Your Hand is Warm

One of the things I’m doing these days is heading into a care home on the regular.

Today I went in and there was a white haired old lady looking vague as she slowly walked along the landing. I stepped to one side to let her and her stick get past.

Sometime later in my comings and going’s down the other end of the same corridor I came upon her again, slowly turning around. She smiled apologetically;

“I get so turned around.” She said to me.

“It’s a rabbit Warren in here, easy to get lost.” I replied and continued about my business.

Later still, I’d almost finished my tasks, had half a dozen conversations and she was again ahead of me, slowly headed back down the corridor. This time a staff member was rushing to get past so I stood aside as the staff member wove a slalom around the slightly vague white haired lady and her stick and two other older women coming towards us.

The woman in front with a short pixie bob immediately address they vague white haired woman; “You’re not on your floor.”

“I get lost.”

“I know, take my hand and come with us, we’ll take you to your floor.”

“Your hand is warm.”

The woman, who hadn’t spoke, who was all grey haired curls and red cheeks smiled at the vague woman with the stick.

And then the three of them passed me and the whole thing reminded me of nothing so much than three small girls at a primary school. The sort of situation that has the lost youngest barely more than a toddler and the oldest having taken about a week to get the lay of the land.

I had to forcibly stop myself tearing up then and there. Finish up with my work then get out to the car. Then I started sobbing like there was no tomorrow. Kindness is far more likely to make me cry than cruelty and that taking her hand and saying come with us made me cry a great deal.

I quite like what I’ve seen of care homes. The expensive ones anyway, with activity lists and involved staff. But at the end of the day they’re like school, or university, fantastically good fun but you’re on your own and it’s a matter of luck who else is there with you.

Every single public service that I’ve seen is understaffed and overworked. It starts with schools, as soon as you get over fifteen students per teacher then there’s no room for personal relationships within a class or form group, there’s just a constant push to get tasks done. And care homes are the same, too stretched, too many people. It’s like we’ve worked out how to be efficient with materials and we can’t figure out that that doesn’t work with people, people aren’t resources they work on relationships and there’s no chance to actually create those when we’re constantly stretched too thin.

Leaving everything down to luck is what crowds of people do, is what cities do. I suppose in some ways that’s more equitable than the luck of the draw in the middle of nowhere, but even so I do not like it one bit. I suppose I’m indulging the easy solution of claiming all our problems started with land enclosure but I’m really not. Efficiency of stuff is not the same as effectiveness of people, as peopleness of people.

I don’t want to die at school, but I’m in all likelihood going to and it’ll be the look of the draw whether there’s anyone to hold my hand if I get lost.

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