Do you sometimes wonder how people who are faced with chronic suffering cope? Today I was visiting at a nearby hospital and observed the patients, doctors, nurses, and staff as they faced the reality of patients in various stages of suffering. There is the required regulation of structure in hospitals that guarantees that the work is done on time and properly. That structure often annoys the patient. Individuality is of lesser importance in a hospital or nursing home setting. I know that I prize my independence and hate needing help. Think about it please. Needing help for things that were normal to you before creates a crisis or at least a shift of mindset.

Even if your stay is for observation as my friend’s stay was today, the forced staying in a hospital bed with few distractions or visitors discombobulates the sense of self. Even the temperature in the observation room with its multiple beds separated by curtains is colder than in most homes. There is a good medical reason for a lower temperature which probably has to do with prevention of infection. None-the-less, the patient is then in the position of asking for one or maybe two blankets. The nurse is helpful and heats the blanket, but the patient is not allowed to do for himself or herself. One wonders if three days in observation could cripple the ability to self care.

The professionalism of all staff or their traits are not In question here, but some loss of self is. Multiply a stay by five years which is a typical end stage of life in a nursing home and the fear we all have about independence grows. We become almost helpless. Some deal with this feeling of helplessness with anger while others just accept it. Neither perpetuates a positive attitude on remaining life.

I question that perhaps in the future, observation of a patient and testing of a patient may be more helpfully done in the patient’s home by visiting testing units and staff. It could be a goal for the future. Not every person would want that sort of therapeutic solution, but I believe the vast majority would, and I do note that not every medical test could be accomplished in that manner. Health care is so costly that there must be multiple solutions applied going forward. There is always the possibility that remote cameras and visiting para licensed professionals will replace nursing homes. All new solutions that may be applied in the future must address the patient’s need for independence as well. Naturally patients who are in pain and terminally ill need direct and diligent care and I understand that they then cannot do it for themselves.

It is my hope that medical care and its effect on the person should be the subject of wide discussion. I have no answers. I do applaud the staff of doctors, nursers, and others at BayState Medical Center that I saw working today. Their professionalism was notable today.

Perhaps you my readers could share your thoughts on this subject of care and its impact on the patient. My thinking is in a state of flux.

K. B. Pellegrino, Author

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