I don't want to get old.
I did a patient home visit today, as part of a training workshop, tagging along with an attending to see a homebound elderly woman who can't leave her apartment to get to the doctor. She had a stroke a year ago, and broke her hip six months ago, so she's very limited as far as her mobility and in fact hasn't left her home in months.
A restaurant a few blocks away delivers her lunch and dinner every day, and she makes oatmeal for breakfast. She watches TV but can't really hear it well enough to entirely understand what's happening. She reads the newspaper. She looks out the window and watches cars passing on her street.
But that's about all she does. Her husband passed away a dozen years ago, they never had any kids, and her family is all overseas. Unclear if she has any friends. Unclear if she ever talks to anybody but the restaurant's deliveryman, and the doctor.
She was so excited to have us there. She even let us sit on her plastic-covered furniture-- she said it's her "special furniture" and she doesn't like to risk it getting dirty. She kept asking me if I think she'll ever be well enough to go outside again. The attending jumped in before I could say anything and told her she's too much of a fall risk, and for now it's probably better to stay in. She doesn't eat enough-- she's emaciated, she's going to starve to death if something doesn't get her before that.
I don't know what the point is, to be honest. It's gruesome to say, but I don't know what the point of this woman's life is. She has nobody and does nothing. She's waiting to die. And when she does, likely no one will even notice for days. I guess the restaurant deliveryman will. He'll ring the bell, she won't answer, and he'll call 911. And that's how it'll go. Her plastic-covered furniture, clean and untouched, will end up in the garbage, I imagine.
If nothing else is an argument for having kids, this woman is. Without a family, she has no one. The phone never rings, no one ever comes to visit, she has no one whose life she has a stake in. Look, I know having kids doesn't mean they're going to want to have anything to do with you once you're dying-- they may very well just put you in a nursing home and ignore you-- but if the alternative is to live this woman's life, alone, with a TV that she can barely understand and a deliveryman her only connection to the outside world-- I don't know if a nursing home is such a bad place.
What she needs is an adopt-a-grandparent program. I'm looking into it today and will hopefully be able to convince social work to pay her a visit. And I called my grandma tonight. Twice.