Des personnes désorientées

And so it goes on…

The latest drama was that the woman who has been asking for gendarmes or advice on hotels fell out of bed. The pompiers collected her in the middle of the night and took her to Ganges for x-rays. Apparently nothing more is broken and she is back in her bed here – hopefully this time with the barriers up!

There is a new member of cast: a large woman in a superior wheelchair (her own), clearly a regular here, who wheels her chair up and down the corridor pinning down unsuspecting victims (me) in conversation, mostly about her ailments. She is not as dotty as some but she is driving us mad by the non-stop talking, which stopped both Deborah and me from sleeping this afternoon. Worse still, she is in the room opposite Deborah, so I’m expecting fireworks tomorrow, unless she is moved to the medical corridor which is apparently where she should be.

I asked Didier today what happens in the long term to patients who are disorientated or physically unable to live on their own and have no families. He said that many ended up in the retirement home in Sumènes (just the other side of Ganges). And indeed the website describes this place as receiving people “en perte d’autonomie et/ou désorientées”. It goes on to describe itself as having an enclosed garden (ie locked) suitable for people with Alzheimers etc.

Son environnement sécurisé (jardin clôturé) lui permet de recevoir un public pouvant présenter des maladies type Alzheimer (au stade de déambulation) ou toute autre personne présentant des risques de fugue liés à d’autres pathologies (vasculaires, dégénératives, psychoses déficitaires…)

Sounds pretty gloomy, eh? This was confirmed for me this afternoon when I overheard a visitor complaining that her relative was getting very confused and perhaps he would be better off moving on to Sumènes. Oh, he’s not ready for that yet, replied the nurse.

I asked Didier if Michel, the guy who comes down with his zimmer to drink coffee in the physio room (and who complained about the lack of homosexual partners here), would end up in Sumènes. He replied no, he had already been there and for some reason (perhaps I can guess what) was referred back to le Vigan. Didier found him wasting away in a bed on the second floor, unable to use one leg and insisted he be allowed to come down for physio. He is clearly proud of the result: Michel walks with alarming rapidity with his zimmer and has as much autonomy as an apparently permanent resident here can have.

If Sumènes sounds bad,there is apparently another grimmer one in St Hippolyte, Deborah claims. Her former doctor, who went off the rails and attempted suicide after a series of awful events, now lives there.

What happens to all these poor souls in other countries, and in particular in Britain, I wonder. I have to hope that things have improved since my childhood, when my friend Christine and I played with a classmate called Denis, whose parents ran the old people’s home in a vast old Victorian building nearby. I vaguely remember playing hide and seek, running through a long ward lined with the beds of old people.

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