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Saturday, January 21, 2023


by Joel Savishinsky

Federal regulators said Wednesday that they will begin penalizing nursing homes that give residents a false label of schizophrenia, a practice that many facilities have used to skirt restrictions on antipsychotic drugs, which can be especially dangerous for older people. —The New York Times, January 18, 2023. Photo: Yvonne Blakeney’s husband, David, a dementia patient, was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after arriving at a nursing home. Credit: Sean Rayford for The New York Times.

In my better moments, 
I know my head’s not 
right… but this is wrong.
There are dark caves inside my mouth, 
where their blind stupidity
is not my disability, 
spaces that enable me to
hide their pills inside my cheek, 
under my tongue, 
back in the recess behind 
my lower right molar. 
I am not dumb. 
I’ve read the text, 
and know the fate 
of those who’d fly 
over the cuckoo’s nest. 
I’ll sit right here and 
won’t take flight, but 
find refuge in a 
remnant of integrity.
In my better moments, 
I know my rights.

Joel Savishinsky, a retired professor of anthropology and gerontology, is the author of The Ends of Time: Life and Work in a Nursing Home and Breaking the Watch: The Meanings of Retirement in America, both of which won the Gerontological Society of America’s book-of-the-year prize. His collection Our Aching Bones, Our Breaking Hearts: Poems on Aging, will be published by The Poetry Box in 2023.