Letter to the Editor: What makes a cruel person kind or a kind person cruel?

This letter may strike a chord with those who watched the recent Panorama programme about falling standards in care for the country’s older generation.

Elderly woman looking out of the window:

We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch. This from David Moorse. Ed

Following the recent Panorama revelation of continued abuses within the caring system, (clearly a large sector locally), a number of factors have been mentioned: Low pay levels for carers… but does more money make a cruel person kind? Pressures of time… but does haste make a kind person, cruel?

Perhaps some of the blame lies with the recruitment processes… perhaps part of this process ought to include reading the following poem, written by an elderly lady and found following her death.

Anyone who fails to shed a tear should not go through to the next phase of the selection process.

A crabbit old woman

What do you see nurses, what do you see?
Are you thinking when you are looking at me.

A crabbit old woman, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with far-away eyes.

Who dribbles her food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice – “I do wish you’d try.”

Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a stocking or shoe.

Who unresisting or not, lets you do as you will,
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.

Is that what you are thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes, nurse, you’re not looking at me.

I’ll tell you who I am as I sit here so still;
As I use at your bidding, as I eat at your will.

I’m a small child of ten with a father and mother,
Brother and sisters, who love one another.

A young girl of sixteen with wings on her feet,
Dreaming that soon now a lover she’ll meet.

A bride soon at twenty – my heart gives a leap,
Remembering the vows that I promised to keep.

At twenty-five now I have young of my own,
Who need me to build a secure, happy home.

A woman of thirty, my young now grow fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.

At forty, my young sons have grown and are gone,
But my man’s beside me to see I don’t mourn.

At fifty once more babies play round my knee,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.

Dark days are upon me, my husband is dead,
I look at the future, I shudder with dread.

For my young are all rearing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love that I’ve known.

I’m an old woman now and nature is cruel –
’Tis her jest to make old age look like a fool.

The body it crumbles, grace and vigour depart,
There is now a stone where I once had a heart.

But inside this old carcase a young girl still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.

I remember the joys, I remember the pain,
And I’m loving and living life over again.

I think of the years all too few – gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.

So open your eyes, nurses, open and see
Not a crabbit old woman, look closer – see ME !

Image: barthelomaus under CC BY 2.0

Friday, 9th May, 2014 1:41pm


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10 Comments on "Letter to the Editor: What makes a cruel person kind or a kind person cruel?"

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It’s a tragedy to see how so many elderly people are treated. They’ve been through a world war, some of them fighting in it, others surviving the bombings and rations. The government always seems to have millions of pounds to give in aid to other countries in the world, but still we hear of disgusting neglect taking place because staff don’t have enough time to care for… Read more »
Hi, David. We must be careful, in difficult times, not to vilify the innocent with none existent crimes. “Crabbit Old Woman”, also variously titled “Look Closer”,[1] “Look Closer Nurse”, “Kate”, “Open Your Eyes”[2] or “What Do You See?”,[3] is a poem written in 1966 by Phyllis McCormack, then working as a nurse in Sunnyside Hospital, Montrose. The poem is written in the voice of an old woman… Read more »
Blame the care home owners, protected and encouraged by this Tory government, squeezing low-paid staff to earn themselves even more profits “Private health care firms with Tory links have been awarded NHS contracts worth nearly £1.5billion. Circle Health landed £1.36 billion worth of health service work after several ­of its investors gifted about £1.5million to the Conservatives. And Care UK has contracts worth another £102.6 million. Its… Read more »

Couldn’t resist commenting on the parlous state of health services mismanaged by this and the previous government. Back to purdah!

It is no excuse for cruelty to say that someone was in a rush or poorly paid. Down that path lies a huge and legitimised fall in ethical standards. I agree that asking potential social care staff to read out that poem at interview, and comment on it, would be quite illuminating. Good idea. When I was in a social care setting and first saw the poem,… Read more »
Mark Francis

According to the late Christopher Hitchins good people do good things & bad people do bad thing but only religion makes good people do bad things.


St Arwald has some explaining to do then.

Mark Francis
St Arwald died fighting Christian genocide and was murdered by them at least twice. My son answered the question “Does the parable of the Good Samaritan show that we should help strangers?” in his RE Gcse mock He wrote “Yes unless they ask you to worship other gods, in which case the Bible tells us to stone them to death” It also tells the Israelites to kill… Read more »

Chip off the old block! Good for him.

I can’t find where it is now, but a poster recently pointed out (and I wish to reiterate) that the term ‘social worker’ has a specific definition nowadays. When people write about ‘social workers’ in care homes, they are invariably talking about ‘social CARE workers’, a group that covers a very wide range of different – or no – qualifications and skills. Nowadays (and for some years… Read more »