The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Institutional Care: Warehousing

See Marg.

See her hair.

It is white.

Her skin bags and wrinkles.

See Marg’s eyes. They are dim and dull.

See her mouth sag open. A filament of spit dangles to her soup-stained housecoat.

See Marg’s hands. They are gnarled and frozen into fists. They tremble gently in her lap.

See the chair. Marg sits in the chair. It is one in a semi-circle of dozens. They all face the blaring television set. The chairs are in a room. There are no windows. It is hot and stuffy and it stinks.

See the nurse. The nurse has Marg’s pills. The pills help to keep Marg quiet.

“Hello Ms. Wilson! How are you today? Isn’t it a lovely day, Ms. Wilson? Now, open up!” The nurse chatters and sings as she places the pill on Marg’s tongue.

The nurse leaves.

The nurse is lucky.

***   ***   ***

Inspired by Writing 101 Day Seventeen What are you scared of?

Address one of your worst fears.



Categories: Blog Blog Blog


46 replies

  1. I hate that places that engage their residents and are bright and cheerful are the exception and not the norm, or so it seems.


  2. Some places are like that, others not. With caring family, it is not too bad.


  3. I’m okay with the white hair, through the gnarled hands, but oh man, I’m with you on the setting.


    • Long time ago, I sang in a choir. We’d tour the homes around Christmas time singing carols and stuff. Most of the facilities were happy to have us there for the residents. Most of the residents appeared catatonic. Chilling.


  4. That is a scary thought, and I find it even more eerie how full-circle the post seems with writing it in the style of a children’s book.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Even worse is this thought: ‘Inside Marg’s head, the blare of the television is like nails on a blackboard, the stink makes her want to puke and she wants to punch the nurse in her smiley mouth.’
    I’m already planning the plastic bag over the head.
    Brilliant piece.


  6. I hadn’t picked up on the children story style, but only because I’m not familiar with it. Once pointed out, I could see. The words provoke a fear in me too. I’m thinking I would have to do something like save pills up before I lost my wits.


  7. Holy crap, Maggie. Thoughts of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest–after Jack Nicholson has his lobotomy. I told my husband if that ever happens to me, just shoot me! I liked this but I couldn’t ‘like’ it. You know what I mean? It felt creepy weird. Such a great piece.


  8. Totally hear you on the fear thing – I keep telling my husband Bruce – good grief we have to stay alert and watch out for each other. I just read a news bit about a married couple who killed off the wife’s parents and collected their pension cheques for 15 years. Just heard from a neighbour that a hospital emergency room sent her 85 year old mother home in a taxi in her nightie – thank god her 88 year old husband could manage to get the door open to let her in. Every day I wonder about things like those and elderly people drugged to keep them manageable. To have lived a long and productive life and to have come to that – what a cruel world it seems to be.


  9. Good writing, Maggie. We cannot control what demises we face as we age, and there are an unfortunate few who are a danger to themselves or others who require what we sane, healthy folks consider cruel. Of course, I don’t want that in the future.

    As for general long term care facilities, I have found those my friends’ parents have entered, and the one in Texas where Hub’s Mom lives to be absolutely first rate in the quality of care, the courses of treatment and the genuine affection and respect the staff has for the residents. And most residents have no assets, depending on government subsidies for payment.

    I fear a dementia ending, and I don’t want to spend the last part of my life in a facility, but I do believe if that is my fate, i will be well taken care of and encouraged to live as fully as I’m capable, not drugged out sleeping in a corner.


  10. That would be my worst nightmare too Maggie! Great writing though. Hope this scenario never eventuates for either of us!!


  11. See Hans.
    See Hans run?
    Damn, they couldn’t catch him to give his medication – again.

    My game plan!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. What a horrible image you conjured! I would be terrified of that too!!!
    Let’s make sure that NEVER happens!!!


  13. This is a great style. I checked back on your earlier one too. It gives shivers to read something so serious depicted in such a way. The pic of the little girl too adds to the terror. We wouldn’t, hopefully, treat kids like that in an institution and yet age can make kids of the best of us. This is a scary thought.

    My mum always said if she ever got too ill to place her in a home. When she did, she resisted it with every breath. And quite a few expletives. She came home to me and died here. I wouldn’t have had it any other way but it’s obviously not always possible as someone above commented. Oh god, I’m depressed now!
    No, not really. 😉
    I remember doing the singing round the old folks’ homes too and how delighted they were at something out of the ordinary. Either that or they were secretly wishing for us to feck off. I quite admire the grizzly auld gits that don’t give up without a fight. I only hope that’s an option. Then I can torment my own weans into submission!
    As for fears…..ANYTHING to do with rats! James Herbert and George Orwell have a lot to answer for in my life. 😉 x


    • Thank you so much for your thoughtful comments here and on the music post. I’m sorry that I might have stirred up some stuff for you about your mum. I’m glad that she was with you when she died.

      I suppose I should mention here that my fear of institutions is due to my studies in developmental services work – supporting people with disabilities – physical and intellectual. I wrote a paper on institutional abuse, the kind you read about all of the time, where the victims are rendered vulnerable by their age and/or disability. A common factor in these situations is that it is known and covered up for years and years.

      On the other hand, both of my parents died early and basically instantly – that is, I did not see them age and decline. I have, for one reason or another, had limited experience of homes for the elderly. What I have seen, during my Christmas choir outings was maybe the exception, but it is my only experience.

      My uncle was the poster boy of “grizzly old gits.” He and his wife were both in the same care facility. She was in a different locked ward because of her dementia, but he was in relatively sound shape, intellectually. He made a sport of cruising the hallway during meal time, looking for residents who were heading to the dining room. He’d stop them and ask, “Are you going to lunch?” When they said, yes, he’d point in the opposite direction and say, “You’re going the wrong way!” and off they go, in the opposite direction. He got into trouble for that.


      • Love the sound of your uncle. Don’t bury me till I’m dead kinda philosophy. Bit of the rebel.
        You’re ok about my mum. She was one n a million as far as I’m concerned but she was eighty, she was very ill and she died among family. I miss her to pieces still when I think of all and who she was. But, it is true that time heals and I can even laugh with my sibs about some of her excesses of personality. As it should be, I think.
        Now and again, here, there are stories uncovered of awful treatment of the most vulnerable and it is hellish to think that might befall anyone so your post is right on in terms of fear of that.
        I do so want to be your uncle at that point. I’ve promised my kids that I’m going to be like this


  14. Thank feck you know how to change code to words! Boggles me. 🙂 x


  15. Stats I was given when working years back for a financial planner: Average length of time in a nursing home was four years, average cost in the U.S. for private, i.e. better, facilities, $4-7,000/month. Not many people without Long Term Care insurance can afford THAT.

    When a teen, I volunteered in a state facility. It was pretty much as you describe, except that some of the nurses didn’t care at all about the patients, and some non-licensed staff stole from the patients–from gifts sent by family members.

    Be ready to move to Oregon or Washington when your time comes.


    • Reiner’s son is in nursing. The topic of long term care for his father and me came up in conversation this weekend. He said that he will do everything he can to prevent us ending up in a facility, based on his student experience. PSW’s (personal support workers) are not allowed enough time on the job to do the minimum work. Sometimes a support worker is feeding two “clients” at once – one on each hand. They might change a diaper, but not necessarily wipe the bum.

      Get this: if a client falls, it is prohibited to help the fallen up without using the lifting machine. Which means calling in someone to bring the machine from wherever it might be on the premises… and waiting and waiting… not to mention the indignity of being strapped and buckled and hauled up like a bale of cargo.


      • My mother ( aged 97) is in a care home with my stepfather because he can’t see very well or hear. He also left the taps running at their home on two occasions so water poured through the ceiling ruining the electrics. She, luckily, has all her faculties and reads, does crosswords etc. She is the only one , all the others are asleep in their chairs with the television blaring out to no one. I wish she could come here but I have a very small semi detached bungalow with a small second bedroom/ study. Though the staff at the home are o.k. they just haven’t got time to converse. I drive to see her once a month and feel extremely guilty. She was so independent and now she has meals when they say so, has a bath when she’s told to. We talk of my and my siblings childhood , it very interesting because I was born just before the war, the trouble is when I get up to drive home ( I live quite a way ) she doesn’t want me to leave. I could cry. With me, it’s not the getting old that I mind, Age is just a number, it would be the taking away of my independence.



  1. Share Your World – 2014 Week 36 | The Zombies Ate My Brains

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