Monday, June 15, 2009
I was visiting with a man in his 50s this afternoon. He's on some intense pain medications due to a fractured right leg which will never fully heal due to bone mets. Consequently he was a little sleepy when I arrived but he gamely engaged in conversation before falling asleep midsentence. Last week the same thing happened so I just sat there for about 5 minutes until he woke back up. He apologized for falling asleep- no matter how often I tell him that it's OK if he needs to rest for awhile, he always feels badly. He asked if we could go into his backyard since it was a nice day. He wanted to show his caregiver what needs to be done in the garden. I accompanied him (plus his walker) outside, trying to match my gait to his. He showed me some of his favorite plants and discussed the flower and fruit trees on his property. It felt nice to be in the sun! He can walk fairly well with his walker; his left leg has bowed out to compensate for his right leg. We chatted about nonconsequential things as we walked along. As we came around to the front of the house, he commented that it felt good to walk outside. And then he thanked me for walking with him. I of course told him he was welcome but was a little surprised that a simple walk was worthy of thankfulness. But as I thought more about this man's circumstances, I realized that he does not get much interaction from other people. His caregiver is Polish but speaks decent English. However, I don't think they talk a whole lot, mostly because this patient was initially very resistant to having any caregiver in the home. It also sounds like he wasn't around too much while his kids were growing up. To their credit, the kids are involved but they have families of their own. I got the impression that his family and friends tend to rush their visits or talk about doing things with him but don't follow through. And then along comes the hospice team. Along with goalwork, I provide a good distraction for this man once a week. A walk doesn't seem like a big deal to me but to this patient it seems to mean so much more. I was honored to bring something good to his day.