MORTAR – Last month the book came ‘Misting’ from publishing house Les Iles. Misting gives a picture of life in a nursing home in the Antwerp Zuidrand. For more than four years, author Roland Bergeys visited the dad of his wife Leentje (in the heaviest department) and his own mom (in a lighter department) of a home every day. In Misting he sketches portraits (without naming names) of people in the home whose names he also does not mention, for reasons of privacy.
Bergeys: ‘I wrote the book in a year’s time. My mother and my father-in-law lived in the same residential care center without knowing about each other. The situations in the book are very recognizable. Everything in it is 100 percent true. There are a number of poems and a number of drawings that very clearly express the chaos that could be going on in those people’s heads. In the toughest department, where Leentje’s father was, almost everyone tries to escape. That’s a horror. You never want to end up there. People try to put furniture together at night, sometimes even in groups. They steal each other’s slippers or a bottle of water and the nursing staff can do little about it. They can’t put someone in every room.’
In short, these are harrowing conditions. People don’t even realize they’re there anymore. Or they don’t know their own name anymore. Or they can’t talk anymore. We entered the center and a doctor welcomed us in the most difficult ward. He immediately told me that I had to walk a little straighter, because I was bent a bit. I did. Later I saw that doctor sitting at the nursing station. He was filling out lists. I thought they were lists of patients. But they were lists of imaginary patients. Because the doctor was a resident. At one point he tried to pull a radiator off the wall across the street. Then he took a fire extinguisher. It took five people to subdue that man. To be clear, the man had also been a doctor. These are things that happen every day and that no one can do anything about. A few days later he spoke to me again. He didn’t remember anything about what had happened, everything was gone. He took a beer mat and he stirred it into his coffee.’
‘We have visited our parents in that home every day for 4.5 years and I can assure you: it eats away at you. But we’re glad we were able to do that for them. We are cheerful people with the necessary dose of humor, but that humor perishes with what you see there. The book contains portraits that are beautiful but also poignant. I also highlight the relationship between the nursing staff and the residents. That was very positive. The nurses deserve their heaven on earth. People like that take all that suffering home with them. There is no other way. Throughout the period we have experienced two things – each time with interns – of which we thought: this is not acceptable. But which company can present such figures: barely two bad apples in four years?’
‘Actually, such residents do not belong in a home, but what should you do if there is no room elsewhere? Nursing has to pull out all the stops to take care of those people themselves. When you visit so often, you get to know the residents. You know the bits and pieces of the home, the joys and sorrows: it’s all part of such a community. There were 130 people in the entire home, twenty of whom were in the closed ward. You never forget what you see there.’
‘My book is primarily an ode to healthcare. For people who have relatives who experience the same thing, it is a very recognizable book. For people who know nothing about it, it is a very instructive book.’
The book is illustrated by Jean-Claude Delepière and costs 25 euros. Five euros of the copies purchased via [email protected] go to Stop.Alzheimer.
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