Throughout the span of the year, I have visited a single patient. She lived in her own home, a few houses down from one of her children. During the first semester, she had a consistent aid, but throughout the second semester, each time I visited there was a different aid. Throughout the year, there was very little decline in health or capabilities for my patient. While she had limited range of motion, she was able to feed herself and bring straws to her lips. In terms of her mentality, she had a surprisingly firm grasp on the present and the near past. It did not take her more than two visits for her to remember me, by the third she remembered my name. She could often answer questions about her children and her grandchildren, but her childhood was fuzzier. While she was willing to converse, it was clearly tiring. Instead, she preferred that I read children’s books to her. She found pure delight in these stories, in their simple absurdity. What brought her the most enjoyment, was when I brought pictures from my week.
In all honesty, my time with this program has not taught me much, is has neither changed me nor changed my opinions. I worked as a nurse’s aide in a long term care facility for much of high school. During that time, I spent many hours with residents, I witnessed firsthand the death of many, and I gained an intimate knowledge of both the lifestyle and the physical pain of the elderly. The experiences that were intended for us to gain, that would hopefully shape our view of death and healthcare, I had been experiencing over and over for years. This program did help to remind me that aging does not have to involve the loss of mentality or physicality. My patient aged gracefully, and it was a welcome reminder. In high school, I only had contact with residents who needed nursing care. While death itself did not scare or repulse me, the consequences of aging did. My patient reminded me that that fate does not need to come to all, that some age and die with their dignity intact.