With the holiday season upon us, it seems to be a time for a lot of reflection and appreciation. I see it amongst my classmates, my family, and even the patients I see in the clinic. I figured that for the next few posts, I’d share (with their permission of course) some of the best reflections from patients. Because really, they’re our motivation for this work.
It was at a family practice clinic. A 79 y/o female coming for a check-up. Nothing concerning, no anxiety or concern. Perhaps she came in simply for confirmation, seeking counsel from physicians. Interestingly, it seemed to be the opposite.
In an attempt to practice my history taking, we started with the medicine. Two kids, mom had diabetes, dad had a history of heart disease. She volunteered in a library, and before that she was a teacher. Her history was unremarkable for any chronic conditions. But her husband’s was recent.
Last year her husband died with Alzheimer’s. When she told me this, I expected her to be struggling, trying to find words or some understanding of why this disease had stricken her husband. But she was at peace.
Specifically, she discussed how his diagnosis became an opportunity. Every time he forgot where his keys were, or didn’t remember to pick up the dog food, she could still find ways for him to continue to live with as much autonomy as possible. They would still take monthly ski trips. This is where she simply hoped he would do 1 bunny hill, however, by the end of the day would be slaloming down a double black diamond. It’s also how she would pre-order dinner at a restaurant that he would pick up, without having to worry about forgetting a credit card or not remembering what they wanted. She found ways to keep his humanity amidst the disease.
When I implored more about his treatment regimen, she responded, without hesitation, “To permit people to have joy, that is the greatest prescription you can give your patient. I implore you to do that.” And so I run off to the next room, to see the next patient, and add another prescription to my seemingly endless list.