Last week I had the chance of going on a house call with a geriatrician to visit patients in their homes. Prior to this, my encounters with patients have solely been limited to clinic and hospital settings. To see a patient outside of the healthcare environment…well, would they still be patients? In the field of geriatrics, most elderly have some problems with mobility that can limit them from showing up at clinic appointments, hence, the geriatricians simply drive around town to bring themselves to the patients’ front doors.
Last Thursday afternoon, we visited two people. Our first encounter was with a 92 year old Mr. S. Immediately after stepping onto the lush deep red carpet of his livingroom, it was clear that Mr. S came from a family of means. The marble dining table had large crystal balls arranged in a porcelain bowl. Tastefully chosen artworks framed in polished wood hung around the livingroom. The geriatrician and I sat down on the spacious leather couch, and his son and two caretakers wheeling Mr. O from the bedroom came to meet us. He had suffered two stroke years before and never regained function, so he is chronically contracted in his left arms, along with being intermittently confused. His son bought him the apartment and hired two full time caretakers who help him bath, feed himself, transfer from wheelchair to the bed and keep him company while the son visits frequently. In the middle of our conversation, the son mentions that the skilled caretakers cost $22 per hour, and it takes more than $150K a year to take care of his father, and how blessed his family is that there is resources to keep him home as oppose to going to a nursing home. I almost double backed at the sticker shock. It never crossed my mind how inhibitively expensive taking care of your aging parents can be!
I left Mr. O’s house pondering over how in the world I can spend more than my paycheck to keep my parents away from nursing homes. The next stop was Mrs. B. Her living situation was almost a stark contrast to Mr. O’s. Her small apartment had a livingroom that was cluttered with old mattresses and sofas, and a small bedroom and bathroom. She suffers from leg swelling and has to use a walker to get between the toilet and her bed. Even then it was unnerving to watch her unsteadily leaning on her walker and dragging her very swollen legs behind. She can’t move her legs into the bed from a sitting position, and every step needs help. The State of Texas pays to have a caretaker 1 hour a day with her, and that is the precious time when she gets help going to the bathroom, to have food put on a bedside table, and to sit on the couch three feet away from her bed for a change. Rest of the time, she wears a diaper, has the TV remote by her side along with some magazines to pass the other 23 hours of the day, in the bed alone. Watching her life being confined between the bathroom, the day couch and the bed was saddening. I can’t imagine a life like hers for anyone, not my parents, not myself, not anyone I love. But what else is possible? It was the stern reality of aging staring me in the face.
That afternoon left me humbled by these patients, their optimism despite their situations. But even more it left me thinking about what is in store for my parents’ future. Tossed between financial burdens and emotional links, will I make the right choice? Is there a right choice?
With these pondering reflections I bring to you
chicken lentil soup for the soul. It’s a dish that I had with my fiance when we visited a Lebanese restaurant in Dallas, and it was instantaneous love at first sight. Or I should say, taste. I hope a bowl of this will warm up your spirits in this season of spring showers!
Lebanese Lentil Soup
- 1.5 cups of red lentils
- 1 large potato, diced into small pieces
- 1 Tbsp cumin
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- lemon juice squeezed from 1/2 lemon
- 1/2 cup of diced onions
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- salt and pepper
In a large pot, place lentils. Pour in enough water to submerge the lentils, water level should be 1 inch higher. Bring the pot to a boil.
Add diced potato, onion, garlic, cumin, turmeric, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil again then simmer on low heat for 30 minutes.
Blend content in a blender, or if you are the chunky-soup kind of person, leave it be and enjoy!