Advocacy, Annie & Cricket, Antipsychotic drugs, NHBPS, Toward better care

how things get unbearably crazy

Unbearably crazy painterly

This is one in a series of vignettes based on the Nursing Home Behaviour Problem Scale (NHBPS), which is used to measure agitation in people who live with dementiaThe vignettes are told from the point of view and in the voice of a fictional character called Annie, a woman in her mid-eighties who lives with dementia of the Alzheimer’ type in the mid- to later-stages of the disease. Annie resides in a long-term care facility somewhere in Canada. This vignette is called “unbearably crazy;” it was partially informed by this article: “Why and how normal people go mad.” There’s a link to all the vignettes at the end of the post.  

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unbearably crazy

I hold my little bear, soft and warm in my arms. He’s sleeps against my chest. It feels good to have a friend.

“There you are little fella,” I say. “There you are.”

It’s the busy time. I stand by the kitchen. People come and go. A shiny door slides open across the hall, and a lady pushes a cart out. She heads towards me.

“Hi Annie Fanny,” the cart woman says. “Are you ready for lunch? It’s French toast and maple syrup. Do you like French toast?” Do I like French toast? I’m not sure. “Maybe,” I say.

“I think you do, dear,” she says. “You like sweet things. Sweets for this sweet, right?”

“Sweets for the sweet,” I say. She pushes the cart past me into the kitchen.

One. Two. Three. Three old ladies sit at the table. They’re wearing bibs with balloons on them. Why do they have bibs on? Bibs are for babies. One of the ladies leans forward; her forehead touches the table. Maybe she’s dying. Another old lady bangs a cup. Bang, bang, bang.

“Help me! Help me!” the third one cries. She sounds afraid. I wonder what she’s afraid of? A wrinkly man sits in a chair in the corner. He looks like a statue.

“We’ll stay here in the hall little fella,” I whisper to my bear, and give him a squeeze.

“Time for lunch Annie” a voice says. “It’s time for you to sit down.” Someone puts an arm around my shoulder. I can’t see who it is.

“Oh! That’s Marjorie’s teddy bear,” the voice says; it’s a girl’s voice. “We need to put him back in Marjorie’s room.”

“No, he’s my bear,” I say. I stand still and hold him as tight as I can. They take things away from you here. I remember that. They take things away.

“No, he’s not, he’s Marjorie’s,” the girl is in front of me now. I can see her. She grabs my bear’s leg, and starts to pull.

“What are you doing? He’s not Marjorie’s. He’s mine,” I say. My voice is loud. “Let go of my bear!”

“He’s not yours, Annie. He’s Marjorie’s. Give him to me, and I’ll put him back in Marjorie’s room where he belongs.”

“He belongs to me. He belongs to me.” My face feels hot. There’s pressure in my head. The girl pulls harder. I hold my bear tighter.

“You’re hurting him,” my voice gets louder. Bang, bang, bang. Someone knocks on something. “Help me! Help me!” Someone shouts. Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! A bell rings. Someone walks past. Someone else walks past.

“Calm down Annie. Stop screaming,” the girl yells at me; then her voice quiets. “Give me the bear, dear. That’s it my love, give me the bear.” She tries to pry the bear from my arms.

“Fuck you!” I shout. I hold him close with my left hand, and slap her arm hard with my right.

“I don’t deserve that Annie. We don’t swear and hit other people. That’s not nice,” the girl says to me like I’m two. I’m not two. I’m forty-two! I’m old enough to be your mother.

“You’re the one who’s not nice, you bitch,” I glare at her. “Let go of my bear or you’ll be sorry.”

I wish someone would get me out of this crazy place.


©2016 Susan Macaulay /

Copyright: sirirak / 123RF Stock Photo

3 thoughts on “how things get unbearably crazy”

  1. As I read this, I easily saw myself in the part of the care facility where I’m generally not supposed to go. Facilities don’t like me to find my way into this part of their building – seems they are afraid I’ll see something I can’t handle.

    There is a lot going on with the multitude of sounds, resident behavior, staff, etc. I think it can be hard for anyone to process, let alone a person with dementia who may be on medications. Then someone takes away the one thing that was providing comfort – definitely, a recipe for an unwanted behavior that was not the fault of the resident.


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