar state, so it is not a merry place to visit. But never mind. The staff are very kind, everything is clean and comfortable, he is well looked-after, but...

Yesterday, they were having a party. The day room had been re-vamped as an ocean liner, and was being "launched". There were life belts and anchors, and fish on the huge television, and glug-glug sound effects more suggestive of the fate of the Titanic than a happy holiday. Someone dressed in a long frock and a tiara was opening champagne, and there were crisps and fairy cakes. The staff were all very jolly, but the residents, wearing flowers in their hair (the women) or buttonholes (the men) sat staring into space or moaning (or, in one case, trying to escape) and had not a clue what was going on.

Why, oh why, do people do this to helpless, elderly people? It is not dissimilar to dressing a dog up in baby clothes and wheeling it about in a dolls' pram. It is simply not appropriate. Yesterday's party was certainly well-meant, but those whom it was intended to entertain were merely bewilidered.

Uncle refused his chamapgne, and also the little fairy cake with an icing-sugar anchor on it ("it's a prize", he said. He couldn't eat that. So I found him a piece of cake that looked like cake, and he ate that).

At one stage, Uncle and I rolled our eyes and shook our heads in a brief, rare and wonderful moment of complete mutual understanding.


  1. As you say, completely inappropriate - but if the staff will go to that much trouble, however misdirected, at least they are viewing the residents as people and not commodities. I know of homes where that is certainly not the case.

  2. Thanks for that, Hydra. Yes - the pressure to "join in" is terrible. I once worked as a nurse in a day hospital for the elderly, and if any of the (largely not confused) residents refused to play, say, bingo, they were considered stand-offish.

    Hi, Tim. Good point. He is fortunate in that he can afford to pay for a very good home. And it is good. It's just that they seem to have these strange lapses. Fortunately, most of the residents are totaly unaware of this kind of thing, and I was probably the only person there who minded!

  3. I can never understand these odd attempts to make people enjoy themselves. I remember a horrific party at a neighbour's house where we all had to take part in a quiz based on a television programme. The 'soundproof box' we 'entered' one by one to give our answers was a plastic laundry basket held over our heads by the couple's severely handicapped son, tiny in an ill-fitting suit and tie, who had no idea what was going on. We all smiled politely while watching the clock for the soonest polite moment to take our leave.

  4. I am pleased that your uncle is in good home Frances and that the staff attempt to do their best for the residents.

    Your point is well made - often attempts to entertain - if not well thought out - make the confused more confused.

    A home that does not offer activities is frowned upon by the CQC and Local Authorites - and rightly so. However, the skill is in tailoring the activities to meet the needs (and abilities) of the residents.

    Our activies range from trips out to simple hand massages and if a resident does not want to take part in any activites whatsoever - that is their right.

    Kind regards.

    Anna :o]

  5. Joanna, your party sounds a total nightmare!

    Anna - I wish I could hand my uncle over to someone like you!