Inspired by the Elderly

After you’re older, two things are possibly more important than any others: health and money. 

Helen Gurley Brown

I am currently on my Family Medicine Rotation. We visited a nearby old-age home yesterday. I was not really looking forward to it, but it blew my mind.

I love old people. I love hearing their life stories and when I was little, my granny and I often visited a nearby old-age home. I like to think I brought some joy to some old people who could no longer talk and who had no other visitors than Grandmother and the tiny blond-haired girl.

Anyway, the old-age home my group visited yesterday is a sub-economical home. One-hundred-and-forty of their 153 residents are state patients. It has three levels, but no elevator. It has one registered nurse on duty at any one time.

I did not like the smell as we walked through the corridors. And I did not like the way the hope dimmed in some of their old eyes when they realised that we weren’t visiting grandchildren.

The geriatrician had some patients talk to us.

We met someone with Parkinson’s Disease – the first time I have ever encountered this. We met a lady who looks and sounds like she is in her 60s, but is actually 86 and has raised eight children. And we met a gentleman who grew up in the Congo and has the biggest smile and the most adorable raspy voice.

He was quite funny. The doctor told him, “These are young doctors, tell them what is your problem.”

To which he gave us a quizzical look and demanded, “What is your problem?”

He told us that he was born in 1914 and when he saw our amazement he laughed, “Mandela is a little behind, yes!”

“Vetmaak Hoekie” or “fattening corner”: the sign above the tuck shop in the home.

South Africa is very behind with geriatric care. Do you know that there are only ten geriatric specialists in the entire country? Surgeons here will not touch an “old person”, even though it has been shown that the elderly simply need to be prepared better for surgery.

South African politicians do not care much for the elderly – they do not hold many votes or much money either.

I find this so sad. Every elderly citizen contributed somehow to our country. They deserve some more respect.

I enjoy Family Medicine – it is so much more than science. This is ART.

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