Lucille is 92-years-old. She is small in stature and might weigh 90 pounds, but probably not. She had a fall in her home 7 weeks ago. Prior to that fall, Lucille reports that she was able to walk throughout her apartment independent of any assistive devices and used to take daily walks outdoors.
When I met her on Wednesday, she had been moved into an assisted living facility only 1 day earlier. Her cable hadn’t been turned on yet, she had no radio, her phone didn’t work and her cell phone charger was at her apartment.
She is in assisted living, because – despite 6 weeks of short-term rehabilitation – she is incapable of living alone. She requires assistance to move from lying to sitting, from sitting to standing and with all ambulation. Even when she can walk, it is for a very short distance with a rolling walker and contact guard; she needs staff to push her in a wheelchair when she goes to events or meals at the far end of the facility. When I walked in the room she was lying on her back, staring at the ceiling, alone.
I spent 50 minutes with Lucille on that day. Towards the end of the session, after she had slowly walked nearly 30 feet, she needed some rest as evidenced by her inability to maintain extended knees in mid-stance and an increasing reliance on her walker to hold herself up:
“I can see your legs are getting weak and your breathing seems a bit more labored. Would you like to rest for a moment?”
“I think so, yes.”
“I have placed the wheelchair directly behind you, ma’am. Please remember to reach back for the chair before you sit down.” [She reached back for the chair with a quivering right hand, before slowly lowering herself into the chair. I squatted down in front of her and gently rested my hand on her knee…] “You told me while we were walking that you were feeling okay. Other than feeling tired, are you experiencing any discomfort or new feelings now that you would like to share with me, ma’am?”
[She quietly placed her hand on mine and smiled]
“You can call me Lucy, dear.”
. . . .
After another 5 minutes, I was packing up my things, considering what I might be able to do in 3 weeks of home care to help Lucille achieve goals that remained unmet after 6 weeks of intensive inpatient rehab. As I placed my bags over my shoulder, the facility’s manager came into Lucille’s room; there was an event that she wanted to take Lucy to. Before she wheeled her away, however, she took it upon herself to grab a comb and begin to run it through Lucille’s hair.
“I can’t let you go down the hall with you looking like this now, can I?” she said, still briskly combing. “No, you need to look pretty if you’re gonna to go down there and meet all these new people, huh?” She turned her attention to me and said, “She’s such a cutie pie, isn’t she? I think we’ll have to keep her.”
I immediately began to experience a series of isometric contractions surrounding the face, jaw and throat as I politely smiled and began to exit the room. As I walked by Lucille, I placed my hand on her shoulder and said, “I hope you enjoy yourself, ma’am. I look forward to seeing you again on Monday.”
I like my job. I have to pick my battles; I decided to fight a different battle on another day.
Lucy? At least they were moving her out of solitary for an afternoon.