Conversations and Connections

28 Mar
I spent the day working at my profession as a Physical Therapy Assistant (PTA) at a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF).  Years ago they used to be called nursing homes.  One of the things that make me a successful PTA is how I can make connections with my patients.  Oddly enough, the differences aren’t as great as we think between generations.

Zelda hanging with some of my patients.

Tanner doing his awesome doggie PT balance thing!

Frankie was a star at 2 months old. He proved to be a natural in the rehab field!

Pets (especially dogs), the military, cooking, jobs, sports and particular interests are all places where we often meet.  But as generally happens when I work with my elderly short- and long-term patients there are unexpected twists and stories.  The crazy thing is it happens just about every time.  And it is the misconceptions between generations that crack me up or amaze me the most.
Today as I usually do when I work with a patient I haven’t seen before, I started out with leg exercises and began to probe for those places we might connect.  When she spotted my Red Sox jacket she immediately let me know she’s a Red Sox fan so we high-fived over that to begin with.  She was a runner in high school who won some medals for it.  We bonded over athletics when I let her know I had been a star softball player.  “Good for you!” she shouted.
Then she revealed her father had passed away when she was young and she was the oldest of 8.  Her mother was sickly and so my patient mothered her younger siblings and didn’t even think about college given the circumstances.  This was in the 1920’s and 30’s.  Our conversation turned to Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover–both under-appreciated btw.  Turns out her husband was into history and she into geography.  What can I say, as a history and geography buff she had me hooked.
So naturally the National Geographic Magazine (NGM) came up in conversation.  After all the magazine has been around since 1888.  She bought the subscription each year for her husband, as an aunt did for my grandfather when I was young, as well as my in-laws for me as an adult.  (Hey, it’s one of my favorite presents each year and it makes me happy that they get me so well after 10 years.)

Yeah, her family and my family becoming our family has been a given for almost 10 years.

My patient and I started chortling because she and I acknowledged that NGM was the first place many of us had seen… naked people!  I mean cripes people I’m talking the 50’s and 60’s here.  Ok, so it was primitive folk from New Guinea and the Amazon of South America… but still it was NAKED people!  It just wasn’t common then.
There happen to be 2 other therapists in the room during this conversation.  The older of them spoke up,  “Yeah, I remember checking out NGM when I was a kid and know just what you’re talking about.”  The youngest therapist (20 something)  was like, ” Really, that was the first time?”  She just didn’t get the shock of it as it was back then.
But the revelation from this patient that really blew us away… was she used to find her mother’s “romantic” and “sexy” ( she seemed to imply “pornographic”) magazines and hide them in her room to peruse in her own good time!  We all cracked up.  Mostly ’cause none of us in the room could conceive of such magazines or actions during the time period she was speaking of.
It didn’t seem to stunt her much, as she and her husband of 68 years (he passed away 6 months ago) had 4 children, 6 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchilden.
I saw something on the internet last week that rings so true.  “How did you manage to stay married 67 years?”  (to an elderly couple)  “We grew up in a time when if something was broken… you didn’t throw it away… you fixed it!”  Yeah, that sounds just about right… even in today’s environment.
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