** all names are cooked up to protect privacy
“Betty, my patient is still sleeping in her room. Why don’t I take this gentleman off your hands?”, I asked.
Well, my hospice patient was sleeping. I was not sure what to do. I came down to the lobby level and saw Betty – at the front desk – struggling with all the calls to the front desk, buzzing visitors in and paying attention to the impatiently walking John (also a patient).
The next 30 minutes was an eye opening exercise. Gave me a window into what my dad must have gone thru. And what I might too, myself.
You see, John has been suffering from a lot of old age issues. At a macro level, his kids have been great to him. They pay for the hospice facility, they visit him religiously every week and make a big deal on special days.
At a micro level, he has no idea about any of that. He needs them with him NOW!
The walk up and down the corridors was mostly pleas from him to see if I could get his kids to pick up from that place. (He thinks he lost his way and one of his kids just needs to take him home).
When somebody is totally daft, it is one thing. You just talk past each other. The only purpose is for the other person to think you are listening. They have no ability to judge otherwise. But when you swing between the real and unreal worlds like John, it becomes dangerous.
It is a delicate act of balancing between soothing him down when he is angry because he thinks I am not helping and supporting him when he thinks that his daughter is going to call him back moment she is done with work.
He had a mobile phone on him. That had a lot of saved numbers. And he fumbled his way to high heavens trying to call any of those numbers. All this time, walking up and down with me in the corridors.
“Why don’t we go out and sit?”
We settled down. But he was fixated on his phone.
Then I heard the “click” “click” noise!
“What did you do?”
“I think I took pictures.”
“I have no idea”
Apparently, he was totally lost in the phone options.
“Listen, Mr. John. Why don’t you let me take a picture of you and me so I can show my daughter?”
“Is she in Stamford, Connecticut?”
“No. she is here, in Georgia”.
“This is not Georgia”
“You are right. I meant she is in Georgia. You and I are in Connecticut”. (I had to play along with his memory)
“Will you send it to my daughter?”
“Moment I meet her, sir!”
And of course, the instant I take the picture, he starts calling his daughter again!!
The evening went on like that…
Here is what I learnt that evening – When you grow old, you do not want anything more than being surrounded by your near and dear ones. You do realize that they have more important things to do in life. But you really, really want to be with them.
If you ever get a chance to make a difference to an old person by just being with them, please do. You do not have much time left. I know I do not!