Saturday, 7 September 2013

The Queue

Phil is just back from the chemist. It’s Saturday so as you can imagine it’s busy. 

Phil was waiting his turn when the lady in front of him handed an A4 size blister pack of medicines to the chemist and said that this weekend’s medication was missing. The chemist was confused and the lady was adamant.

Phil just knew.

The lady became frustrated and was insisting that the chemist had got the medication wrong. “They are missing” she said “where are they. I need my tablets”

The queue began to lengthen. Behind Phil another man was becoming annoyed and with every question from the lady he sighed and tutted.  The lady continued, by now she was becoming frustrated and annoyed.

The chemist knew.

The Chemist excused herself from the lady and went to speak to another member of staff. The lady turned to Phil and said “honestly everything seems to be such a song and dance these days. It takes ages to sort anything out doesn’t it” Phil said “Oh it does”

The lady looked at him and smiled a lovely smile. Gentle and calm.

Another member of staff walked past them both and left. There is a Dr’s surgery close by and Phil watched as the staff member went directly there.

The angry man gave up and marched out.  His morning made infinitely worse no doubt by a “foolish old woman” keeping everyone waiting.

Then the staff member came back, and spoke to the chemist.  “I wonder if you’d mind waiting for a little while we need to speak to your Dr” she said gently to the
Lady. The lady took her seat.

Phil knew, the chemist knew and when Phil told me this story I knew.

Alzheimer’s disease in the early stages causes much frustration to others unfamiliar with the condition.  As we race through life assured of our own importance and correctness, we don’t always have time to remember that we are not all gifted in the same way.  Yet we should. We still have that capacity to remember. Those with Alzheimer’s do not.

 Sadly accidental overdoses of medication are common. 

Short-term memory loss is the first part of the brain to be affected. When taking tablets daily is routine nothing distinguishes one dose from another, and when your concept of time is altered an hour passed, could be interchanged for a day.

It was clear to anyone taking the time to notice, that this lady was one who needed compassion and empathy, not frustration and ignorance.  The chemist took that time and realised how potentially serious the situation was.

Irritated bystanders, making the lady feel worse in her confusion, because of a brief interruption to their day, only causes more confusion and fear. Because that is the thing about losing your memory, it’s terrifying.

Phil knew because of my Mum. The sweet smile to hide the confusion was one which we knew well. She spent her life caring for others as a nurse, and in relaying this I’m attempting to continue to do that, in the way that she would have done.  

It’s a request for compassion for strangers and for kindness to a known or unknown vulnerability Irrespective of how irritated you may feel or how experienced you are, slowing down gives you time to consider.

That’s what Mum taught me to do, directly and indirectly we need to do this more.

We miss her everyday.