Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Generation gap

I would imagine that about 250 billion words have been written on this subject over the last millennium or two.

An aside (since I mentioned “millennium”): If any of you found the pictures we took of the polished “Cloud” sculpture in Chicago’s Millennium Park intriguing, check out This Web Site for some aerial pictures and more information. It’s worth seeing the aerial shots of the park. We’re just in awe of the fact that our daughter Amy lives within easy walking distance (about four blocks) of the place.

Now, back to my topic.

Carol’s mom, age 82, underwent hip replacement surgery last week. This week she is in the hospital’s rehab wing going through physical therapy twice a day.

The ultimate purpose of this care is to get grandma to the point that she can take care of herself. This includes cleaning herself, preparing meals, getting up and down from bed or sofa or chairs; that sort of thing.

This is something she wants to be able to do very badly. In fact, this is the reason she underwent the surgery in the first place. It was elective surgery, intended to improve her mobility and, by extension, her quality of life. In the past three years she has put herself through replacement of both knees and now her hip in pursuit of this goal.

She also has painful shoulders due to arthritis. This limits her ability to lift herself out of a chair using her arms.

Yesterday she had a bad experience with a physical therapist. The younger lady wheeled grandma into the hospital “gym” (physical therapy equipment room), place the wheelchair next to some parallel bars, and told Grandma to hold the bars, stand up and walk.

Grandma asked for some help getting up. The PT just shook her head.

Grandma tried to explain about her shoulders. The PT cut her off as if she didn’t want to hear it, simply shook her head and said, “You HAVE to get up by yourself.”

Grandma tried to point out that if she were placed a little differently with respect to the bars, or if the seat were a little higher, she might be able to, but again the therapist cut her off and began to lecture her about the purpose of the therapy, and didn’t Grandma WANT to be able to get up by herself?

Grandma began to get just a mite irritated, and started her own standard lecture lead-in, a snippy, “Now let me tell you something—” but the therapist cut her of again.

Then came the lecture about independence, and questions like, “If you won’t even try, how do you ever expect to be able to get up?” The therapist was speaking as if to a recalcitrant child.

At this point I’d have expected Grandma to pull herself up, pick up the wheelchair and throw it at the therapist. Instead, she began to cry. The therapy session was over, and it took grandma nearly an hour to get herself under control.

Later the therapist DID listen as Carol explained about grandma’s shoulders. Carol, you see, is not as old as grandma, and therefore might still have a few active brain cells. (That was our opinion of the therapist’s view of “old people.”)

Our mistake was in NOT having the doctor write in the therapy orders a note about grandma’s shoulders.

Yeah, the therapist probably DOES get a lot of older people who won’t try very hard to get up when they really could, and thus negate the beneficial effects of the exercise and therapy.

In fact, Tisha Sharp is a physical therapist who can tell you lots of horror stories about recalcitrant old folks. This is not intended to vilify all physical therapists.

But the girl should have been willing to listen to grandma. Her refusal to just listen was what caused all the conflict.

Later in the afternoon the therapist came into grandma’s room to apologize (afterCarol had filled her in on the pain in grandma’s shoulders). She then DID listen to grandma explain how she has her home arranged with extra-high bed and seats so she CAN get up and down without help.

The therapist, now properly humbled and contrite, asked if grandma would forgive her.

Grandma said, “Well... I’ll think about it.”

If I were the therapist, I wouldn't hold my breath.


Michelle said...

Good for Grandma - she should let the therapist sweat it out for a couple of days.

Christina said...

I work with elderly patients on a daily basis and, while a few CAN be a royal pain in the ass, most are very cooperative and pleasant when treated with some respect. Usually just listening to what they have to say provides you with some insight as to the best way to care for them, or at least shows the patient that you care. And that you think they are an intelligent human being, not just some old fart who must be senile. That therapist was completely out of line.

kenju said...

That therapist needs to beg!

Karyn Lyndon said...

I think she needs to be written up!

Abigurl said...

aw, good for Grandma standing up for herself like that.

And. i actually grew up about an hour outside chicago in indiana, but I've spent quite a bit of time in the city and being so close I generally say I'm from Chicago because nobody knows where the town I'm from is *smile*