The White Room
I lie on the bed
in the white room
They sit around me
These strangers with familiar voices
I think we are waiting for something
These strangers, they look at me
They mutter words I don’t understand
A man in a white coat walks in
He stands next to my bed.
He speaks not to me,
but to these strangers
They are talking about me, I know.
About what, I don’t understand.
Irritated, I kick off the covers.
Mother! They chide me and pull them back.
About the poem: This is a poem about dementia, the hallmark of the disease being loss of memory. I write about a scene I came across during my rounds in the hospital—an elderly woman in the advanced stages of dementia is lying on the bed surrounded by her caring relatives. It’s difficult to know what’s going on in the poor woman’s mind because she has lost the ability to speak, even comprehend. Yet it’s apparent she’s unaware of her ailment. She doesn’t even know where she is or who she is with.
Dementia is a syndrome that results in gradual and progressive decline of previously acquired mental abilities that results in a loss of social and occupational functioning and ultimately to loss of independence. It is imperative to distinguish this from normal aging- normal aging never results in loss of independence.