DECEMBER 20, 1945
NEW YORK, Wednesday—On Tuesday I spent the full day going to the Veterans' Hospital in Coatesville, Pa., near Philadelphia. The population of this hospital is greater than was intended.
The kitchen, for instance, was planned on a basis of 1,000 beds and the hospital now has well over 2,000 patients. Some of the day-rooms have had to be turned into wards, but on the whole one is not conscious of great overcrowding.
More than two-thirds of the veterans here are from World War One and some even are Spanish War Veterans. Age and the strain of life, and the fact that many are without families or friends, have brought them to the hospital where they will probably stay for the rest of their lives.
I was particularly happy to find that there was no use of cuffs, strait-jackets or solitary confinement. Shock treatments are given; also, the hot baths which do have a quieting influence on the more excited patients. There is a ward of very old and very sick people which must demand from the attendants the same patience and care that a baby would need.
The great difficulty in a mental hospital is, of course, the lack of psychiatrists and of trained attendants. New attendants are given an eight-day intensive course before they go on the wards. This hospital has had great success in using groups of colored soldiers as attendants. They have proved kind and gentle, but under the point system many of them are now going out of the service. So the need for regular attendants will be increasingly hard to fill.
Under General Bradley, there is being inaugurated in these hospitals a special services program with a physical director in charge of certain activities. I saw some of the younger men doing setting up exercises which I feel sure will be beneficial to both their physical and mental condition.
It seemed to me that there was great need for the services of more psychiatric social workers. The occupational therapy work is being done, but could be strengthened. If there were more trained psychiatric workers available, one on every ward would, I am sure, be helpful to the doctors and to all the other people working with the younger patients.
Here the chief effort must be to rehabilitate as rapidly as possible and return to normal life, so it is essential that they get now the best care and all the services that may speed up their recovery.
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The other afternoon Miss Ella May Thornton, State Librarian of the Georgia State Library came to see me, bringing a most moving account, related to her by Mr. Graham Jackson, of his last interview with my husband at Warm Springs and his last glimpse of him on the day of his death. She had written it just as Mr. Jackson told it to her and the simplicity and real affection which shone through the whole account gave it a really beautiful literary quality.