Can anyone listen to that haunting refrain from Eleanor Rigby and not feel its sad message?
“Where do they all come from?”
Many of them come from our local nursing homes, and land in our ERs and ORs. Elderly people with little to no family, or concerned family, to advocate for them. People with chronic decubitus ulcers the size of baseball mitts, arthritic contractured joints that make simple movements prohibitive, recurrent urinary tract infections, inanition.
These are the lost people of our society, and they cannot speak for themselves: the crowning culmination of a life. lived. long. They come to our ORs to have feeding tubes inserted into their abdominal wall; to have their bedsores scraped and excavated; to have their broken bones repaired; to have months and sometimes years of neglect “fixed” so that they may return to exist. In a life without hope or happiness, only today, over and over again.
“Where do they all belong?”
This old, edentulous woman, this shriveled shadow of a man in the bed. Surely he once laughed, and dated; she married and bore children. She cooked; he worried about his family. She did the ironing and darned the family’s socks. He had opinions; he balanced the checkbook. She felt the hot sun on her head; the icy winter blast of wind braised his cheek. She lost her husband too soon; his children all moved away.
There is nothing we can do to save them from us.