by Jeanne Hambleton  © 2008

NFA Leader Against Pain-Advocate  


In these days when our UK newspapers are full of stories about the lack of respect for the elderly starved of their dignity – mixed hospital wards, underfed folk in care homes, dirty bed linen, people dying with no-one to go to their funeral, it makes me very sad and dread growing old.


Before the world became so small, with people taking a flight to go to Paris for dinner,  generations lived in the same village or town. This meant there was always someone younger nearby to look after grandma or grandpa and they could stay in their homes.  In some countries families lived in properties of three storeys with the elderly on the ground floor, their children on the next, and grandchildren on the top floor. As the grandparents die so the families move down a storey. I may be wrong (fibro fog and all that) but I believe this might happen in Egypt. This seems like a pretty sensible idea, considering young people today cannot afford to buy their first house.  If you are a young person with fibromyalgia, this might not be such a good idea….all those stairs.  It takes me half a day to get up one flight and then I never want to come down again.


But today young folk have itchy feet and cannot wait to leave their home town and sew a few wild oats abroad or elsewhere. I have a  friend with family in Australia. They keep in touch by webcams over the Internet and enjoy Sunday breakfast together. Not quite the same as getting a good warm hug from a little one (even though you know it is just cupboard love) but you have to make the best of what is on offer.


What is cupboard love? I like to think of it as a show of affection (usually from a youngster) in the hope of gaining access to something nice, maybe sweets or cake, which is kept in the cupboard. I can definitely confirm it is not related to any affection for furniture or cupboards.


Have you seen these supposedly funny stickers that talk about looking after your children for they will choose your care home but that is no joke. It can happen to any of us – a sad thought but however well intentioned the children may be (with all their own family commitments) if we have an  illness which really cannot be treated at home the children may have no alternative but to find somewhere a parent can be cared for.


Today I read in a national newspaper that you should all have a meal at the chosen care home before finally deciding – and I would hasten to add look for  rooms with en suite. As people get older they do value their privacy and some really need to have easy access to their own toilet.


This raises two points. The first is unless we are especially unfortunate,  we will all grow old and possibly become infirmed.  Hearing, eyesight, and mobility are just three of the obvious abilities that become troublesome with age.  If you also have fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome you will have even more problems.


Secondly if your parents are still alive, cherish them.  If their hearing is bad, they may miss out on family chatter. If their eyesight  is poor they may not be able to read a paper or watch TV.  So they may already feel isolated – just as many fibromites do.


As someone who has lost both parents, I can tell you, most definitely, you will miss them. I am constantly thinking of days gone-by and questions I should have asked – about their childhood, sweethearts, their teenage years, the town where they grew up – the list is endless.


Given a second chance and the opportunity I would buy a digital voice recorder and ask my parents these questions I wish I knew the answers to. I would record the answers for the next generation. If you seize the opportunity while you can, your parents will feel useful and this will provide a big insight into the family history.


I had this funny email a long time ago and was reminded of it today.



A couple on a cruise got talking to an elderly lady who said she was on her fourth cruise on this ship. Thinking she must be tired of traveling to the same places all the time the couple asked her why she stayed on board. The old lady replied it was cheaper than a nursing home. She said when she got old and feeble she would cruise on the Princess Cruise ship. The average cost of nursing home would be 200 dollars a day, gratuities 10 dollars a day. She could enjoy as many a 10 meals a day if she can walk to the restaurant or she can have room service, with breakfast in  bed every day of the week.


The Princess has 3 swimming pools, a workout room, free washers and dryers and shows on every night. The ship provides free toothpaste, soap, shampoo and razors. Clean sheets and towels  are available every day – they come without asking. If the TV or light bulb is broken they fix it. Need a new mattress, they replace it. They fix everything and apologise for the inconvenience. No problems!


You are treated like a customer and not a patient. If you fall while living in a nursing home and break a hip you are on Medicare. If you fall and break a hip on the Princess they will upgrade you to a suite for the rest of your life.


An extra 5 dollars will have the entire staff scrambling to help you and you get to meet new people every 7 or 14 days. But the best! Do you want to see South America, the Panama Canal, Tahiti, Australia, New Zealand, or Asia? The Princess Cruise Line will have a ship ready to go where you want.  So the old lady said, “Do not look for me in a nursing home. Just call shore to ship”.


Her final words were, “Don’t forget when you die they dump you over the side at no charge!”

She also suggested the couple should tell everybody who dreamt of a luxurious old age.

Now I have got to the end of this story I see it was written by JM.  Thanks for the smiles.


That is what I call be independence and adventurous – a good idea I think if you don’t get sea sick and have the funds. Of course the costs may be a little different today but is it worth comparing prices in case it is a good deal? Just think you could be dining at the Captain’s table and dancing with the First Officer, as one of their best customers.


Have your looked at the price of cruises lately? It must have something to do with the price of oil. Yes I know they are no longer ‘steam’ ships – they use diesel. (They must have had quite a few bags of coal in the good old days?)  But if you are looking for a bit of comfort with maybe a balcony and not an enlarged shoebox, we are talking ‘mega bucks’ for one trip.  I suppose if your capital is limited you should leave it as late as you can before you start cruising. It is one solution to the inheritance tax and you certainly cannot take it with you. 


Before you book your long term cruising if you are interested I found a good website  called Portcities Southampton – home of some of the biggest cruise ships. It is worth a look to see how the cruise ships have changed over the years.  Look at and on the left hand menu at the bottom click the “diversity of ships”.  This will lead you to ships of steam age, and how  the ocean liners developed.




I am told in the States when some folk retire they buy themselves a luxurious large mobile home and become ‘Snow Birds’, leaving the bad weather behind them and moving always with the sun and good weather.  When I was in the States in 2006 we saw lots of special offers for Snow Birds at the convenience shops attached to  ‘gas’ stations. I am sure I could not get all my ‘must haves’ in even a very large luxury mobile home but I like the idea.


Next I must thank Mary, who is not a fibromite, for sending me this other story which is at the  other end of the spectrum. I am unsure if it is true but I can imagine there must be some truth in it. Either way there is a moral in this think piece. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


I am sure you will remember the tale of the Wooden Bowl tomorrow, a week from now, a month from now, a year from now.


A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth.


The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. ‘We must do something about father,’ said the son. ‘I’ve had enough of his spilt milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.’

So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl!


When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.


The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, ‘What are you making?’

Just as sweetly, the boy responded, ‘Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.’ The four-year-old smiled and went back to work.


The words so struck the parents so that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken. Both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal  with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled.





On a positive note, I’ve learned that, no matter what happens, how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.


I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way he/she handles four things: a rainy day, the elderly, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.


I’ve learned that, regardless of your relationship with your parents, you will miss them when they are gone from your life.


I’ve learned that making a ‘living’ is not the same thing as making a ‘life..’


I’ve learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.


I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.


I’ve learned that if you pursue happiness, it will elude you. But if you focus on your family, your friends, the needs of others, your work and doing the very best you can, happiness will find you.


I’ve learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.


I’ve learned that even when I have pains, I don’t have to be one.


I’ve learned that every day, you should reach out and touch someone. People love that human touch, holding hands, a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.


I’ve learned that I still have a lot to learn!

 How true – words we should all remember! Jeanne





  1. Dear Jeanne- It is exactly because of the reasons cited in your blog that I set up a new website,, where people can write reviews of carehomes based on their experiences, so that if others are looking for care homes, they can at least see what others think of them before making that decision. My mother actually has that plaque ‘look after you children because they choose your care home’ over her desk at work- hopefully the WhereforCare website might leave some of us able to make the right choice!

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