Last Saturday night I watched a documentary called “What About Me?“. I scanned through comedies, dramas, and documentaries to find something that would soothe my despair over losing a friend to suicide last week. Imagining the incredibly bright light of Haigan Day in her final darkness alone sent myself stumbling blindly.
“What About Me?” was the perfect balm for my soul. Philosophers, spiritual guides, ordinary people, and musicians were combined together to remind us what is most important in life, to be present and awake. And, here, in the now.
And, to do things.
Noam Chomsky, a well-known philosopher/linguist/political activist who spoke in this documentary, looked up to the camera with a sad regard and stated that all kinds of Western people write and ask him what they should do (regarding various difficulties in their community affairs etc). He says no one in the third world asks this question because they just do.
My last blog post regarding the situation with the Riverview Manor in Montague, Prince Edward Island has been read almost 12,000 times. Twelve THOUSAND! My first blog post on this subject is close to 10,000 views. Wow… And there have been many conversations on various threads on facebook, comments on the blog, and even private messages to me, encouraging me to keep up the good fight. (thank you for all the shares, everyone)
But, you know what? Nothing is really happening. My words are not enough to excite even a small percentage of those 12,000 into some visible action (with the exception of one person who extended my words to more politicians). Maybe because it feels impossible? As far as I can see, my words have mainly given people an opening in which to express frustration. I suppose that’s a beginning. We have a long road ahead to change the system for seniors, one step at a time.
Maybe I have failed?
I don’t know.
What DO we do now?
I’m not sure how to convince a government that some of their seniors, their elders, the founding people of the community are at risk, living in an unhealthy building, and making do with the dredges of what the community offers for their final days. We know the government said they would build in the spring but it’s hard to believe as they have promised time and time again.
Other than making up signs and protesting visibly (“break ground now”), maybe it’s time to simplify our actions so we can be more hopeful.
While we write and write and write and complain and criticize and share blog posts, our seniors continue to find reasons to get out of bed, the staff balances time between feeding some in their tiny rooms and pushing others to the dining room, humbling accidents occur (which the staff leap into “don’t worry about it” action) adding to the unpleasant air, the toilet up the hall sounds like an airplane taking off, certain residents wrap up in extra blankets because the heat doesn’t work properly in their hallway, others brush their teeth with strangers in a shared bathroom, loneliness becomes the norm, and the staff do their best to keep up their cheery attitudes.
And, the government isn’t listening.
So … what CAN we do?
Maybe we can use our imagination to retrieve some of our control? Diminish our hopelessness? And give some honour back to the community.
If protests or big groups of people are not going to demonstrate and make a stand (I’m still hoping), then one by one we do what we can do.
Go to the Manor. Go wherever there are seniors. Give them your time. Give them your listening. Ask them questions. Take them a treat. Make them laugh. Remember their stories and bring them something that relates to what they have shared with you. Take them outside. Put headphones on them and play their favourite music. Wrap them up warm and get them into some fresh air. Take in a plant (I know one of the staff did such a stellar job keeping my Dad’s peace plant alive and well. It gave him so much pleasure, and I know she was proud of how well the plant was doing.)
And, give them a big hug, a lasting one. Sometimes, it’s that simple.
Who knows? Maybe a group of volunteer carpenters will build something really nice, close by, where some of those seniors could be taken for the day, or a few hours. A clean, cozy, non-medicinal environment, just for them.
An energy of possibilities could inspire more.
If we really, truly care.
The sisters and the mother, also my friends, were struck hard by the tragic departure of their loved one. But, friends rallied around in a big way. Love came forward as hugs, drives, food, hand holding, hot toddies, ideas, story sharing, and fund raising so they could all travel to get her ashes and gather her belongings. Everyone just “did”, and will keep on doing.
I’m going to listen to my own suggestions.
In my community, in West Vancouver, down the road, there are seniors who have been trapped on their floor in a building for weeks because of a broken down elevator. I’m sure if it were a big business it would have been fixed promptly but, unfortunately taking care of seniors doesn’t make enough money (remember the Montague liquor store?).
I think I’ll go and see if anyone wants some company for an hour or so, or some groceries.
What can YOU do? (btw… I do have another idea up my sleeve so I’m not giving up…I’m visiting very soon.)
(P.S. If you can see a very inspiring movie called “Tomorrow”… see it. Solutions exist!)