Anna Rosemary and Alzheimer’s Disease

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image from my cell phone camera

I work with dementia patients for my job. I would like to share this touching story with you that happened last year.
I have an old woman with dementia in the unit that has severe disorientation of time and place. I will refer to her here as Anna Rosemary.

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Anna Rosemary is a sweet lady. She cannot put her words together to make any sentences that make sense. She expresses emotion clearly through facial expression, gestures and the volume and tone of her voice.

If she is sad then she cries. If something amuses her, she laughs. When she sees me she always smiles.

Sometimes when i get to work she looks at me and says “thank God.” which means I have not seen you around, I am glad to see you back.

I stopped to talk with her one night. She likes to talk back and forth. She listens and she responds but her words do not come out the way she wants.

She says to me “I feel like I am cuckoo.” I was surprised at this because it had not occurred to me that she was aware that there was something wrong with her brain.

I repeated it back to her to make sure I had understood her. I said “Anna Rosemary. do you feel like you are cuckoo?”

She said “Yes. I am trying to figure myself out.” I was amazed at the clarity of this sentence. I must have taken a huge amount of effort for her to force her brain to put that sentence together. That shows how important it is for people to communicate their feelings to another person.

I gave her a hug and told her that her brain was being a bit cuckoo and I did not know why. I told her that I still knew her and loved her. I could still understand how she was feeling.

I told her that I feel a bit cuckoo sometimes too. Something happens with our brain sometimes. But that she was still Anna Rosemary.

She hugged me and said “it is hard” I asked her if she felt it was hard to put her words together. She hugged me tighter.

I said to her, “you still know love. You still have a beautiful heart and know what love is.”

“You don’t have to keep trying so hard right now to put the words together. You are full of love and I love you.

She and I stood there and I held her and kissed the top of her head.

Anna Rosemary hugged me back, and felt comforted, as did I.

She stopped worrying about putting her words together for a while and took my hand to walk with her into the living room area. We just walked together , holding hands for a while in silence.

Sometimes there is more love in silence than with a lot of talking. If she can still love people and needs to be loved then love itself must transcend the basic functions of the brain.
Love and the need to be loved is more powerful than the rational, cognitive parts of the brain.

Even when most of the brain is not functioning properly, love is still alive and thriving.

The brain is the ruling organ of the body. It controls every function in the body, including language processing and speech.

But even with all of those functions damaged, the capacity for love is in tact. There is something very special about our ability to love.

To My Nurses ….a poem about elder care and dementia

** this poem is written from the point of view of a nursing home resident as I have observed that they feel from my many years of working and volunteering  in nursing homes

TO MY NURSES…

Just because I am old

Does not mean I should be discarded…

I was young like you once

Full of life and very big hearted

I raises my babies,  just like you do

I loved my husband and drove a car

I had a beautiful house 

that I took care of with love

I baked Christmas cookies

and knitted my grandchildren gloves.

I bet you don’t know,  but I worked really hard…

I struggled and fought for my family

I felt things very deeply and cared very much

I had family and friends whose lives that I touched…

I once was important and had a real life

Just like you do… and you never think 

That your life will pass away just like mine did

You’ll end up with nothing you worked for, in the end

You’ll lose your driver’s license 

and your favorite car too

You’ll lose your independence

and people’s respect …

You’ll watch your spouse die and miss him forever

You’ll dread the phone ringing

because more and more family dies

But you might keep going, on with your life

Even though there is nothing left that matters…

You will not understand why God makes you stay

and does not take you home 

to heaven 

to be with your loved ones…

The only people you will have to talk to at all

will be the nurses in the nursing home 

and the patients that do not remember your name…

So, please have compassion for me and be patient

Because someday it could be you in my place

All the power you feel now 

and the things that you love

and the ability to make choices about your day

Could be taken away, never to be seen again

and the life that you once thought was yours

will become a sad memory

that no one wants to listen to…

Not even the nurses that will take care of you

Be Careful of People with False Compassion and Empathy

compassion

Things Abusive Parents Say That Can Lead to Eating Disorders, and other mental illness

Things that can cause an eating disorder…

Parents telling you

1. you are gaining weight (age 14 )

2. you look a little fat in your butt (age 15)

3. You seem to have more trouble with your weight than your sisters do (except that the truth is that one of them is way tooo skinny and the others are much fatter than me – but parents said – No, they are just Big Boned and that is why they have to be fat – you have no excuse)

4. The car does not want to hold that much weight (age 35 and I was pregnant – the OB doctor almost hospitalized me for not gaining ANY weight while I was in the first trimester) 

5. Your weight is going to make the car tip to the side (age 35 and I was 6 months pregnant and I had flown across the country for my sister’s wedding, even though I did not feel well and was fatigued)

6. See that friend of yours that is 400 pounds?  His car is very low to the ground because of his weight in it day after day (truth – my friend was 400 pounds. I was 137 pounds. I do not think it was a fair comparison . I was 19 years old and no where near the weight of my heavy friend)

7. You could be as pretty as your friend (age 16)

8. You could be almost as pretty as your friend

9. You look like your mother. She thinks she is ugly. When people think they are ugly they look ugly. You are like your mother. (age 12, 13, 14 )

10. Being under stress from being thrown out into the street by your mother, is no excuse not to watch your weight

11. Do not eat anything in the kitchen that has a label on it that says “Don’t Eat” or “Don’t Drink”  (Everything in the entire fridge and all of kitchen is labelled Do NOt Eat  or Do NOt Drink)

12. Hurry up and eat dinner, I have to go on a date. You are in my way

13. Hurry up and eat dinner, we do not want you here. Everyone is very uncomfortable for you to take so long eating. You are not wanted but we have to feed you, so hurry up  (age 14)

14. Don’t speak unless spoken to. (age 14 )

Don’t just grab food without saying “May I have the…”

But don’t speak.

15. Don’t complain that there is nothing to eat for dinner but scrambled eggs…for three months….

Music and Art Activities for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

I had a resident in the dementia unit at work. She never spoke more that one word at a time. She rarely spoke at all. She was sweet and used to like to come along with me, as I did laundry and other tasks. She would hold my hand and come along, wherever I went.

I used to sing to her and sometimes she would sing along with me. If I got lucky and found a sing she knew, then she would sing all of the words with me.

This made her very happy and I could see her self esteem go up, because she was able to do something well, and she was able to communicate with me through the music, in a way that she could not do with her words.

One day after we sang a song, she looked at me and said “Well what shall we do next?”

It was amazing. It was like the music stimulated something in her brain and made the circuits connect. After this, I sang with her as often as I was able to.

Sometimes she would sing and then not talk. Other times, she would say entire sentences to me, but only right after she had sung a song. I strongly believe that there is a connection between the singing and the ability to connect words together into a sentence.

Being as that I have lost my job, due to an error with the licensing department, I have decided it is time to start my own business. I have wanted to do this for a while now. My degenerative bone disease has been getting increasingly worse, and I can barely get through the shift at work anyway.

I have a few different ideas for businesses which I can do. I am an eclectic person and would be happy doing more than one type of service for my business.

I am going to post some of my ideas as I work on them and see what you guys think, so that you can brainstorm with me.

I love working with dementia and Alzheimer’s sufferers. I have developed some activities using  music, art and cognitive stimulating games. I may try to make some videos showing what I do. I have done some of these activities with the dementia residents at the assisted living and also at the nursing home i used to work at.

I had really excellent results from the activities that I designed and I felt that I was able to get people to connect socially and cognitively, in ways that were special and meaningful. I have a great passion for this work.

I did not have a lot of time to work with the residents when I worked at these jobs. Only small sections of time. I feel that if I could work one on one with people, for a half hour or an hour at a time, once or twice a week, that the results would be even better.

I could work well in people’s homes or as a one on one companion at nursing homes, as hired by the individual family.

I also could teach my techniques to family, or healthcare workers, who were interested in maintaining the highest quality of life for their loved ones and patients. Maybe I could make some youtube videos and then offer a course that could be downloaded.

The pain in my neck where the herniated discs are, makes it very painful to lift people in and out of wheelchairs and showers.

My foot has gotten very bad and I am now using a cane to walk on uneven ground, like the parking lot at the grocery store. I have PTTD which is posterior tibial tendon dysfunction. It causes severe bone changes, flat foot, and a collapsing arch. which causes pain when walking for long hours and also trouble balancing.

So, as my time working on me feet for 8 hours is about over, I am excited to get into what I have dreamed of doing for some time now. My skills and ideas would be more valuable for one on one clients. At the nursing home, I am mostly doing basic daily activities like dressing, toileting , bathing etc.

I will keep working on these ideas and show you what I come up with. You never know what kind of ideas you might have, as you see mine. It could be helpful to get some feedback. Thank you all for always being supportive. I look forward to your thoughts, as I develop my ideas for dementia activities.

Blessings,

Annie

This is the link to my Go Fund me Account.

http://www.gofundme.com/anniemichele

Meet Yourself Again! The Aftermath of Abusive, Manipulative Relationships

If you have been manipulated and controlled by other people, or in an abusive relationship with someone for a while, then we have to find our true selves again.  You have been catering to the feelings and moods of another person for a long time, and you may have lost touch with our own feelings and thoughts.

 Your true personality and values can become buried within you,  in the middle of constantly trying to read another person,  in order to keep them happy or to keep them from becoming angry or retaliating against you in some way.

You can become so conditioned to prioritizing someone else,  that you forget that you have a unique personality, individual needs and individual opinions.

Not only do you have them, they are important !

You can begin to reintroduce yourself to yourself. Think about the things that you value and what you want to prioritize, regardless of anyone else’s opinions. Think about what your dreams are, if you were not going to be punished for expressing them.

If you are still in an abusive relationship, you can think about these things, and it will help to reorient you. You may have to keep them to yourself, and think about them in silence. There is value in beginning to identify your own desires and dreams again. They do matter.

If someone is telling you what to think, what to value, and what to prioritize, then they are stealing away your right to be your own adult person.

If you have gotten out of an abusive or highly manipulative situation, then it is time to find out who you are again. It felt like you lost yourself in the relationship. The dominator made you an extension of themselves, in order to have their way all the time.

They may have used you to fulfill their dreams, or just have abused you in order to make you suffer. Yes, there are really people like that in the world. If you were suffering all the time, and they were  not listening to you when you asked them to stop, then clearly they had no problem watching you in pain.

 Make lists of things you like to do.  Then make time for yourself  to do some of the things on your list.

You can start with very simple things. Pick something that you used to do, or wanted to do, but were not “allowed” to do that during the relationship. It may be just watching Netflix and eating popcorn for 4 hours. It may be going for a walk on the beach.

hello self

The other person, or people, may have controlled what you watched on tv, what music you were allowed to listen to, what books you were allowed to read, or who you were allowed to talk to. Make a list and then try to allow yourself time to do one or more of these things each day.

This is a simple step to beginning to feel that you have the right to make your own decisions. The dominating or abusive person. made all of their own choices about what they wanted to do. Now you are free from them and can do things that you choose to do.

Taking the first step of making simple choices, will help you get to where you can trust yourself to make bigger choices about your life. You should be able to work where and how you want to. You should be able to live the way you want to.

Think about your opinions and your thoughts about things. What thoughts were controlled, or fed to you by the someone else?

 What thoughts and opinions are actually your own?

If you have thoughts that you are a failure, or that you are stupid, they may have been fed to you, through behavioral modification tactics.

 If you feel that you overreact to your own pain and feelings, that also may have been conditioned into you.

Toxic personalities will minimize your pain and your feelings. They want you to focus on them.

Meet yourself,  as if you were getting to know a new person, or someone you had not seen in a long time. Ask yourself what you think and feel about everything you do throughout the day.

Get into the habit of thinking for yourself again, and for realizing that your feelings and opinions are just as valid as anyone else’s.

Blessings for Peace of Mind, and Individual Uniqueness,

Annie

Is There Still Magic in Your WorldI

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I need magic! I love magical moments and magical ideas. To me life is very boring without some kind of magical sparks here and there to spice it up. Here are some things that I consider magical.

1. Balloons I love balloons! I love the way they float in the air. I love the way they have a mind of their own and they will go whichever direction they feel like going, in spite of where you tell them to go!

I love the way the alzheimer’s patients eyes light up when I get the balloon out. They all smile and have so much fun just playing and batting the balloon back and forth in the air, with me. It is one of my favorite things to do at work.

In fact I am the one that usually stops at CVS pharmacy  to get balloons when we run out. No matter how bad my anxiety may be before I get to work, the magical powers of the balloon can make it better. I can almost feel my blood pressure lowering, from the first time one of the residents smiles and holds out their hands to catch it.

I love the way little children are entranced by the balloon and how it floats and flies in the air. They love the way it feels when they touch it. To really amaze my little niece,  I can rub in against my hair and make it stick to the wall.

2. Creative CollaborationCollaborating on a creative, inspiring project can have a magic all it’s own. I have a very good friend that like to collaborate with me on business projects like redesigning his web site or coming up with new slogans.

The two of us work together in a perfect harmony and once the inspiration begins, we bounce ideas back and forth off of each other. It is .almost like a dance, where one of us takes the lead and then the other one steps together and the two creative minds do things that neither one of us could do alone. That is magical and fun.

3. Random Dancing –  My friend Hanorah, is a very old woman that lives in the assisted living where I work. When she sees me in the hallway, she always puts her hands out and says “Time to Dance!” It does not matter who is around or what part of the building we are in.

Once we even danced in the elevator, on the way up to her floor. She just takes my hands and begins to dance to the music in her head. Then I will sing something for her, like “Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue” and she sings along with me. She always loves to see me, because I will dance with her, just because.

4. BunnyMy bunny is magical, as most bunnies are! He hops and plays. He even hops into the air and makes a turn right in the air, to change direction and to be silly. He kisses me on the lips and he dances a special love dance around my feet, which is like a figure eight, going around one foot and then the other.

When he wants my attention, he will get it. If I am typing on this laptop, for my blog and he feels left out, he will jump right up and land his bunny butt right on this keyboard that I am typing on now. He just sits there, with his fuzzy butt in my face, and won’t move. So funny!

Once he took my cell phone away from me. I was talking on the phone, to my boyfriend and the bunny hopped over, took the cell phone with his teeth, and pulled it right out of my hand. He tossed it on the bed and then hopped away. So funny! Bunny is magical because he can make me smile no matter what my mental state it. He can always get a little smile from me, because he is so animated like a cartoon.

5. Bubbles Bubbles are magnificent as they are blown in the sunlight outside. They float way up in the air and catch all the colors of a rainbow as the sun reflects off of them. Bubble are fun indoors too. I have a bubble necklace (you can get them around valentines day ) that I can wear and when the alzheimer’s residents are least expecting it, I blow some bubbles into the air and they love it !

I also just like sitting outside and blowing the bubbles to see how they float. It is relaxing and magical.

6. Spending the entire day on the phone with a very special friend –  which is what happened today. My best friend, who is usually too busy working to be on the phone with me for more than 30 minutes at time, during the daytime, was off today! He stayed home sick in bed and I am sorry about him being sick. But he has been getting better throughout the day, as we have been on the phone.

He kept me on the phone for company all day, from 11 am this morning and he is still with me, but I hear him sleeping now. It is 10pm. He fell asleep a few times on and off and I just kept doing what I was doing and stayed with him, so that I would be there when he woke up, for comfort.

I went out to the store and back, and did some other errands, but we stayed on the phone together anyway. I just brought him with me. It was nice to be needed for comfort and I loves having the company all day. Too bad he only does that when he is sick. But I am thankful for the wonderful day together.

7. Blogging Blogging is magical in many ways but there is one that is most significant to me. You get to meet and connect with people in a deep and meaningful way. These are people that you would otherwise never have met, because they live so far away from you.

8. The Floating Lanterns in The Picture on the Top of This Post These lantern are beautiful and they look like they should have some magical element to them, to me.

9. The Laughter of Children – The sound of children laughing naturally, because they are children! It is a wonderful sound.

10. Dr. Seuss Dr. Seuss stories and all the creative nonsensical characters are magical. I love their funny hair and the funny creatures. His stories like The Cat in the Hat. Green Eggs and Ham, Horton Hears a Who and The Lorax are very special and I have never gotten to old for them. (but on the other hand…you are taking advice from someone who still plays with balloons and bubbles LOL )

Let’s have some fun, since I feel in a good mood today, because I felt supported all day, by my friend. You all can put the things that are magical to you, in the comments below and that way we can all learn about each other.

I did leave out my favorite magical thing in the world to do…but I was trying to keep this a post G rated!  LOL!

Ok, so what are Your Magical items, Activities, and Magical Moments? You can think back into your past, if you want to. I did that for this post also.

Blessings,

Annie

Showing Kindness and Compassion to Ourselves …posted in mental illness and abuse

self esteem

Once in a while, I get into a conversation with someone on WordPress that starts to turn onto a “future post”. In fact  it is not uncommon for me to end those conversations with “This sounds like a future blog post”

Through the interaction between intelligent minds, we can find ideas in ourselves that we would not have otherwise accessed. That is one of my favorite things about blogging.

So, today was one was of those times. Here was the last part of my conversation with an intelligent, thoughtful reader.

“You are welcome. More kindness is needed in the world.

The general lack of patience and kindness from the people we interact with, is one of the causes of anxiety disorders anyway.

Think about how you would feel if you would knew with 100 percent certainty, that everyone you ran into today would be kind and understanding with you and try their best to help you, no matter what you did and no matter what your history was with them?

It is nearly impossible to picture, but if things were that way, I would not have nearly the trouble getting out of bed or leaving the house.  Every single scenario you fear in your mind, would be less frightening to deal with, if every person you interacted with all day, were compassionate to you.

Even if I knew that all of my family and everyone at work were patient, kind, understanding, and non judgemental with me, I would have an easier time leaving my house today.

The best thing is to be as kind and forgiving of yourself as you are of other people.  If they deserve your kindness, then so do you “

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I can barely picture this, but I can if I picture being in a  different world, in a multi-universe scenario.

If you take each thought in your head, one by one, you will see that most of your obsessive thoughts are about people not understanding you and not being patient with you. When you have anxiety about doing something, it has something to do with the possible unkind reaction of someone else. The constant judgement on us by others, is a huge source of anxiety.

Other things we have anxiety over, would be reduced, if other people were more compassionate. There are things that are not caused by other people, like the car breaking down, the winter weather , phobias and sickness. The simple idea of others being understanding of how those things affect us, would reduce our anxiety.

Imagine if when we were sick, we could call out of work without fearing retaliation of the boss. Imagine if when we were sick, one of our family members stepped in to help us with the kids

Imagine if the other drivers on the road were safety minded of others and courteous.

Imagine if everyone was understanding about mental illness and treated us in a way that would be helpful and not more hurtful. Imagine if the fact of having mental illness was treated with the same respect and compassion as a physical disability.

If people with psychological injury from abuse or trauma were treated with understanding, the resulting depression and anxiety would be easier to deal with. If therapists being truly compassionate for us as fellow human being, treatment would be more beneficial.

These are all things that would come out of people being less judgemental, less focused on their own agenda and more kind, compassionate, forgiving and understanding of others.

We need to be forgiving and compassionate to ourselves. If we feel that others are worthy of kindness and compassion from us, then are we not worthy of kindness from ourselves? There is no real reason for us to judge ourselves harshly. It is a conditioned response from the lack of kindness we have been exposed to.

Each of you is a special and valuable person. We are here in the world, not by mistake, but with a purpose. No one has the right to crush down your self esteem or make you feel like you are unworthy of success and happiness.

Blessings to each and every one 🙂

Annie

To My Nurses …..( from the point of view of a very old person)

** this poem is written from the point of view of a nursing home resident as I have observed that they feel from my many years of working and volunteering  in nursing homes””

TO MY NURSES…

Just because I am old

Does not mean I should be discarded

I was young like you once

Full of life and very big hearted

I raises my babies , just like you are

I loved my husband and drove a car

I had a beautiful house 

that I took care of with love

I baked Christmas cookies

and knitted my grandchildren gloves

I bet you don’t know but I worked really hard

I struggled and fought for my family

I felt things very deeply and cared very much

I had family and friends whose lives that I touched

I once was important and had a real life

Just like you do and you never think 

That your life will pass away just like mine did

You’ll end up with nothing you worked for, in the end

You’ll lose your driver’s license 

and your favorite car too

You’ll lose your independence

and people’s respect 

You’ll watch your spouse die and miss him forever

You’ll dread the phone ringing

because more and more family dies

But you might keep going, on with your life

Even thought there is nothing left that matters

You will not understand why God makes you stay

and does not take you home 

to heaven 

to be with your loved ones

The only people you will have to talk to at all

will be the nurses in the nursing home 

and the patients that do not remember your name

So, please have compassion for me and be patient

Because someday it could be you in my place

All the power you feel now 

and the things that you love

and the ability to make choices about your day

Could be taken away , never to be seen again

and the life that you once thought was yours…

will become a sad memory that no one wants to listen to

Including the nurses that will take care of you

Lack of Compassion for Depressed Nursing Home Residents

Something happened at work that really offended and upset me. It is so disgusting that nurses, doctors and other people in the health field are so insensitive and uneducated about mental illness. Health care should be about the whole person and not just their physical body.

We have a resident that lives in this particular facility who suffers from moderate to severe depression , that fluctuates from time to time. Sometimes she is very depressed. When she is in  that downward spiral , she tends to stay in bed. She will still eat if food is brought to her room, but  she does not want to go out to the big dining room and interact with people.

Being an introverted person myself, I can attest to the fact that it is very traumatic, triggering, and extremely anxiety provoking to have to be in a room full of people when you are is a state of depression. You simply cannot do it.

Forcing yourself to go out amongst people who will not understand your mood, is not a good thing to do to your brain. All those people having small talk and asking you “how are you” is like a torture chamber.

So, this sweet little old lady was in a very depressed state today. We will call her Nora. So, i went in to visit Nora at 4pm, when I began my shift.   I could see that she still had her pajamas on and had not been out of bed all day. This is a clear sign that she had spiraled down into a depression state.

She said that she did not feel well and that she did not feel up to coming out to the big room for dinner. I went over the dinner menu with her and together we decided that she would eat scrambled eggs and toast in her room. I then left the room to place her order with the kitchen and requested a tray be brought to her room. The kitchen was no problem.

Then I went back to Nora’s room to let her know that the tray had been ordered. As I opened the door to the room, I saw that my supervisor (the charge nurse) was in the room, speaking with Nora. The supervisor said to me that Nora would have to have a “Sick Tray”.

I learned today that  Sick Tray is a tray that they give to people who have a stomach virus and are too sick to eat a real meal. It is to keep them from vomiting up all of their dinner. You know when you have a tummy sickness, you don’t want to eat .

The Sick Tray consists of hot tea, gingerale  jello, and toast . It is not something that you are supposed to force on someone. It is mainly to make sure that they have something offered to them, even if they say they do not want to eat at all. What it is not , is something to be used to withhold food from someone.

Yes, that is what I said. Withhold food! So sick, isn’t  it ??

This nurse said to me the following, “Nora is not sick. She does this all the time. She is JUST depressed. She is saying she is sick but she is not.  If she is going to stay in bed sick then she gets a Sick Tray.”

I asked her if there was any physical reason Nora could not have the scrambled eggs and toast that she wanted.

The nurse said “NO. But she does this all the time that she refuses to get out of bed. If she is going to fake being sick just because she does not feel like coming out, then she can just have a Sick Tray”

This is punishment. This is a clear punishment of someone because they have a mental health issue. This punishment is unfair and will cause the depression to get worse. Poor Nora was hungry and did want to to eat. She asked for the eggs and there was absolutely no reason she could not have them.

The supervisor was so disgusted by Nora’s continued pattern of depression ans self isolation that she decided to punish her by actually making her go hungry.

I was so upset and angry but there was nothing I could do. i did go back in to the room late in the shift. I won’t say weather ot not I snuck her in a snack. What is your guess? (wink, wink )

But what if I had not been there? This will happen again and again. To make her go hungry and to treat her with such disrespect, is detrimental to her mental health. It further isolates her.

She was willing to have me visit her in the room. The right thing to do would have been to bring her whatever she wanted from te kitchen and for me to sit with her while she ate. Then I could spend some time to talk with her about how she was feeling and she would have at least had a dinner she enjoyed.

What else can I say? I have hundreds of stories like this. I have collected them for 5 years. There is little or o compassion for people with mental illness in these facilities.

There are a lot of elderly people in nursing homes that have severe depression due to the many losses they have experienced. They have lost their home, their spouse, their car, their drivers license, their pets and many of their friends and family have passed away.

it is a very hard time of life and many people end up depressed and isolated, when they become old This is a horrible failure of the health care system and a lack of compassion from health care workers.

More awareness and re-training of the nurses is needed, if people are going to have lives worth living in the long term care facilities.

Blessings,

Annie

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