Monday, May 18, 2015

Reflections on aging from two points of view.

I will start with a caveat. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe I am thin-skinned and take offense too easily. Well, thinking about that, it doesn't make me wrong.

I saw a physical therapist recently for an evaluation on my hands.

Actually, her measurements and tests were done meticulously. I am pretty sure they are accurate.

It is her conclusions I find fault with, and I do so because I think she is prejudiced against the old. At the least, she has preconceived convictions.

Well, you know, I am not so old. 71. I've already figured out my ownself that those a decade or two ahead of me--and I know people who are--have different expectations, habits, and behavior. Once upon a time, I didn't. Old was old, and I didn't differentiate much.

Most people I know my age and older are doing some pretty remarkable things. A couple have been stricken with dementia. A few have had extreme illnesses occur. But most are quite active, either still working, volunteering vigorously, or both. Some are amusing themselves with sports and active vacations.

I say I am in the youth of my old age, and so I am. I have learned that 71 is as different from 81 as 31 is from 41.I lived briefly in my sixties in a retirement village where most were in their eighties. It was like socializing with my parents' friends. They lived in a different lifetime, shared a different history. Maybe you just have to be here to know this.

So. My hands have been hurting. Especially my left hand, because I am left-handed and use it the most. I realized recently, to my surprise(this stuff creeps up on you), that I couldn't lay my palms flat on a table. They cupped. And muscle strength is really down, and it hurts when I lift heavy stuff. Like a 7-pound bag of bird seed.

I saw my doctor, and she wrote a prescription for physical therapy. I was seen and evaluated by a savvy woman who may be in her thirties. Maybe younger, but I can't tell.

And she evaluated me, and she told me the reason I don't write pages and pages by hand anymore is because of my disability. I protested. I've been typing since I was sixteen, I said. I was a professional writer. I've always typed everything. I haven't had occasion to write enough to find out what she's telling me. No, she said, you don't do it because it hurts and you can't.

She basically said, "Look, you are arguing. Do you want this evaluation or not?"

I shut up. And under my choked throat and stopped-up tears, I wanted to throw something. Preferably soft, at her. I didn't. Whatever her assumptions about my attitude and expectations, I did want her assessment. She was more vague than I would have liked. But I shut up and listened.

After all, she was a standin. She won't be the therapist. Which is good. Because I don't think she believes in any meaningful progress I can make. I may need a canvas splint thing--I kind of expected that. There are exercises to do, and I am killer on stuff like that. But even before that, she showed me a magazine full of devices and tools to help me do the things I find painful or difficult now. Actually, I have a couple already. I have a number of adaptive behaviors. And the more I think about it, the madder I get. To show me the tools before I get the exercises is NOT a good message. She didn't suggest I consider them while I do therapy to improve. She suggested I consider them as permanent aids.

She didn't expect much from me. As a former therapist in another field, I know how unhelpful that is.

I have high expectations for the therapist I actually will work with. I think I can change some of this. If I can't, then I'll do it anyway and grit my teeth. The evaluator said she knows a lot of people my age who can't do much. Duh. This is what she does for a living.
I think she thinks I should trot out to my pasture and chew the grass.

I doubt if this is her technique to get me to work harder. But I suspect the initial result is, I probably will.

Then I'll get on with the rest of my real life.


clairz said...

I sure hope that people in helping professions get more training on interacting sensitively with an aging population, because they will be doing more of it as there are more of us.

When I visited my eye doctor a few years back, the 30-something person taking the initial information sang out to me in a special tone of voice that was reserved, I'm sure, for those who she considered to be ancient--"And how many years young are we, dear?" I wanted to stop her right there and explain that, while she probably meant no harm, she was being extremely patronizing and making me feel like a simple-minded old dolt. My politeness training kicked in, however, and I let it pass. But every time I go for an annual exam there, I tense up and get ready to say something sharp! I haven't seen her since, though.

I hope that your therapists turn out to be a little more sensitive with your needs, Charlotte.

charlotte g said...

I now consider a polite rejoinder that gives them a little more insight to be part of who I am. In this case, her science was good, people skills lacking. And I did talk to the manager. Apparently therapists believe my hands show rheumatoid arthritis, and she was right. The damage is done, and I can't get much back in strength of the hands. Haven't seen the rheumatologist yet. I am told if it hurts to stop. This is counter to everything I have ever known.

Eh. I'm adaptable. I'll deal.