Thursday, 31 May 2012
Can I come in?
During my recent hospital stay, I was in a ward with three other men, two of them quite elderly and one of those obviously suffering from dementia. Let us call one of the elderly men Stan and the other, the one with dementia, we'll call Hector.
Stan was in the bathroom/toilet having a wash when Hector suddenly decided he needed the bathroom too. He shuffled across the ward and tugged hard at the bathroom door, in spite of being told the place was occupied. Anyway, Hector managed to yank the door open.
"Can I come in?" Hector asked, but without waiting for a reply, or even pausing at the door, he entered the bathroom.
Hector, as we soon found out, had gone in for a shit, which he proceeded to do, ignoring Stan who soon left the bathroom in some confusion, still towelling himself dry. A little while later Hector blithely shuffled out leaving the usual mess to be cleaned up before the bathroom was fit to use again.
No doubt we may look at an incident in a number of ways, but the one that struck me most forcibly was Hector's total lack of embarrassment. He paid no attention to Stan as he shuffled out of the bathroom. No apology, not even a glance - all due to dementia .
Obviously Stan barely existed for Hector, even though I'm sure the pre-dementia Hector would have been absolutely mortified at his own behaviour.
Before seeing this, I may well have assumed that social embarrassments of this kind are quite basic to our nature and not easily eradicated, even by dementia, but clearly this isn't so. Embarrassment is just another social acquisition and dementia sufferers tend to lose it.
As do many politicians. In fact it seems to be part of a political nature, this lack of embarrassment about shitting all over the place. A missing constraint to anti-social behaviour. At least Hector probably had it a few years back.