Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Lorraine the Matchmaker

“Lorraine” is a sweet 80 year old patient with CHF living in a nursing home. Her son Larry had hired caregivers and served as her primary caregiver for quite a few years until her care became more than he could manage and led to some health problem of his own. Lorraine has been my patient since the end of July but due to her short and long term memory deficits, she never remembers who her hospice team is. My recent visit was no exception.
Lorraine was sitting in the dining room with other residents while music played in the background. She is always sweet and pleasant to everyone, whether she remembers them or not. On this particular day she believed that I was Larry’s girlfriend! I told her that I was not Larry’s girlfriend but that I did know him, which she was glad to hear. I quickly changed the subject. We talked about the music playing, which she didn’t like since it wasn’t classical, and her life. She talked about taking care of her 20 year old grandson Mike when he was younger but at first did not remember the reason why she babysat for him- because of Larry’s divorce. Once she remembered she told me all about Larry’s ex-wife. She next talked about working as a pediatric nurse and running her family restaurant. Lorraine always asks if you’ve eaten anything, usually several times during the visit because she doesn’t remember your first answer.
After I reassured her that I had eaten a very good breakfast, she asked me again if I was dating Larry. When I told her no, she asked me why not. She sang his praises while I tried not to laugh and come up with the best response. She wouldn’t understand the ethical implications of a social worker dating a family member of a hospice patient- she does not even know that she is a hospice patient. I can’t tell her that Larry is overly attached to her and this is resulting in some large mental health issues. So I went with the honest answer: “Sorry, Lorraine, he’s too old for me.” Larry is at least in his 50s.
She then asked me how old I was. “27? That’s nothing! Larry is only 30.” She was very satisfied that there were no obstacles to her matchmaking plans. I didn’t have the heart to tell her Larry’s real age. Although, I thought to myself, if Larry was 30 then he would have been 10 when he had his son Mike- yikes! As I left Lorraine that day I promised I would consider going on a date with Larry, confident that by the time Larry visited her later that day she would have forgotten all about her schemes and I would be in the clear once again.

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