Hospitals are some of the busiest places on the planet. Every second is important: One missed drug dosage can hurt a patient’s prognosis. One delayed chest compression can cost a patient’s life. As a nurse, I had learned to embrace all the chaos and keep my focus so that I carry out my duties.
In my rounds, I noticed that of the patients brought in daily, a large majority were elderly people.
They came for different complaints: altered consciousness, uncontrolled blood sugar levels, loss of urinary control. Our team was trained in medical school to give this group of people what was classified as special care. Some required aggressive treatments.
More often than not, all that was prescribed was palliative care.
Caring for Elders and Stories of Love
Our geriatric patients were mostly accompanied by their equally frail spouse, some grown-up children, and during the weekends, a couple of unruly kids whom I presumed were third-generation family members. I knew that caring for elderly parents could take a huge chunk of one’s day. So, I was always in awe whenever I see families spend time—even putting a part of their own lives on hold—to look after their sick elders.
As a nurse not so long ago, I had seen and heard about the love that bound our geriatric patients with their loved ones. Three stories stood out:
The patient was responsive, but the doctors deemed that his airway assistance was necessary. When it was time for the patient to be moved up to a regular room, the daughter decided it was time to return to Canada as well. The father, in his 77 years old body, wept.
- And then there was this lady doctor who would personally change the soiled diaper of her ill mother. In my work as a nurse, I always found it most challenging looking after patients whose relatives were medical professionals. These relatives could be overly demanding and, at other times, plain arrogant. Dr. Tan (not her real name), an obstetrician-gynecologist—one of the best in her field, in fact—managed to convince me that not all doctors were of the same mold.
For a long time, she had been caring for her mother, who was confined for kidney problems. I was surprised when I first saw how she expertly changed her mother’s soiled diaper. She did not even seek help, considering that her mother was a patient in our hospital.
Here was one of the most respected doctors doing what could be deemed as an unglamorous chore for her stature.
Famlly Caregiving: Demanding but Rewarding
- Finally, I remember this one granddaughter who would come in after her night shift as a Call Center manager, to be her grandmother’s watcher. I was assigned to a 70-year old lady who was brought in because of sepsis (blood poisoning). She was under our care for almost three months.
Every morning, I would see her granddaughter by her bedside, although it was obvious that the younger woman could use some sleep. I learned later that it was her way of giving back. Her grandmother had taken care of her and her siblings after her parents left to work abroad.
These moments are simply priceless.
I have learned that despite the most advanced medical equipment, having the loved ones by the patients’ bedside when the latter are at their weakest serves as the most potent medicine. Yes, the demands could be exhausting for the caregiver, but caring for aged relatives must be one of the most rewarding feelings.
Nothing beats being there for them while there is still time.
How about you? What is your story? Tell us.
–Airina Desuyo for Grateful and Spry