Monday, January 17, 2011

When I Am an Old Woman

A Visual Essay on the Reality of Elder Care in America.
When I am an old woman 
and my mind is failing 
and I can no longer live at home 
I hope your will not put me 
in a place like this:


I  will not be guilty of crime, 
so why lock me up in a prison? 

When I am an old woman 
and my mind is failing 
and I can no longer live at home 
I hope your will not put me 
in a place like this:


I will still be fully alive and well,
so why treat me like a hospital patient? 

When I am an old woman 
and my mind is failing 
and I can no longer live at home 
I hope your will not put me 
in a place like this: 


I will be too set in my ways
to live in a dorm with a roommate.

When I am an old woman 
and my mind is failing 
and I can no longer live at home 
I hope your will not put me 
in a place like this: 


I have never been one
to care for big fancy hotels.

When I am an old woman 
and my mind is failing 
and I can no longer live at home 
I hope you will put me 
in a place like this: 


A place that feels like home, 
that’s what I want. 

PS - this poem was inspired by the awesome work currently done by Emi Kiyota in the field of mindful design and eldercare.

3 comments:

  1. Are all those places actually elder communities? If so, I absolutely agree with you.

    I went to Emi's site and that place looks lovely and cozy.

    Unrelated question (you can answer offline if you want): Are you familiar with Lama Michael Conklin or the Kagyu Changchub Chuling (KCC) Vajrayana Buddhist center in Portland?

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  2. In answer to your first question, I will say that most elder communities in America, particularly the ones devoted to persons living with dementia, are combinations of these various models to some extent.

    Think prison with the locked floors, and high rise buildings that make it almost impossible for frail elders to get out on their own.

    Think hospital with the long and wide hallways that smell of disinfectant, the carts lying around, the nurses' stations, the institutional gowns, the bare, functional bathrooms, the beepers going on 24/7.

    Think dorm with the shared rooms, annoying roommates, and cafeteria style dining rooms.

    Think five star hotel with the expansive lobbies, high end furniture, high ceilings, and overall feel of impersonal luxury.

    As seen from the person's eyes, the one whose words are being shut down by such a system, a customer without any voice to express his discontent, except through what they call 'acting out' in various ways.

    This is not the Holocaust, but it comes close in terms of the scale of the systematized cruelty, and collective passivity.

    Regarding your second question, no, I do not know the Lama you mention.

    May you be well, Jess, and me you continue to be a loving presence for your grandmother!

    ReplyDelete
  3. As we age and become increasingly infirm our world indeed shrinks, finally down to the last bed, and there we are with ourselves alone.
    If creature comforts matter I can't help but think that the photos you show are very much the exception of where the vast majority of people in this world end up spending their last days. To be fortunate enough to be cared for by anyone is no small thing; to be fortunate enough to to be cared for by one's who love you is rare indeed.
    I hope I'm not out of line with the tenor of your post. It's just a comment.
    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete

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