I am writing my memoir because of what I learned when I ran a clinic on the tenth floor of a Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) high-rise twenty years ago. All my patients were over sixty years of age. I was an inexperienced nurse practitioner and new to working with older people.
I learned that older folks were generally accepting and forgiving.
I learned that some sold their medicine for street drugs or money and some were abusive and some were abused.
I learned that not all families wanted to care for their older members and that family members, who suddenly showed up when someone was dying, might not be family.
I learned that most of them enjoyed sex.
I learned that loneliness was the most pervasive condition among the group.
I learned how to plan a funeral, hand over firearms to the local police precinct, how to put folks in a nursing home, transfer them to an emergency room, and commit them to a psychiatric hospital.
I learned to listen to a person’s story before I examined her. And that making a home visit told me more than I could ever learn from an office visit.
I learned that I didn’t need the support from a highly educated and professional staff but from people who were caring and didn’t walk away from a problem.
I learned that a sense of humor was a requirement when working with the elderly.
And I learned that some of my patients were impossible to forget.