Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Spring Dancing


The Berlingo is facing its MoT this morning.
God help it
That's all I can say.
My nephew who is a mechanic and garage owner is well used to the state of the car
He didn't batter an eyelid when he spied a clutch of goose eggs on the back seat
He's seen a great deal worse.
It is another beautiful spring day here in North Wales, and before I dropped the car off I noticed a group of old ladies ballroom dancing together in the grounds of local nursing home....
A carer in green overalls was clapping out a tempo as the women shuffled around the lawn in their woolly cardigans and floral dresses.
It was a charming  if slightly incongruous sight which reminded me of little incident from my student nurse days in Mental Health....
I have blogged about this way back in 2008 , but I think it is a story that is worth repeating, 


As a student nurse working in the last days of asylum care, life was sometimes a little tough! My elderly placement was on an ancient blue painted institution called Dunham Ward. The place was a bleak Victorian prison like building with a Nightingale dormitory for 24 senile men and had a staff of five per shift to care for them. Early shifts were a never ending slog of washing,toileting,changing, feeding and bed making. It was relentless and at times soul destroying, but generally the staff were upbeat and friendly and placements were survivable as they were usually only 12 weeks long!

One day I remember making the patients' drinks in the kitchen. I was tired and fed up, so was carelessly slopping tea into the variety of nhs cups and feeder beakers.Our kitchen was shared by our "sister" ward called Daresbury, which was the female version of Duham ward, and as I brewed the tea I could look out from a serving hatch into the ward's day room, where 20 old ladies, all of whom were suffering from the end stages of Alzheimer's , were slumped in their chairs which were all set up against the walls!
As I stood there, I could see one male visitor sat presumably with his wife. He was drinking coffee from a flask and she looked as though she was asleep. I remember she had her grey hair in a small tight bun. Slowly he put down his drink and holding onto her hands, he eased the lady to her feet. I thought he must have been preparing her to go to the toilet, but he didn't call a nurse or do that thing that carers have to do from time to time,and that is to check for wet spots!, he just pulled his wife to her feet and held her close before he slowly started to dance with her.
The woman staggered at first and then like stiff little robots they both tottered around for a while. But ever so  slowly muscle memory kicked in and the couple started to waltz gently around the big room , in front of 20 pairs of unseeing eyes. It was an incredibly moving moment and one that remains with me nearly 30 years later! In just a few precious seconds, I had learnt an incredibly important lesson about human dignity 




69 comments:

  1. definitely worth repeating John...thanks.

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  2. You've brought tears to my eyes ... How very sweet and gracious. What a man!

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  3. Thank you - reminded me of my last dance with my OH - he was not very mobile but at the last Alzheimer's Christmas function he was able to attend he wanted to dance. He really seemed to come alive. It was a lovely moment.

    Unfortunately, he is now barely able to walk and frequently doesn't know me.

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    1. God bless him.

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    2. You should blog that story susan

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  4. John this has made me cry - literally. A very beautiful and moving story.

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    1. Me too, what a lovely moment.

      cheers, parsnip

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    2. Ditto here. Tears in my tea. XXX

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    3. My job here is now done x

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  5. What a sweet moment. You have been so fortunate to experience them amidst the yuck parts. Thank you for sharing your experiences John.....all of them!

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  6. Isn't life so sad yet sprinkled with moments of beauty? Wonderful story John.

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  7. One of the saddest, if not THE saddest, human conditions is that of memory loss. I hate how Alzheimers/dementia/senility leaves a person as an empty basket. So wonderful that dear old man found a way to reach the 'woman inside'.

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  8. Thank you, I keep encouraging my father to bring what ever joy he can into my mother's life.

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  9. I'll have to stop coming here if you're going to keep making me cry. I'm very shallow.....I like stories about badly behaved animals and rudely shaped vegatables....

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    1. What a great comment ! Much needed giggle.

      cheers, parsnip

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    2. I will post a rude vegetable later today wanda..... Just for you

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  10. Witnessing such things, and then thinking about them, and sharing them makes us what we are. I am glad that you shared it, because as a young, idiotic person, I have never quite felt this way in my life. With my parents at the other side of 50, I think I should start spending more time with them.

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    1. I should have mentioned, different things motivate different people differently. I just read this post, and I think the feelings I got from it resonate with the ones I got from your story.

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    2. Yes enjoy them when u can KK... But only if you actually like them x

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    3. Other side of 50? We are in our prime - it's the new 30!

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    4. Jon, will do.

      Janet, Hello. No offense to your age. I was thinking about the number of years I have left with my parents.

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  11. Oh dear, I have teared up. Lol at Wanda's comment.

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  12. Oh John, what a great memory. Not just because it illustrates the frailties of disease and the human condition but because it touches anyone with a heart. I lived a similar scenario as well in a State Run Asylum in my student days. In the middle of a bleak winter three months of enlightenment. So many souls trapped in bodies no longer of this earth. While there was no dancing, rarely a visitor and little kindness there were many smiles on faces sharing secrets of their own, with their own memories. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. You should write some of your experiences down me thinks

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  13. a beautiful moment...thanks for sharing your memory!

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  14. Thanks for your posts, John. They are beautifully written and a highlight to my day! Wish I could pick up the phone to you and have a chat! My mother just died, and you brought tears to my eyes, but in a good way....

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    1. So sorry about your mother....Lynda
      It's a tough time
      Take are of yourself x

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  15. It sounds like a scene from The Notebook.

    Your posts always stir an emotion in all of us.

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    1. I am a overly emotional pudding x

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  16. Oh John, what a melancholy post for me. I recently lost my father to death but had really lost him years before due to dementia. He had been a dancer all his life, even tho at 92, he didn't boogie quite like he did when he was younger. But that didn't stop him from trying. He also loved to laugh and his eyes would sparkle with mischief. The nurses at his nursing home are true angels here on earth and I am forever grateful for the love and care they showed my father. They still tell me how much they miss my father and his blue eyes! So, thank you John, for fulfilling your calling. I'm sure there are many people who are so grateful for the care you have given them and their loved ones!

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    1. It's easy to care for someone with Alzheimer's if you go home after a 7 hour shift.... I take my hat off to people...the spouses etc who have to live a life with an affected loved one...... Now that's bloody hard

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  17. A great story, thanks for sharing it and reminding us that one day we could all be the one with dementia or the one who holds her up for a dance.

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  18. It's important to re-tell the precious stuff. Thank you!

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  19. Sigh.......perfect. Thank you.

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  20. I am happy I read your post first as it put me in a good mind set this morning. Thank you for that John.

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  21. Teary eyed here too.....thanks for sharing x

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  22. Jeez! Here I was all set to ask you if you still had that tiara you're wearing in the photo and then you go and make me cry!

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  23. The love and caring never die.... bless your heart John.

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  24. that is a lovely story.

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  25. God bless you John. It's the special people in this world that make life worth living and you are certainly one of them. If it's not animals, it's people and you have a very rare gift of connecting with them and then relaying your experiences to us, your readers, that connect us in turn..... I would love to share a bottle or two with you and chat for hours....

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    1. Make that a large gin and tonic and you are on

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    2. We call those "usuals" at our house (as in I'll have the usual) and thank the Gods it is finally that time of year!

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  26. Tears running down both cheeks

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  27. Oh my, John, what a touching story. I got teared up reading it; thanks for sharing.

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  28. John,

    What a lovely post. I hope to dance my way out of life with the arms of the man I love around me. What a fantastic way to go. xxx

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  29. Such an amazing snapshot of that elderly couple, dancing and having a respite from the grip of dementia. Thanks, John.

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  30. thank you for sharing that story John - it was lovely

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  31. It doesn't take much to introduce a note of common humanity and warmth into the most depressing of settings. It's still a very touching little story.

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  32. A profound moment.

    I worked in social care for 14 years. I never worked in a big hospital - usually in hostels that helped people (often from hospitals for people with learning difficulties) live in the community. I often found myself visiting hospitals, though, in the course of my work.

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    1. It was profound Dom
      I still remember it as if it was yesterday

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  33. That is a beautiful story. Perhaps homes for the aged need more music and, thus, more physical activity. Pity they tend to be run like warehouses for human flesh.

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  34. Now I understand John. Thanks.

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  35. What a wonderful story. Thank you for sharing it.

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  36. Thank you. Music can do it too. I once spoke to a woman whose husband had advanced alzeheimer's. He longer recognised her (or anyone), nor did he speak. If someone played the piano though - he sang. Which made me smile, and made me weep.

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  37. Hi

    Thanks or sharing that it made me a little weepy xx

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  38. I don't think I've commented on here before, but I have been lurking for awhile! You do have such an insight to life in such a 'normal' way, which is very reassuring and very amusing. My nan died of Alzeheimers, so did my aunt and my other aunt has been in private care for over 15 years and her husband visits every day, but she does not know him. My own mother is now 82 years old and I live in Bulgaria and my weekly 10 minutes telephone conversation is getting harder and harder every week, I think, soon, she will not know who I am! This was a particular touching story, especially for us, affected by this devasting affliction! Thanks for posting with your unusual personal touch!
    Jak x

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  39. I don't think I've commented on here before, but I have been lurking for awhile! You do have such an insight to life in such a 'normal' way, which is very reassuring and very amusing. My nan died of Alzeheimers, so did my aunt and my other aunt has been in private care for over 15 years and her husband visits every day, but she does not know him. My own mother is now 82 years old and I live in Bulgaria and my weekly 10 minutes telephone conversation is getting harder and harder every week, I think, soon, she will not know who I am! This was a particular touching story, especially for us, affected by this devasting affliction! Thanks for posting with your unusual personal touch!
    Jak x

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  40. Gosh...how beautiful

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  41. Oh shite! I didn't mean your 'unusual personal touch' per se, but meant to imply that your personal touch was usual from you, but not most people (err, probably clear as mud, but I think you can understand what I mean!
    Jak x (extra x because I have sounded so blonde!.

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    1. Welcome jak.......nice to have another follower.......I am shallow enough to love that xxx

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  42. I am so glad you reposted this as I hadn't read it before. A heartbreaking, uplifting moment.

    If only more spouses could see the person they loved within the ravaged shell, and be able to find a way to connect. I suspect that was a very special relationship.

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  43. Thanks for that John. I love that "old love" it's just magical.

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  44. It is crazy but Dunham Ward is the name of a man my wife and I remember from ages ago when we ran a mail order business out of our home. He was a customer. The only thing is his name was Ward Dunham - just turned around and no relation or connection. I had totally forgotten about him and now will try to see if I can find him on FB or other social media.

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