What does the word homeless mean to you?  What images does it conjure? People that you know?  For me it now has a new connotation after visiting my friend Lucy, 91 (almost 92) who lives in a nursing home.  She used to be my next door neighbour.  Instead she now has one room – ensuite – with remnants of her old home scattered about.  She is moved out of her bed into a chair – out of the chair into bed.  Her head is bowed low and her appetite has gone.  She enjoys soup but sometimes falls asleep and it is left to go cold and removed and its only served at lunch time.  She could ask but she doesn’t like.  Instead, in the evening she has milk.  Lucy has all her faculties and shows great interest in all who visit her.  She remembered that my children’s exam results would be through and asked after them.  She asks about her old neighbourhood and I tell her about our mole and ‘manic Peter’.  She laughs.  Then sadly, she says “I have no home.”  She tells me how awful that feeling is.  Nowhere to “go home” to, even though she’s too frail to go anywhere.  Lucy has been in a nursing home for over three years now.  The staff are kind and friendly and although this is now in effect her home, it never can be “home.”

Lucy was a midwife during the blitz in Liverpool, delivering babies and having to go outside to fetch water and seeing Liverpool on fire – she describes it looking like “hell”. (My dad was 9 or 10 when he watched from his bedroom window the same event).  Lucy delivered Cilla Black and dressed Paul McCartney to go home after he was delivered.  Lucy worked with his mum.  She is one of the last stoic, British ladies who remind us why Britain was once called Great.

My uncle is also in a nursing home and desparately wants his own place.  He had one and couldn’t manage and needs 24 hour care – to be lifted and washed and dressed etc., still he wants his own place – a place of his own – a place he can call “home” – this it appears, is more important than practicalities like being able to move.  This is what causes depression and introverted nature and the ‘blocking out’ of life.  No matter how caring the staff.  Dependent upon someone, anyone to visit, to take out to break up the existence.  He once had a life – a wife, a child a home – he was once a boxer and was reviewed regularly in the paper – he has served his national service – but that was all a long time ago – another life.
My aunty is an EMI home.  She is only young but has ‘rapid onset dementia’ and rapid it is.  This once vibrant, glamorous lady with an opinion about everything and everyone, was once on TV for Gingerbread – fighting for the rights of divorced women left alone at that time to bring up the children whilst the husbands walked away – hers walked away. She fought for her brother’s rights above. She can no longer hold a cup – she is still ‘at home’ but ‘the lights’ are dimming. She knows what she is saying and looks sadly frustrated because no-one can understand.  She too just wants to be in her own home and is powerless to intervene.  Not long ago she won an appeal that she herself set in place to prove that she was not a mental case – she knew and objected to being treated as such – she proved she was right, sadly, it also proved the horrible, cruel reality of her true condition.  She won’t be going “home.”

So, being homeless in the traditional sense, especially in this country where our welfare system has to be the best in the world, isn’t quite as bad as being”homeless” and yet, again because of our welfare system life for the above mentioned is so much better than it could be or would be in other countries.  Each has their own room with their own ‘bits and bobs’ and photos and pictures and are cared for 24 hours and kept warm and fed and for the above, are loved and visited and have people who care and to speak up for them. For those without means, all this is paid for and their needs are met.  Sadly, the welfre state does not take into account our personal happiness but it does the best it can.  The carers work hard and are underpaid but most love their job and bring a smile to the faces they care for.

4 Responses to “Homeless!”

  1. Peter Holloway Says:

    What a poignant post…

    … and yes, I did read it all!

  2. David Taylor Says:

    Sandra – Well said. I wish I could read books of the lives of so many of these people. Ordinary people who walked through extraordinary times – experienced love, joy, pain and heartache.

    Unfortunately this world mocks family and casts off the elderly.

  3. David Taylor Says:

    Great comments Sandra. I’ve love to read about the lives of so many of these people… Unfortunately our world doesn’t value family and casts off the elderly.

    Keep it coming!

  4. Good Thing » Jean Has Died But The Gene Lives On Says:

    […] Lucy, my oldest friend at 92, has also died. You can read about Lucy in my homeless blog. Stoic. A true Brit. No one seems to know what being British means anymore. Lucy’s generation does. However, Lucy is part of a dying breed no longer recognising the Britain of today. […]

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