Burglary – just another way of showing your appreciation

H was a quirky, sharp-tempered old woman that I used to go see more or less weekly in her nursing home.

She was one of the most wretched old people I think I’ve ever met.  She disliked most of her fellow inmates, rarely allowed herself to be wheeled out of her room, struggled against suffocation many times each day, endured constant pain, and was unbearably lonely.

Oh, and she didn’t even like chocolate.

However, one day I came into her room and H was in a cheery mood, almost smug, in fact.

“I’ve been taking care of that woman across the hall,” H told me, smiling. “She’s not quite right in her head, and she’s been crying all the time.  So I just sat by her and held her hand, and that seemed to calm the poor thing down.”

Well, she said something like that. I’m not going to try to reproduce H’s broken Finnish English.

For that hour, H was almost full of herself.  She was pleased to have found someone more miserable than her, and more than that – she was happy to finally have a Role.  In a nursing home, they’re the Carers, you’re the Cared For.  Their reason to be there is you.  Your reason to be there is…is….

It made me think how destructive it can be, to be the Helped.  If you help someone, they need you, you’re needed, you’re someone.  If they help you, without recompense, all you are is grateful.  We shouldn’t be too surprised when the eternally grateful go and burgle houses, just to feel a little better about their place in life.

(and here is a little story for dessert – http://livinginfairyland.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/why-the-great-wall-of-china-is-made-of-rice/)


  1. Thank you, that is VERY interesting. I have come across people who “feed off” people with problems as they boost their own egos in “helping” them. You are spot on!!

    1. That’s true, they do. But I think H really liked that she could be helpful to someone instead of being the patient, and it was good for her to feel useful.


      1. Yes…for sure! In Japan, many retirement homes are setting up certified schools for their residents. Everything is serious, registrations, formal blazers, homework etc…but they have found that a many people are getting out of bed and are becoming more mobile! As result they require less carers because it is just far more productive.

      2. I can believe that. Apparently it makes a huge difference to people’s health, mental and physical, if they feel they have control over things.


  2. Mommy? I swear, this sounds like how my mother coped with her really sad life. She helped people at Meals-on-Wheels. She was sort of appreciated, but then she flipped the tables on those poor sots, and they started throwing food at her. Kidding (dark humor you know). But they did tell her she was boring and tiresome. It’s hard to be turned away by truly needy people.

    Anyway, being burgled: Nope, have no use for be robbed! 😉

    1. god yes. There you are trying to be lady bountiful and the objects of your solicitude turn on you! People don’t like to be helped in a very ‘Aren’t you lucky here I am helping you’ way,do they.


  3. I used to visit my grandma in a nursing home..it was always emotional for me…(she got scared of a lot of things in her old age, even broke the aides nose one year when she tried to wash her hair..thought the poor lady was trying to drown her)…I’m glad H found something to do to make her feel useful.

    1. Yeah, H used to think the nurses were running a drug ring. Of course, they could have been. She also reckoned her old enemy lived in the room across the hall, from way back in the nazi era when this woman was H’s servant. I don’t THINK that can have been the case.


  4. It is indeed true that being needed give a person a reason to get out of bed in the morning. It’s no wonder old people are miserable; they no longer have a purpose.

    Lovely story, Rose.

    1. Yes, exactly. I think everyone needs to be needed. Actually I think that’s a lot of the problem with ‘teenagers today’. They have literally nothing to do in society except play (up).


  5. I love your ‘Oh, and she didn’t even like chocolate’. I truly love the way you write, Rose 🙂 You have me smile often through a post.

    How insightful you are though, about how this miserable H savoured the opportunity to take on a different role than that of ‘the cared for ’till death’. That woman crying across the hall must have been in such deep grief. How awful – a whole life lived, and then that outcome of utter vulnerability and with nothing to do but wait to die.

    I want dessert.

      1. My grandmother (Babasia) said for AT LEAST 2 decades “I’m ready to die”. She refused to leave her house she got when she came in from Poland, a refugee. When she fell through the front porch & broke her hip, it was straight to a nursing home. Visiting her was horrible. Sorry, it just was. Oh God, spare me that…

      2. People need to be allowed to choose when they go, I think. Hopefully by the time we’re like that, we’ll be able to.


  6. Excellent post. There is a book by Robert Munsch that everyone in the teaching and storytelling community loves, and I can’t stand it, ever since it made an elderly friend of mine cry. It is about the role reversal of a mother who took care of her son, and now he is taking care of her like a little baby. It is funny to second graders, but not to a woman who finds herself suddenly dependent.

  7. Couldn’t agree more, Rose…. The elderly (and the sick and weak) ought to learn a trade. If they are sprightly enough, burglary could be right up their alley. I know (in such a predicament) I would be grateful for any assistance to ‘gain employment’ and become self sufficient.!
    A wonderful post, Rose; full of, not only a monstrous public problem but also a remedy requiring co-operation, loss of crabbiness, agility and speed of foot… Well done, Rose…
    A ‘Highly Commendable’ post…. 😉
    Are you available for ‘Nursing Home Visitations’? Your offerings would undoubtedly be well received…. 🙂

    I do appreciate what you are saying, Rose. The elderly, sick and infirm (in general) fare so much better when engaged in something stimulating to the senses; be that physical or mental stimulation….. For a brief period I too was a care giver; plus a member of a choir. We visited quite a number of nursing homes and sang our little hearts out to the very appreciative audiences (many of whom didn’t know their own name and yet were visibly stimulated by the sounds of memories gone by…).
    A great post, Rose…

  8. yes it’s funny that, Carolyn – when people forget things like names and relatives, they often still remember smells, songs, that kind of thing. It can be terribly sad, the whole thing! Let’s both take to burglary when we get to be senior enough to carry it off with panache!

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