It has been a busy week and there is likely more to come, least of all my visit to see IDLES tomorrow.
Well, what about my being an arse?
I fell into the trap.
Arses are people, or perhaps phenomena who have surfaced intermittently through my life, particularly my years as a doctor.
I can’t quite provide a definition, although I imagine readers understand I am talking about more than the bottom, back-side, or, fanny, if you are American.
You can read a previous arse blog here.
This time it was me.
I fell into the trap.
And, perhaps trap is what it is, in that folk for the most coast along, with ups and downs and occasionally something happens, perhaps two roads diverge, and they find themselves going down one, not the less travelled by, the arsehole one.
A central part of my role as a community doctor involves visiting patients at home. This week I went to see, let’s call her Dora. She is in early 80’s. I won’t provide further details for reasons of patient confidentiality.
I ran through my usual, establishing how she was feeling, working out what was wrong and what could be done to improve the situation.
Her daughter, who I guess was in her early 50’s was present throughout the visit.
I know some doctors, for reasons known only to them often exclude relatives from their assessment, ‘Please step out of the room while I asses your…’ Kind of thing, I am confident there are readers who have experienced this.
Anyway, I am not one of those, for me, it is, whoever you want in the room, bring them in. (OK, sometimes the relatives are unwelcome, by me or the patient, that is another matter.)
When bottom examinations are involved I will usually ask relatives to leave although as I am more of a talky than touchy doctor, bottoms and such things are not often central to my assessments.
At one point, a phlebotomist arrived to take my patient’s blood. I used this as an opportunity to step into the kitchen with her daughter, to determine if I could gain some additional information.
And, it was there that I saw the oldish laptop attached to a grey clamshell phone.
That was the giveaway.
I thought, ‘Oh, that’s an old laptop and phone,’ I then rationalised that the daughter was perhaps working from her mum’s house. I put the thought to one side and moved-on.
It was towards the end of the assessment when I was planning to leave that I asked the daughter, ‘Do you have an email?’
I quite like to stay in email contact with my patients, it helps them have a place to go to gain support and advice, it is also a means for me to share information with them, for example, pointing people to guidelines or relevant websites. (I appreciate some doctors will read this with horror, ‘Share your email address?? What are you thinking?! Patient empowerment?… No, no, no!)
The daughter gave me her address.
I could see my patient, who as part of her condition has a somewhat expressionless face, glaring at me.
‘I have a computer too.’
It was then I realised.
The old laptop and phone.
My patient explained that she likes to sit in the kitchen surfing the internet.
Of course she has her own email.
I apologised, not explicitly expressing my arse-like feelings, but apologising for my ageism.
And there you go.
I’d somehow assumed, as she was older, and, readers, 80’s isn’t that old in my world, she didn’t use email, was disconnected, and I, in my haste to find a quick-fix disenfranchised her.
In my experience of older people with technology, I have found an increasing number have smartphones. They are still significantly in the minority, perhaps 20 per cent. Even fewer are online and connected.
Many struggle with manual dexterity (arthritis) and others with vision (cataracts, macular degeneration) to used icons or keyboards.
Some are personality ageist (the most common form), ‘I’m too old for that kind of thing.’
It’s a mixed-bag.
Only a tiny number use email (a group have an email address but never use it).
I know this will change, it’s a matter of time.
In 20 years we will look back fondly on the oldies who used to survive without an @hotmail address.
Makes my think of my grandfather and his dilute Dettol baths or his pronunciation of Argos (Argosy).
Things of the past.
And, yes, doctor geriatrician, it’s not your role to make things worse!
Again, I seek your forgiveness.
I’ve learned my lesson.
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