'One East' focuses on the positive side of nursing-home care

June 04, 1991|By Michael Hill

The standard portrayal of nursing homes on TV is as disgusting hovels filled with uncaring staff members where ungrateful children dump their unwanted parents, condemning them to lives of, on good days, dreary boredom.

That maybe somewhere in some nursing homes, elderly people are actually well-cared for by a staff that is trained to deal with their physical and mental limitations in ways that would be beyond the abilities of their families in the home is rarely, if ever, considered as a possibility.

"One East," a half-hour video by the University of Maryland at Baltimore's team of William Whiteford and Susan Cohen, shows

that such is the case. Focusing on one ward of a local nursing home -- the Johns Hopkins-affiliated Mason F. Lord Facility -- "One East" finds patients who range from the jolly and fun-loving to the taciturn and difficult to the detached and distracted. It will be on Maryland Public Television, channels 22 and 67, at 10 o'clock tonight,

The patients are cared for by several nurses whose attention and patience would do a kindergarten teacher proud. And, unlike those who deal with youngsters who often have similar needs and mood swings -- and a comparable lack of appreciation -- these nurses don't get to see their charges grow and develop. Usually it's just the opposite:

decline and deterioration.

Still, the intangible rewards that come from concern and caring are there and nicely captured by Whiteford and Cohen. "One East" does seem a bit Pollyannaish as it in no way depicts even the potential downside of nursing-home care, but it is trying to balance out a scale that is weighted heavily in the other direction.

Be forewarned, however, that, at least with this group, among the inhibitions that go with getting old is the one against bad language. The patients of "One East" exhibit salty tongues that would make "The Golden Girls" blush.

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