Care for the Elderly


I was visiting with Lady T last week. She is doing fine, by my definition. From her perspective, she is a tortured soul. She told me that Christ came here to Earth because his Father sent him to do something. He had a purpose, but this is not the case with her. She was not sent here. She did not ask to come here. She can think of no purpose for being here. When the ones she loved were alive, she knew where she was and she had purpose. Now, she wants to get out. To go to heaven.

I enquired where is heaven and what is it like. She is uncertain, but she is sure it is better than here. I asked what if, when she got to heaven, she found that life is no different and that all the folks she currently dislikes are there too. That’s impossible! How could it be impossible when you are uncertain about what exactly heaven is like? I know it is better. She was adamant. Very well. All I’m saying is that you should consider staying here a bit, because if you rush out into eternity and run into the same set of folks, then you cannot rid yourself of them. In eternity you are stuck with all the crazy characters and situations forever. She asked to change the subject. Sure. I wasn’t sure where the conversation was going either.

She told me that she had visited the Museum recently and noticed that they had taken down her mother’s photograph. Was it in the Museum? Yes! I had a picture of her put up there. Okay. Then she wanted me to pass a black pouch that she had left on the shelf near the bed. That was a difficult task. There is no shelf near the bed, or in the room, and certainly no black pouch. She insisted that I reach for it; still difficult for me to do as I would first have to add some elasticity to my imagination so that it could stretch far enough to reach that shelf. She also mentioned that her cousin took her to Church in a wheelchair. After the service, everyone left and she was alone there. All night. It wasn’t until the next morning that he came and got her. Hmmm. While the variables in her equation don’t always add up, her physical progress is evident, and for that, I am thankful. At least one of us has purpose.

As I went through my routine that day, Lady T informed me that she desired a harder massage. Harder? Yes, more pressure. Okay. Did I ever describe her? She is petite. With a little prepping she would be an ideal model for an Anatomy and Physiology class. How do I do a hard massage for this slender Chinese woman who basically has skeletal muscles? I told her I will do my best. I tried compression with increased pressure. She jerked herself from my grasp. Did I do something wrong? That was painful. Painful? I’m sorry. I was just increasing the pressure a bit. Some folks can only hear explanations after, not before. So now that the pain of harder had registered, she was willing to listen to some reason. Her fragile body cannot process everything that her mind feels it could. We then agreed to pay some attention to mobility instead of her initial desire. Of course, each stretch was met with 100% resistance.

And we returned to pleasant conversation…about love. I spoke of love as having the likeness of a canyon. If you get too close to the edge you could tumble in. But once inside, it’s a breathtaking freefall as you watch the beauty below rushing up to meet you. Then you merge…hit rock bottom. Some die. Some seem too wounded to get up. Some got up to find that they were paralysed in a limb or two. Only a selected few ever make full recovery. But there’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of a freefall, so they fall again, and again. I used to be concerned about that, but even the most superficial look at life would reveal that repetition is normal. The sun rises again and again. The grass grows again and again. The tide comes in again and again. So yes, it’s okay to fall again and again, in love. It is said that a bone gets stronger with the mending of each fracture. So break it again.

And while all of that is okay, it is not okay for me. I have a glass heart so I have to be careful with falling. The truth is, the canyon of love does have a stairway (for mature and differently-able folks), and I am inviting all of you whose system cannot handle the battering of a fall to join me on the stairs. Bring your virtues and your vices and together we’ll hold the handrails and gingerly step into love. We will swap stories, compare scars, make out in front of each other, and have such a rollicking time that we will have no need of hitting rock bottom. Sounds good to me. What do you think?

While you’re thinking, I’ll talk about massage. I went to see a gentleman who had a stroke sometime around Good Friday. That is forever ago when we consider the degeneration that follows dead brain cells. And it’s not that the Medical Professionals are unaware, it just does not suit their purposes to prescribe massages. Physical Therapists are preferred. I recently printed an article for another gentleman in which it was suggested that Massage treatment should begin within 48 hours of the stroke once the patient has been stabilised. Imagine that. I have no issues with Physical Therapists, but we have to remember that before society decided on specialist roles, the Massage and Physical Therapist was one person. There is no choosing Physical Therapy above Massage. They must be combined for the benefit of the patient.

Anyway, it was my role to assess his condition and determine how soon I could begin treatment. Two days after the stroke would have been ideal, but he had to have certain experiences first (it seems) before meeting me. So he was doused with medication. Then he was carted to a Home in the East. I am not sure that relatives of the elderly understand that a Geriatric Home is not necessarily an Adult Day Care Centre. Recently he was moved to the Home where I make my rounds. His right arm is limp. Both feet have a life of their own and seldom respond to messages from the brain, i.e. whenever the Nervous System facilitates a breakthrough in communication. Compounding the situation is a severe case of Gout.

As he sat eating with his left hand, I enquired whether this was his first stroke. For many there are mini strokes leading up to a big one. No, this was not the first. The first had hit the left side of his body. Back then (he could not say exactly when), a lady in the village had done massages for him. She worked mainly with his arms and neck. Interesting. The treatment may have been limited perhaps because she was not a ‘qualified’ Massage Therapist, or maybe that’s what some author said is the best thing to do, or because time is money and the slow progress of recovery from a stroke does not entice relatives to pay Massage Therapists to manipulate soft tissue forever.

Did he get massages while lounging at the Home in the East? Not massage, but Therapy. Kindly explain. The Therapist gave him physical exercises to do. Oooh. You had a Physiotherapist. That’s good. I asked him to share some of the exercises he did. While sitting in his wheelchair, he was made to reach up and hold something, then tried to pull himself up. Okay. I tried to understand what the something was and if it was suspended from the ceiling. The something was the grillwork, the burglar proofing. He would press his face against it to brace himself, then gradually grasp it with his fingers, then pull himself up. Absolutely innovative! A work of genius.

While he could do a few things with the left arm, it is very weak, so each time he inched himself out of the wheelchair, he would fall right back into it. Falling backwards is not natural for the human species so much fear is attached to it. After a while he stopped making the effort because the fall, while insignificant to a healthy person, was too much of a jerk on his system. Did the Therapist not support you? No. She looked on and gave instructions. I felt such sadness at this escapade that my glass heart wanted to break.

I have never gone through formal training as a Physiotherapist, so I am not sure what they are taught in terms of varying their treatment, but I would like to believe that common sense would guide a person into making adjustments for an elderly man with a stroke as against a young athlete who needs to get back into his game. But, life is never straightforward, so it may well be that the old man has a lot of bad karma piled up and the Physiotherapist was doing her best to help him work off some before he departs this existence. You never know.