Saturday, April 6, 2013

Heaven And Hell: Portraits Of An Alzheimer's Ward

The lanky gentleman propels himself forward in a wheel chair towards the nursing station.  Crumbles of food fall from his chin and land on his old tattered flannel shirt.  He stops, as he is wont to do, at the half door that is controlled by a keypad.  He peers over and spies a staff member sitting at the desk in front of an open chart.

I'm hungry, get me some food!

The staff member lifts his head for a moment and returns to his work.  If one witnessed this solitary reaction in isolation, it would be assumed that this is a cold and ineffectual haven for the misplaced.  But in view of the repetitive nature of this event, it starts to become more clear.  This is the fifth request that has been made in the last half hour.  The emergency stock of cookies and crackers has already been used up.  The wheel chair backs up for a moment and then pushes forward crashing into the door.  The series of epithets and racial slurs that follow is enough to make even the most staunch observer blush.


A string of panicked words in a foreign language fly out of the mouth of a ancient woman cloistered in a room a few doors away.

Ayudame, ayudame, ayudame, ayudame...ayudame, ayudame, ayudame.

The tone rises and falls.  Sometimes the lilt of the voice suggests a question.  Others, it's purely a statement of wrath.  Occasionally, a moment of silence interjects until the rabble starts over again.  It will go on like this all day.  So long in fact, that her voice will weaken and become raw. Silence will follow only with the sweet respite of sleep.

Half way down the hall a smallish man sits in a over sized chair placed between doorways.  His body limply melts into the cushion, and he weeps uncontrollably.  A tall thin Asian woman towers above him draped in over sized pink scrubs.  Her cart of medicines has been pushed to the side, and her hands gently reach out to his sorrowful cheeks.  She clucks like a mother hen, and gingerly wipes the tears from his eyes.

Oh Harry, Don't cry.  Don't cry

Day after day.  Year after year.

Only the faces will change.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sad that she said "help me" over and over without anyone actually helping her.