Yesterday I had two jobs that were both dealing with someone who wasn't physically ill, but were driven to illness by their emotional state – and if they could swap places they would both be much happier.
First was 'Betty', Betty is 92 and lives in a nursing home where she feels tired and generally depressed. She wants nothing more than to go home and live independently – but her needs have been assessed and she requires nursing home care. Because of her depression she has been refusing to eat or drink and the nursing staff at the home have eventually realised that this is not good for Betty's health – so we are called and Betty is sent to hospital – all Betty wanted to tell me is that she wanted to go home as she doesn't like the nursing home.
Our next job was for 'Gladys', Gladys is 95 and lives on her own, she is partially blind, a bit deaf and craves company, because of her sight she cannot read or watch television. We were called because Gladys was having chest pain, and Gladys told me that her chest pain stops when she talks to someone and has something else to concentrate on. She was very happy when we told her that she was going to hospital, and I had a good chat with her in the back of the ambulance during which her pain disappeared, and she explained how lonely she is.
I don't know if it's because I'm tired or because the weather is bad – but I felt a great deal of sympathy for both of these patients, neither of them were happy, yet after 90 years of life shouldn't we have at least some small measure of contentment? One is surrounded by nurses, who see her as another body, few of which are of Betty's culture and she desires a more independent life. The other is isolated in her home, desperate for some human contact, whose only friend is the schizophrenic who lives next door – she would be happiest where there are other people around.
If I had a magic wand to wave, I'd swap these two women and give them, in their twilight years, a chance to be happy again.