“Just living is not enough. One must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875)
“The problem with medicine and the institutions it has spawned for the care of the sick and the old is not that they have had an incorrect view of what makes life significant. The problem is that they have had almost no view at all. Medicine’s focus is narrow. Medical professionals concentrate on repair of health, not sustenance of the soul… Making lives meaningful in old age … requires more imagination and invention than making them merely safe does.”
“In 1991, in the tiny town of New Berlin, in upstate New York, a young physician named Bill Thomas performed and experiment. He didn’t really know what he was doing. He was thirty-one years old, less than two years out of family medicine residency, and he had just taken a new job as medical director of Case Memorial Nursing Home, a facility with eighty severely disabled elderly residents. About half of them were physically disabled; four out of five had Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of cognitive disability….
The staff at Chase saw nothing especially problematic about the place, but Thomas with his newcomer’s eyes saw despair in every room. The nursing home depressed him. He wanted to fix it. At first, her tried to fix it the way that, as a doctor, he knew best…. He set about doing physical examinations of the residents and ordering scans and tests and changing heir medications. But, after several weeks of investigations and alterations, he’d accomplished little except driving the medical bills up and making the nursing staff crazy…. “I was confusing care with treatment,” he told me. He didn’t give up, though. He came to think the missing ingredient in this nursing home was life itself, and he decided to try an experiment to inject some…
They ordered the hundred parakeets for delivery all on the same day…. When the delivery truck arrived, the birdcages hadn’t. The driver therefore released them into the beauty salon on the ground floor, shut the door, and left. The cages arrived later that day, but in flat boxes, unassembled. It was “total pandemonium,” Thomas said. The memory of it still puts a grin on his face… He, his wife, Jude, the nursing director, Greising, and a handful of others spent hours assembling the cages, chasing the parakeets through a cloud of feathers around the salon and delivering birds to every resident’s room. The elders gathered outside the salon windows to watch. “They laughed their butts off,” Thomas said…. They were so patently incompetent that most everyone dropped their guard and simply pitched in – the residents included…
“People who we had believed weren’t able to speak started speaking,” Thomas said. “People who had been completely withdrawn started coming to the nurses’ station and saying, ”I’ll take the dog for a walk.” All the parakeets were adopted and named by the residents. The lights turned back on in people’s eyes. IN a book he wrote about the experience, Thomas quoted from journals that the staff kept, and they described how irreplaceable the animals had become in the daily lives of residents, even ones with advanced dementia:
Gus really enjoys his birds. He listens to their singing and asks if they can have some of his coffee.
The residents are really making my job easier; many of them give me a daily report on their birds (e.g., “sings all day,” “doesn’t eat,” “seems perkier”)…
The inhabitants of Chase Memorial Nursing Home now included one hundred parakeets, four dogs, two cats, plus a colony of rabbits and a flock of laying hens. There were also hundreds of indoor plants and a thriving vegetable and flower garden. The home had on-site childcare for the staff and a new after-school program.
Researchers studied the effects of this program over two years, comparing a variety of measures for Chase’s residents with those of residents at another nursing home nearby. Their study found that the number of prescriptions required per resident fell to half of that control nursing home. Psychotropic drugs for agitation, like Haldol, decreased in particular. The total drug costs fell to just 38 percent of the comparison facility. Deaths fell 15 percent….
The most important finding was that it is possible to provide them with reasons to live, period. Even residents with dementia so severe that they had lost the ability to grasp much of what was going on could experience a life with grater meaning and pleasure and satisfaction. It is much harder to measure how much more worth people find in being alive than how many fewer drugs they depend on or how much longer they can live. But could anything matter more?”
From ‘Being Mortal’ by Atul Gawande
“I believe that we learn by practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it is the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, physical or intellectual, from which comes shape of achievement, a sense of one’s being, a satisfaction of spirit…”
Martha Graham (1894-1991)
Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better,
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?
Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.
Dust if you must, but the world’s out there
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come ’round again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it’s not always kind.
And when you go and go you must,
You, yourself, will make more dust.
From Inspiration Peak
* * *
I grew up under the despotic rule of cleanies. Everything was supposed to be pristine, tidy and clean 24 hours a day 7 days a week just in case a neighbour or a friend would come for a visit unexpectedly. There was no time or space left for life, smiles or laughter. Everything was completely cleaned out. Expected unexpected neighbours and visitors never came either…
The family I got married into turned out to be completely opposite. It was full of characters, as clearly reflected in their houses.
It did not take long for me to realise that the only way of keeping the house clean was by banning from entering the house anybody genetically related to that side of the family (including my own children). Hm, that was not a good solution, was it?
After a while we worked out the threshold of messiness that our family can tolerate with the whole family sharing efforts in keeping the house somewhere above that threshold. Our house is clean enough to be healthy and messy enough to be happy, with lots of games, giggles and fun. 🙂
If you have some super neat freaks in your family, give them a hug and point out to them that:
But look at tidy people in history and who do you see? Dictators, secret policemen and oppressors. Hitler was known for his love of neatness and order; Mussolini kept an immaculately tidy desk. Saddam Hussein’s guards have told of the former Iraqi dictator’s obsession with cleanliness – he washed his hands after every handshake.
Besides, what if burglars break into your house? Surely, you would not want to make it too easy for them. 😉
A good obstacle course might also help your family to stay fit 😉
Last but not least, if your super-freaky-neat-in-laws come for a visit, reassure them that your house was super-freaky-neatly clean… last week. It is such a pity that they missed it 😉
If you are a neat freak living in a messy household, don’t despair. Ignoring the problem won’t work. You’ll need to face it honestly, but respectfully.
Instead of constantly nagging about everything that needs to be done, identify the chores that are most important to you. For example, if you are most concerned with the living room looking presentable, ask for your spouse’s help in keeping the room clear of shoes, clothes, junk mail, etc. Don’t forget to explain why 😉
Go easy on yourself and your family. Take an objective step back and ask if your average guest would really notice that the baseboards haven’t been dusted recently.
Don’t forget to enjoy life. Allow yourself to relax with your spouse or get out and do something fun. Looking back on their younger years, few people will say, “If only I had spent more time cleaning.” 😉
And don’t worry if you never have that amazing feeling when you got to bed knowing your entire house is super-clean. Neither do I 😉
“Life is worth living as long as there’s a laugh in it.”