Too old to go outdoors?

This happened years ago.

It was a busy shift and when Mr G. pressed his buzzer I was annoyed. I knew what he wanted. I knew it’d take me at least 20 minutes to get him organized and outside. But he was an outdoorsman. And he didn’t want to be in his room all day. Until fairly recently he’d been going out on his own, but his muscles had weakened significantly and his legs were unable to hold him up.

He’d been a farmer all his life. At first with his father, later in life, after many years of running the farm with his wife, his son took over the farm and he’d stayed on as a farm help. That was until he came to live with us in the nursing home. When he moved in he told us he wanted to go out daily. “I don’t mind bad weather” he said.

His daughter in law had constructed what looked like a sleeping bag out of leather and sheepskin. This ‘bag’, if you will, went up to his chest. This went over his trousers and shoes. A thick wind and watertight parka went over it. I put his gloves on his hands and placed the buzzer inside. A hat and a cap adorned his head. The last thing I put on him was a scarf in the colours of the Island Flag.

He looked ridiculous. But you’d want an old fragile man to be kept warm when it’s freezing.

So I rolled his wheelchair outside, just under the awning. It was snowing, so it wasn’t too cold. I told him I’d come and check on him every 30 minutes and if something was wrong he’d buzz me.

After the first 30 minutes I went to check on him. He was fine, he told me. I checked his temperature by placing three fingers on the back of his neck. He yelled at me, my hand was colder than he was. I offered him a cup of tea which he declined. After the second 30 minutes he was still felling warm, but took the cup of tea I offered him.

Twenty minutes later, I was taking a tea break, I heard commotion in the hallway. I went to see what was going on.

The scene was hilarious. Mr G. was  being rolled indoors by a woman I’d never seen before. Behind her was a man looking very embarrassed. Mr G was shouting, screaming and yelling. She wasn’t listening to anything he said.

When she saw me standing at the door of the staff room, she immediately began to yell at me, glaring at me. She basically told me off for putting Mr G outside in the snow. She said it was unheard of to put a man of his age outside for any amount of time. Apparently they had come by earlier and she’d seen him outside then. All the while Mr G was screaming bloody murder. I placed my hand on his shoulder and told him to stop and trust me. He stopped screaming.

When the woman finally stopped yelling, her husband ( I assume) looking more embarrassed than ever, I asked her if she had asked Mr G why he was outside. Mr G immediately started yelling again. “No, she hasn’t asked me anything. Bloody woman just rolled me inside!” The woman started saying that this was beside the point.

Behind me I heard my boss. Her office was close to the hallway and instinctively I knew she was standing behind the door. There for me should I need it.

I told the woman my question was not beside the point. That if a patient wanted to go outside they were allowed to. That he was better suited for the cold than she was. And that he’d spent his life working outdoors. It’d be cruel to lock him inside, saying it was too cold in winter, too hot in summer and too wet on everything in between.

Her husband quietly told her she’d made a mistake, but she was still having none of it. “I’m going to go to the police. I’m going to complain about this.” I told her fine. Even gave the name of a police officer that would be more than happy to talk to her. It was the name of Mr G’s son-in-law.

Mr G laughed. The woman and her husband went to the police station.

I heard later that the son-in-law and his coworkers had a good laugh about it.

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