As we age life can become quite complicated for the over 60s so it is reassuring to discover new skills each year. My achievement this year, confined to a hospital bed, is learning how to go to the toilet horizontally.
Actually, I mastered this skill as a baby in nappies, however, have rediscovered it in the hospital where my best friend now is the urine bottle. Due to my Scottish origins, I call it my wee mate.
Learning how to urinate horizontally is just one of the many adjustments you have to make when a cataclysmic health crisis overtakes you. Walking one day, and bedridden the next best describes the medical condition which has overtaken me.
Like so many seniors I am now having to adjust to a life unimaginable just two months ago. Confined to a hospital bed life now revolves around hospital routines. Being woken at 5.00 am for blood pressure checks and having an electronic thermometer jammed in my ear first thing in the morning is not my ideal way to greet the new day.
Being asked before breakfast whether my bowels have opened yet also takes some of the shine off the morning cornflakes.
Medical specialists with machines that go “ping” can now celebrate having a new patient to practise their skills on. All of them agree I have a serious medical problem, and can then bill my medical insurer vast sums of money for their consultation fees. At least this provides the Russian hackers of my medical insurer with some interesting information for their database.
As any long-stay hospital patient would know, one of the realities of being a hospital patient is that you leave your modesty at the front door. Any feelings of embarrassment are quickly washed away when nurses give you a bed bath. At such times all of your shortcomings are evident. You then learn the nurses don’t actually care.
However, the hospital habit of leaving your room door wide open can be a bit jarring when you are wrestling with a urine bottle only to see hospital visitors stroll past your room and be entertained by a wee show.
One visitor actually grinned at me in such a situation so I told him to check out my OnlyFans page for more content. I don’t have an OnlyFans account but I like to think that he may have wasted some time looking for it on the internet. These days I get my entertainment where I can find it.
Balanced against the ongoing hospital care are the unexpected challenges of finding a nursing home, organising a pension and navigating the complex world of government bureaucracy designed to confuse all over 60s.
Centrelink for example will keep you on hold on the phone all day before a recorded voice tells you that they have changed their name to Services Australia. Same government department, longer telephone wait times.
Situations like this only serve to forcefully remind you of how quickly life can change from independence to totally relying on other people for every aspect of your life.
Only now do I appreciate the freedoms I have enjoyed and taken for granted over the past decades. Adjusting to the new world of disability takes some time and covers every aspect of life, from the most crucial aspects of health to something as mundane as an itchy bum.
Lying in bed all day it’s inevitable that there will be itchy spots crying out for a good scratch. Having to call a nurse to reach an itchy body part that you cannot reach only reinforces how dependent you can become on others. At such times one must be careful in how one requests help.
“Please scratch my bum” runs the risk of branding me a pervy old man, so some subtlety is required in making the request.
“Please apply some moisturiser to my nether regions to ease some discomfort” sounds okay.
When I used this line the nurse just smiled at me and said “got an itchy bum eh?”
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