tears and Nursing Homes

“It is such a secret place…the land of tears…” Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery


It was Nursing Home Alley

and there she was

tied to her wheelchair

wailing away

crying unceasingly


no one

to hold her hand.

Parents and children

were walking by…

the adult pointed to his head

tapping incessantly

as if to say, “She is a bit off!”

to his children

dressed so properly

giggling away.


embarrassment at human emotion

embarrassment at tears

embarrassment at not knowing what to do


do we shy away from compassion?


do we find it so easy to tie a human being to a chair

but are unable to extend a hand and comfort that person?



27 thoughts on “tears and Nursing Homes

  1. Clanmother says:

    Very good questions…


  2. You nailed society’s dwindling capacity for compassion. These days people don’t even look up from their phones – incredibly depressing at best. I wrote this a while ago…..



  3. This poem breaks my heart. I feel for those who have no family or no visitors.


    • Yes, it is heartbreaking. The last time I was in a nursing home was five years ago–for some reason, late last night, I thought of this incident that I witnessed while there. This frail lady was crying and crying…I went up to her and knelt down by her and dared to touch her arm to console her. (In our USA society, it seems “compassionate touch” is highly suspicious–being a teacher, I was in the habit of hugging the little ones…and the Middle School kids would hug me! I would get stares from staff members some times–but my heart was in the right place, so I didn’t care)The nursing staff came by and said something akin to:
      “Oh, she is crying everyday, every hour, every minute! Just leave her be–she will be alright!” Previous to that, I witnessed the actual exchange described between the parents and children. I spoke up, and said to the parents, and as much to the children, “This woman has feelings. Some day you may be in the same position.” I was angry. I was angry because I didn’t know what to do for this lady; I was angry at the complacency of the nursing staff; I was angry at those parents who had the opportunity to teach compassion and didn’t. Today, I see all the times I could have been more compassionate towards others, and wasn’t. I see how I allow society’s unspoken rules dictate my compassion. I see I have to be more conscious of my choices and actions…and be compassionate regardless of the social stigma. I think our society has no difficulty accepting sexually inappropriate expression in all forms in the media and on the streets–but to show compassion–it seems it comes under suspect. I think Americans are the most alienated people from themselves and the most lonely of all societies. Well, I guess I have gotten carried away! Thanks for visiting, Tess, and for your comment!


      • I agree with you all the way except I cannot speak for Americans because I am Canadian.

        The staff complacency worries me. How do they know she is not in pain. It’s darn uncomfortable sitting for long stretches so some. How many times is something small overlooked to be later found to be a source of aggravation or pain? Maybe the older woman is afraid because of their tone and treatment of making herself heard. Who knows. I always thought anyone in the medical field are sworn to do no harm.
        Attitude is harmful as well as ton and treatment.
        I better quit before I start bawling.

        Thank you for this discussion.


  4. Mary Jane Farrell says:

    Everything you wrote is soooo true and soooo sad. People are so self-possessed and indifferent. They all walk around with earphones and phones they are texting or talking on. I’ve always reached out to the neighborhood children and they have loved the attention–asking about school, etc. and teaching them about flowers, butterflies, birds, etc. I think many were starved for interaction already. They don’t get much at home. I greet them by name–they greet me by name–I know their grade in school. But as they age, I can see society (especially media and peers) influences them that being around people like me is “no longer cool” and they start avoiding. I’ve tutored some and helped with music(all at no charge) but they pull away from that too even though they know they need help. They glue to their social media sites–that’s what is important. They have no money but yet dye their hair a different color every few weeks and wonder why it is the texture of straw. Parents hand over $’s just to get them off their backs. The junk food diets! I try to subtly educate about nutrition–give fruits and vegetables to taste, but they are turned off because nobody cooks at home except for processed and convenience foods and they have no ‘taste’ for real food. As time has gone on I now realize I could be laying on the ground in my yard or driveway and it would probably be forever before anyone even noticed or cared. I am the ‘old’ lady with the ‘fancy’ yard and flowers, etc. something that is being valued less and less. They look at me with resentment when I call them on not cleaning up after their dogs that use my yard and flower beds for their bathroom as if that is what it is there for!!! And…..yes, I am probably headed to a nursing home someday and may be the one sitting alone in that wheelchair just as I am alone in my ‘small’ town neighborhood today. And yes, more than ever seniors are viewed as disposable members of society to shuttle off and PLACE somewhere OUT OF THE WAY. When my mother was in the nursing home dying of cancer I was there every day and the staff seemed surprised at that!!! Can’t tell you the number of questions, ommisions in care, needs etc. I called to their attention. There will be no one to do that for me. I will be the lady with tears in her eyes reaching out……and there will be few or NO Jane’s to respond. Our world has lost what it was about. I tooooooo am sooooo sad.


  5. georgiakevin says:

    This is powerful and so well written! I echo your thoughts but not nearly as well as you posed it in your amazing poem.


  6. writersideup says:

    So sad, so true. Brought on tears 😦


    • sorry…Nursing homes are a sad place…I should make an effort and go and visit people living there. I do not know no anyone specific, but I suppose there might be a way.


      • Mary Jane Farrell says:

        you might be surprised about just wanting to visit anyone. In this ‘regulated’ world nursing homes like many institutions are not too keen about ‘strangers’. They will take supervised members from churches or singing groups, scouts, etc. but just a ‘friendly visitor’ would roll out the red tape galore and might not happen. Everything is so structured that the HUMANESS factor comes last.


      • writersideup says:

        Johann, I’m thinking nursing homes would welcome anyone who wanted to visit for the sake of doing so. It’s the kind of thing where, once you started, you would end up knowing the people there, right? Just recently I was visiting someone I knew and I think most people are starving for good company 😦


  7. Excellent and powerful piece!!


  8. Alyce says:

    Hi there, I enjoy reading through your article post.
    I wanted to write a little comment to support you.


  9. Ernestina says:

    Very energetic post, I liked that a lot. Will there be a
    part 2?


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