Why I am skipping the long lunches…….

At Patient Pattern, my colleagues call me “Work Mom”, and I am fine with that handle, even though it bespeaks of my age in comparison to the team of talented, young professionals working with me. I am happy to be the Work Mom, and a Grandmother to five, and a “geriatric” Geriatric Nurse Practitioner with 50+ years of caring for older adults – now referred to as “OAs” in the literature! 

The long lunches I am skipping are enjoyed by many of my retired friends and on occasion I long to join them on their adventures. Most days that is not the case and I am delighted to continue in a career that started over five decades ago with my first position as an RN in a nursing home in Ontario. As a young mother, whose husband was attending university, I needed to contribute to the family budget, and wanted to work on the evening shift to avoid a babysitter for my two months old son. So, I accepted the job for those two reasons only, knowing I was ill-prepared for the role of a supervisor in a setting so unfamiliar to me. 

This professional experience formed the foundation for every clinical and educational endeavor I have embarked upon since and to this day, as a co-founder of Patient Pattern, understanding the complexity of chronic illness and its impact on all of us as we age remains a challenge, an opportunity, and a blessing. This is enough to keep my retirement at bay, for there is more to do in the field of caring for older adults during the last decades of their lives.

Much has been written about aging and the decline in health associated with an increase in chronic diseases and the impact they have on our independent functioning and the overall quality of our lives.  Those who study +65 and older adults, usually refer to this as a time of increasing risk, progressive dwindling, or increasing vulnerability to even more decline in health. Still others, capture all of this in the word frailty. Frailty is considered by some to be another chronic condition in itself and not just a symptom of some other illness.  

Much has been written also on how we can take steps at any age to reverse, stabilize, or delay further decline from frailty. If we exercise, eat right, avoid as many medications as possible, and participate in mind engaging activities, we may be one of those who remain on the fitness – to -frailty continuum closer to the fitness end and for a longer period of time. That said we all know friends and relatives of a certain age who have done all those things only to suffer a catastrophic event that moves them along this continuum very quickly and leaves them wondering why they ate so much spinach and not enough chocolate chip cookies.

I do not retire because I am blessed with fitness at this moment and want to share what I know with my chronological peers so that they may begin the journey of doing all they can to be fit and vital for as long as possible. I do not retire because there is a much larger population of people who are living with the chronic illness of frailty and who need to know that the research into this topic is not for the sake of research only but rather to produce approaches to care that will benefit them now and in the future when their need for help is greater. 

As Work Mom at Patient Pattern, my challenges remain:

  1. To communicate the message of “frailty as a chronic condition” to those still able to maintain a degree of fitness and vitality
  2. To educate other healthcare professionals in the risk associated with frailty in order for them to proactively manage the condition
  3. To encourage facilities caring for this population to consider the risks associated with their frail clinically complex patients

The motto on the wall at Patient Pattern reads: We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we STOP PLAYING. (George Bernard Shaw)

My long lunches will have to wait.