Invalid Gentlewomen - Railway Concessions - A Useful Suggestion
Homes for convalescents do not always justify their names, and those homes in particular which are intended especially for ladies of moderate means are often managed on a boarding-school principle which foredooms them to failure. People may be obliged to take advantage of them for economical reasons, but they seldom recommend them.
In one home known to the writer, if the invalid inmates had breakfast in bed, it had to be at 8 a.m., and they were always expected to be out of their rooms at 9.30 a.m.
Such arrangements are, of course, impossible if a home is to be successful. Its visitors would not be there unless their condition made them unable to submit to the ordinary boarding-house arrangements.
They come to receive a little home attention, even pampering, if need be. They want to be made strong again, mentally and physically, and a home for convalescents ought not to be a purely money-making concern.
If the home is by the seaside, it should, when at all possible, overlook the sea, or at least be within a very few mintues' walk of it.
The bedrooms should be as cosy and bright as possible - light, modern furniture is much more cheerful for an invalid's room than the finest old-world, but rather dismal, mahogany. It does not matter how plain the furniture may be, provided that everything is bright and fresh and clean. In one charming home each bedroom has a colour scheme of its own, and is known as the Pink Room, Blue Room, or Violet Room, etc. Each room contains one or two really comfortable easy-chairs, for the manageress realises that invalids often get tired, and want to rest in privacy.
Small details affect sick people, and it gives a pleasant, home-like touch to leave pens, ink, blotting-paper, notepaper, envelopes, etc., on a little table by the window. Some of us remember, as invalids, a forlorn search through many rooms for a sheet of headed paper to send one's address to one's friends.
Every home should have at least some small grounds or garden, and in this " common " flowers could be cultivated to brighten the rooms. Perpetual sweet-pea, for instance, grows without special attention, and there is no flower more charming for house-decoration in the summer.
By the way, the following is a very good method of keeping flowers fresh. Take them out of the vases every night, and put them in a big bath or tub of cold water, letting their heads get wet; in the morning they will have acquired new life. Cutting the stems also revives flowers, and a grain of salt in the water helps to keep them from fading.
A convalescent home ought to have as few stairs as possible. The sitting-room should be filled with low, comfortable chairs and couches, and should be on the ground floor. Books are very cheap nowadays, and nothing gives greater pleasure to invalids than something to read. Why do not convalescent homes adopt the idea of having a small library of their own ? Either free, for patients are often too unwell to go out and buy books for themselves, or at some nominal charge.
If the home takes men as well as women invalids, there should, of course, be a separate smoking-room or a sitting-room for the men.
A cheerful, bright, sensible matron will be the most important adjunct to the success of the whole home. She should be a well-educated, sociable woman of between thirty-five and forty-five, who can keep firm control and at the same time be very popular with the patients.
It is not, of course, possible to lay down rules for homes in a general way - so much depends upon the class of patient taken, the fees charged, etc. For instance, there is one tiny home on the South Coast, kept by a doctor's old servant, where there are never more than three people - rarely as many. Everything is very homely and plain, but the cooking and catering are excellent, the woman very friendly and kind, and the charge is only twenty-five shillings a week. More luxurious homes may cost anything up to four or five guineas a week. In London there is an excellent organisation to help reduced gentlewomen with their medical fees, and afterwards send them away to some convalescent home with which the association has a special arrangement. The association will send a lady, when necessary, to a private nursing home, and will pay all her nursing and operation fees in urgent cases. It will not only pay her fees, but also her railway fares backwards and forwards to a home for convalescents.
There are, besides, in London two private nursing homes where ladies of reduced means are treated at an inclusive charge of twenty-five shillings a week. The matron generally knows of a comfortable home to suit the means of her patients.
Homes that take a certain number of invalids can generally obtain tickets from the railway companies for their visitors at considerably reduced rates. A special form has to be obtained from the companies and filled up for this purpose. This is one of the many little ways in which money can be saved for those who have slender means.
The ideal condition under which to start a home is to do so in connection with a nursing home in London or in one of the large provincial towns. It is in all cases a good idea for the proprietor to keep in touch with the matrons of those institutions which cater for the class of client she desires to receive.
Homes can also add to their income by accepting for week-ends or odd days the relations of invalids who want to run down and see them. They are generally only too glad to be able to stay in the same house.