I had the privilege this week of doing some off site flu clinics at both ends of life’s spectrum. I did an employer group of some high technology professionals, then restocked the shots and went to an elder care facility and immunized their residents, including their Alzheimer’s unit.
One one side we have young urbans with a Blue tooth in their ear and their Blackberry in their pocket. They have their Ipad tucked under one arm and for them, its all about the next big thing: this meeting, that presentation, etc. On the other side, we have a group of people who think Blackberries make good pie, an Ipad is probably a incontinence product and think Bluetooth would mean a trip to the dentist. Ironically, it was my old folks who were seemingly obsessed over who was going to go first. Mildred got here first, then Bill and Marie, and I am next! (they all live right here….what exactly do they have to GO to??)
My old folks filled out their consent forms meticulously, and every line completed as if they feared rejection if any spot was left empty. I had to rag my yuppies to complete their forms you really need my date of birth? its just a flu shot, I dont give my phone number out..why do I need to answer these questions? Head slap…
In my opinion, every person should do some certain things in their life. First, everybody should see a third world country. We have no concept of genuine poverty in the US. REAL poverty exists outside of the US, and everybody should see what it looks like. It changes you. Secondly, everybody should spend some time in an Alzheimer’s unit. Its a gut-wrenching experience to say the least. I have no doubt that Dr Grumpy has had to deliver the sorry diagnosis to a patient or his/her family when suspicions turn into reality.
I have done this particular unit for 6 years how. I have seen the same faces a couple of years in a row, but rarely do I see them for 3 or more. Its such a tragic disease, and I am sure every one of them would be absolutely horrified to know what they have become. The only grace this disease posesses is that the victim eventually has no idea what has happened. Sadly, it cannot be said the same for the family. Although I know he would never do it, I told Mr Chick if I ever got that back to just put me out of my misery.
The staff shows so much love to these patients. They cannot change their “reality” so the staff merely works within the limited framework of the broken mind. Millie wants to know where Edmund is ( her husband who died years ago). If she is told that Edmund is dead, she is devastated, in denial and thinks you are lying, so he is “at the grocery store and will be home soon”. Millie is content and finishes her lunch.
Philip has gone on a violent paranoid rampage this morning and has to have a male orderly accompany him. He gets no flu shot today. He is dangerous with his cane. Esther refuses to take her sweater off, and there will be no convincing her. Usually telling her that her (long dead) husband Milton wants her to do something will cause her to comply, but not today.
Sam sleeps most of the time, and barely awakens when the aid pulls up his sleeve for his shot. He makes no indication that he even knows he got a shot. Henry wants to get into my supply bag and is not happy when he is turned away. He leaves satisfied when he is offered a bandaid from the bag. He tucks his prize into his pocket and moves on. Gracie seems very lucid and accomodating, until I realize she thinks I am getting her ready to see Barack Obama.
I am often referred to as “The Doctor”…as in ” the doctor wants to give you a flu shot”. For people of this age group, I guess that is my credibility.
Its a humbling experience, and a reminder of how fragile and short life is.
After spending some time in here I hope and pray that the Lord will grace me with a few things until my dying day: 1) I hope that the legs beneath me will walk until the Lord brings me to walk with Him. 2) I hope that my eyes will always see and recognize my friends and family, 3) I hope that my medicine chest will be empty and my needs be few, and lastly 4) when its my time, I just go to sleep and fade away.