Picture the scene.
You are 80.
You hear the phone ring, and, getting up from your recliner to cross the room, things go a little awry and you fall to the floor.
Snap – your left hip.
Hours lying on the floor – eventually someone notices that you haven’t opened or closed your curtains and an ambulance is called.
999, A&E, X-ray, Orthopaedics, operation.
What follows is delirium, hospital acquired pneumonia, struggling to walk.
Trial of rehabilitation, you really don’t know where you are or what is going on any more and you are back home.
The chair is still there – it has been a couple of months; back in familiar surroundings.
This time you can’t walk unaided – the Zimmer frame is on your right, the commode to your left; carers pop-in to get you washed and dressed; you spend empty hours between the calls.
Silence. You can’t switch on the TV. The buttons are confusing, the light dim.
You need the loo. It is? three o’clock, you reach for the frame and fall again.
This time no snap, just bump, bruised.
The carer arrives without you having to remain on the floor for hours, yet, it does seem a long time and you are struggling, struggling, to hold on, but you can’t and before you are helped, it is all wet.
Questions, allergies, medicines, next of kin. Transported to the hospital with blood tests and heart tracings and drips and before you know it a catheter into your bladder and x-ray and somewhere else, then somewhere else again. Light and dark and muffled noise.
Faces, looking at you, helping you wash, dress and feed, asking questions you can’t hear –glasses are lost, hearing-aid gone and dentures, gone.
Disorientation, delirium, sensory deprivation.
In silence you watch the passage of time, you see the ebb and flow of individuals starting and ending their shifts;
Blood tests and tablets and syrups, all manner of laxatives and pain killers.
Little flashes of clarity. Moments when you almost have a grasp on what is happening, when it makes sense and you are asking for home.
And you are moved from A to B to C and D, transferred, transported, rehabilitated, enabled, supported, encouraged.
Those legs no longer work.
More carers, more medicines.
Disorientation, moments in the day pass, light patterns spread on your kitchen floor.
Mostly it is silence, silence and quietness beyond the muffled sounds of your lost hearing aids. Hunger is not a thing any more – you have passed the point of enjoying what you eat – your lost specs (so that you can’t see what is in front of you) and dentures (so that if you could see what was in front of you, you wouldn’t want it)
You fall again, or perhaps this time is it a urine infection from the catheter that was placed so unceremoniously in your bladder by people caught in the machination of routine practice.
Even at the best of times, our lives are one step towards the grave.
What happens when the slippage of time is far greater than anything you could have imagined – when there is a relentlessness to the deterioration.
And where are you within all of this? Where is the history, the excellence, the experience that is summed-up in your biography? Where are the memories the passions, the hopes and worries that upset your tummy at times?
You are listed and catalogued, moved from E to F to G. Born Slippy. Slipping down a path.
Not to home or a home; rehabilitation, re-enablement – the system must squeeze you dry; get as much out of your existence as is possible before accepting the inevitable, before pausing, suspending the conveyor.
And within all of this where are you? Where is your connection to the past and the future? Who is it who lets you pause and understand that things have changed, that the rules you thought you’d grasped no longer apply.
We are in the best of times, never had it so good, never had so much wealth available to so many, yet, the disparity continues, the haves have lots and those who have not, particularly those who are old, who are vulnerable, who risk falling down the rabbit hole, must hope for the best, must hope that somehow those folk who think they know what they are doing know what they are doing.