Saturday, February 25, 2012

What I Learned at the Nursing Home

Once you enter,
A part of you never leaves.

The young know too little;
The old know too much.

Gangrene isn't so bad;
It’s true despair that’s scary.

Before complimenting a woman’s teeth;
Inquire if she is wearing dentures.

There is great strength in asking for help;
There is great weakness in pretending you cannot hear.

Talking beats morphine;
Morphine beats wallpaper.

The diaper is always soiled;
Enter prepared to change it.

Everyone wants to go home,
Many won’t.

The difference between your eighties and nineties:
Everyone you knew.

Offer a terminal man ten million bucks and he'll take it;
Offer him ten painless minutes and he'll hand it right back.

The old pick each of their words
Like you select a tie.

Every last one of them is constipated;
A good clinician needs to determine the degree.

It can be worse than any pain.

Daytime television can be a surrogate family;
Brian Williams, a benevolent god.

Loss has many different flavors,
All of them taste quite bad.

Losing your memory is terrifying,
Till you can't remember you're losing it.

You can be tired of living
And scared shitless of dying.

The first thing that they do after spotting you
Is wonder how long you'll stay.

Leave a man in his filth,
Soak away his pride.

In the hospital, they hate you for waking them up;
In the nursing home, they wait all night for it.

Bed sores are a special kind of evil,
Best treated with a brand of New Zealand honey.

Charts can be large,
And, notes, sparse.

Goals should be set often,
And posted next to the photos of the grandkids.

Family visits call for lipstick;
Know how to apply lipstick.

Solid food—
Savor it.

Savor it.

Savor it.

Savor it.

Savor it.

Get used to it.

Privacy is for the spoiled,
Leave all doors open and all beds facing the action.

Each time she tells you the same story,
She’s telling you a different story.

Some wounds never heal,
But all wounds can be tended.

There is a difference between dying and actively dying,
This determination is best left to the nurses.

If she tells you that it’s her time,
Don’t let your last words to her be ‘You’ll be fine.’

Stethoscopes don't run out of batteries,
But medical students can run out of words.


[My medically related pieces are amalgams derived from fading memories and coffee-smeared notebooks. Many facts have been intentionally altered or distorted, and nothing in them is more than six months new. Please don’t try to match them up to actual events. You’ll only get a headache.]


Anonymous said...

HEY! Butterscotch pudding kicks ass!

Steller said...

this is really nice bud...

B. Justin Shier said...

Butterscotch?! Bleh! Tapioca for the win.

Zach said...

The entire thing is fantastic, but as a future educator (working on a masters in elementary education), I have to say that I particularly love this-"There is great strength in asking for help;
There is great weakness in pretending you cannot hear." Would you mind if I used this quote in future works? I would be giving you credit, of course.

B. Justin Shier said...

Of course, Zach. Feel free.


steffikms said...

funny and sad at the same time.....

B. Justin Shier said...

"funny and sad at the same time....."

This could be taken one of two ways. Too bad I'm a pessimist. ; D


Jared Scheib said...

Well observed and written - a lot of good stuff here! Not to downplay the stuff that's bad, as there is plenty, but it's not all bad!

C said...

Spot on! There are many of good things in nursing homes but the bad often trumps the good, especially if you care.

Dr. Leonard said...

What a powerful piece to stumble upon! Nice job!

Anonymous said...

I hope you think about becoming a writer too.

B. Justin Shier said...

Thanks, everyone. I really appreciate your kind words.


Clinton Lewis said...

Some of your best work something to take with you in life and in long meditations. Thanks for sharing. Very touching.

Anonymous said...

I just spent a couple of years visiting my mother in a nursing home every second day. Your poem is very good and very true.

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