Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Working My Nightmare, A Grim Overview

When you meet new people, if you talk long enough, the subject of occupation will most likely come up. I’m a Dementia and Hospice Social Worker. (In other words, I’ve chosen an occupational field that isn’t exactly brimming with merriment.)


Many of the people I meet have a personal story about hospice and they feel compelled to share it with me. I think that death is a subject not readily discussed and looking for normalcy is a common need.  Then most people conclude with, “I could never work in hospice.”


Why I became a Social Worker is a long (and ridiculous) story that I’ll save that for another day.  I will mention that even if I tried, I don’t think I could have found a less likely occupation for my personality. 


What gives me nightmares is not so much dying, as it is the process of getting to dying. There is no pleasant way to decline, only less horrible ones.


Cognition, speech, mobility, continence, swallowing, eye sight, hearing, privacy, decisional capacity, memory, financial assets and ability to dress, shower, brush teeth, use a spoon, get out of bed or contribute in any meaningful way are all on a fast train out of here.


In addition, you can experience a significant decline and live for another ten years or more.  Ten years of adult diapers, thickened liquids and following a schedule that is dictated to you and probably involves some perpetually cheerful, early-rising nurse. 


Being told what to do, especially when the motivation for compliance is following some illogical policy, makes me absolutely crazy. (I am a laugh riot at the DMV or going through airport security.) 
So if I live for eighty plus years I am damn well going to sleep in and survive on Diet Coke. “Yes, my very young dietitian friend, I do realize that Coke is not a product that will improve my health but how long exactly do you think I want to live?” 


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