Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sometimes I wonder...

...how folks manage to survive.

FTS has a sinus infection that required a trip to the doc this morning. Because we live on an Air Force base, we get seen at a clinic that's frequented by a lot of retirees and older folks. Some of them are pretty cool, but this morning....well, like the title said, I wonder sometimes how they manage to make it through the day without hurting themselves.

First was the man who called the clinic front desk for an appointment. The Airman who answered the phone was giving him instructions on how to dial the central appointment desk
"ok sir, when you hang up with me, I want you to dial *this number*..."

I see the Airman wince and jerk the phone away as BEEP BOOP BEEEP BEEP BOOP blares out of the earpiece
..."SIR! SIR! No, you're still talking to the same person, sir. You have to wait until we've completed this call, then hang up, then pick up the phone again, and THEN dial *this number*...."


"SIR! NO, SIR! PLEASE LISTEN TO ME, SIR!!! SIR!!!!!!!!!!! No, this isn't the appointment desk, you're still talking to m......no, sir, I did not cut in on your call. You never hung up with me. Sir, you need to listen to me and let me finish before you start pressing buttons....."


...and the Airman faceplants the desk.

Next was the lady at the pharmacy. The way the system works is that you pull a numbered ticket to initiate your prescription. When it's your turn, your number will light up on a marquee board with the window number you're supposed to go to next to it (there are usually only 2 open, and they each have their number above them in big luminous letters). You give the clerk your ticket, he initiates your Rx, and then you sit and wait for it to be filled. There were a lot of retirees there this morning, one of whom was particularly confused. Her number (256)came up on the board with 'Window 1' next to it. She got out of her seat and stood in front of the pickup window, looking confused. The tech called out her number again, and she stood there and looked at him, ticket in hand.
"Ma'am, do you have ticket number 256?"

"yes, but I'm not sure which window to go to"

"Mine, ma'am. See the '1' up above my head? That's my window. You come to me"

"But that lady over there (points to woman with ticket 255 at window #2) was before me"

"yes, and she's being helped at window 2. It's your turn now. At window 1. With me. Ticket 256, window 1. Over here. With me."

"But are you sure? She was her..."

"yes, I'm sure. Come over here and I'll help you."

"but she wa....."

"Lady, either take the man's help or let someone else go! Ticket 256, window 1!!" boomed a voice from the crowd. Apparently I wasnt the only person with little patience this morning.

She continued to cause trouble even after she'd initiated her prescription. When she came to pick up her medications, she first tried to sign the electronic screen with a ballpoint pen (that happens a lot - I see ink marks on those screens all the time) and then didn't get what the tech was telling her and tried to sign the paper prescription bag with the screen stylus. The third time was a charm, though....and she signed the screen with the stylus and went on her happy way.

Lastly there was the elderly lady who trapped people in the revolving doors by stopping halfway in the doorway to coo at a baby in a stroller. She didn't hear too well, apparently, because she didn't hear them banging on the doors and asking her to move. I had to go and point out to her that they were trying to get her attention, and when she realized what she'd done she was mortified, bless her.

I think that part of the problem is that elderly people aren't used to/don't understand the technology that's commonplace today. My mother, for instance (she's in her early 70's), can't reprogram the clock on her oven or coffee pot and has my brother do it for her. She can manage a basic cellphone, but that's about her limit. I had thought that clubbing together with my brothers and getting her a PC so she can email people and surf the 'net, but after seeing how she is with other stuff......I decided it wouldn't be a good idea. She'd have that thing full of viruses and spyware in 2 days because she'd just clickety clickety click on any and everything that popped up. The people at the pharmacy this morning came of age in an era where dial telephones were the norm and there were no such things as answering machines or voice prompt, so it's not surprising that they get overwhelmed and confused when faced with electronic this and that and the other.

Oddly enough, the one and only elderly person I ever met who had a good grasp on the PC and how to use it was an 8o year old who was a patient in the Alzheimer's wing of a nursing home I went to on a hospice call. She was my patient's suitemate and I was amazed that she knew how to turn the monitor on, let alone send and recieve emails and shop on eBay. She was a farmer's wife all her life, which made her knowledge even more surprising to me.

Old people and technology. Not always a good mix.

(By the way, I DON'T wonder how some people make it through the day without harming themselves any more. I used to, but then I started working EMS - and realized that they DO get hurt, and then they call 911 to come pick up the pieces.)

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