Today I had my first community placement. I’ve already had GP placements, and a hospital placement, but I didn’t exactly know what to expect from this one. On my timetable it said ‘Understanding ageing and disability’, so I was guessing we were going to go to some kind of care home. Considering how much I enjoyed volunteering weekly in a care home prior to med school, I was looking forward to it.
So after a 5 minute ride in a taxi (we didn’t realise how close this place was to uni) we finally arrived, relieved to be able to stretch out our legs. Another 30 seconds of sitting still in the car would have pretty much guaranteed us getting a DVT, so it was definitely a close call.
Well first off, it turned out this place wasn’t exactly a care home. It was closer to an old folks home, except it was lots of homes all linked together. So the idea behind it was that old folks buy one of these houses, and then they’re part of this little community, with staff to help if need-be. I actually think it’s a brilliant idea, since the residents still get the independence of getting to live in their own home, but don’t get lonely as many elderly people do when living alone. The staff organise lots of events for the residents, so they’re always busy doing something.
On top of all that, they also do a lot of charity work, raising money for a particular charity each year. Plus, the residents spend time with special needs children from a local school, which benefits the kids and residents, alike.
So it was a really nice place.
In our placement pairs, we went to a resident’s home, and sat and talked with them for a while. For me, the weird thing was talking to someone that didn’t have dementia. What I mean is, I spent so much time with dementia patients, that it’s now strange to talk to an elderly person who’s of sound mind.
But nevertheless, we had a really nice chat with the lady whose house we were in. I now know her entire life story, but I did feel sad when she was talking about her husband passing away. But luckily she’s really happy with where she’s living at the moment.
She said ‘I just can’t believe I’m 83’. I suppose old age kind of creeps up on you. She’s had a full and happy life, so I imagine it’s only at this point when you sit down and think about things like that.
In a sense, I did feel bad. She was talking about her life all in the past tense. All of her life is now a long series of yesterdays, when I was sitting there with a hell of a lot of tomorrows waiting for me. But that’s life, we all have our time. But one thing is for sure: I think it’s incredibly valuable to talk to older people about life, as even though I am technically an adult, I’m still really young, and have a lot to learn and experience.