Okay, maybe we cannot figure out our cell phone. Maybe we do not understand social media. Our text messages come out funny. We try to speak your language and fail miserably. But maybe, just maybe, we know a lot about life.
I am also a Medical Social Worker and counsel people who are chronically ill and/or dying. People ask me why I do this on top of my full time job with Minnesota D.A.R.E. It is an easy answer for me, “to learn about life.”
This week, I went to see a 99 yr old patient who had just lost his wife. His daughter went to get him up from his nap and he was struggling with his walker to come out to visit with me. He stopped halfway and told me he needed to stop for a minute. I asked him if he was just exhausted or if he was in pain. He states, “Why does everyone come in and ask me if I’m in pain. I’m not in any pain but I want a new question.” I asked him what he would like me to ask him. He replied, “Ask if I’m wealthy.” I replied to him, with that question. He returned with, “No, but you are the social worker, help me.” This was the beginning of an incredible visit with a man, who has seen many years, and knows the meaning of having fun.
I was talking to his daughter and asked if there were any problems with his medications. She said, “What medication? He is only taking 1/2 an aspirin a day.” This incredible man, at 99, has figured out that laughter is the best medicine. Can you imagine being that age and taking no medications?
It took me no time, during this visit, to figure out that he was the master and I was the student. I was talking to him about his family history and asked how long he was married. He responded, “59 years.” I asked if they were high school sweethearts (thinking that most of my patients in their 90’s came from a time when they married young)?” He came back quickly with, “Yeah, I was in high school at age 40.” (Do the math and you will figure that out.) By then, this visit had me in stitches. His medical record said he had early dementia! Maybe I should have been the one being assessed for dementia!! He was sharp as a tack.
This wonderful man, contained so much valuable information, if only people will take the time to listen. This man spend 3 yrs. as a medic in the army, during WWII. He understands challenges better than any of the rest of us. He may not know how to use my computer but he knows how to make people laugh. At 99, he has been faced heartache, and survived. He knows how to communicate, the value of honesty, and the importance of love and family.
Don’t just dismiss the adults in your life. Listen to them. Cherish their words. Spend time with them. They may be the individuals who make the best friends because they know the value of love and friendship.
Kathi Ackerman, MSW, LGSW, LADC