Brooklyn ain’t just in NYC

Ahh, Brooklyn, the most populous and ever so hip borough in New York City. Well I can tell you flat out, Brooklyn ain’t just in NYC!

Brooklyn So over the weekend we hit the hospital/hospice trail. It was a glorious Autumn day while we weren’t able to visit with any patients on Sunday (they were all either asleep or unable to have visitors) it that didn’t stop us from having a terrific day. Little precious Brooklyn, an adorable 18-month old toddler spotted Sam from the opposite end of a the hallway, and came running up to hug him, squealing “doggie!, doggie!” the whole length of the hallway. I wish I would have had the presence to video her and Sam’s reaction. He was so excited to see a little kid tottering toward him since he absolutely loves little kids anyway and especially little girls. His tail was furiously wagging. Brooklyn and her family were visiting her grandpa who was being moved from one room to another so the family was migrating with their personal items toward the new location. Like most little kids, she was completely captivated by his super soft hair and continually wove her fingers through it the whole time she petted him. They had quite the ‘visit’ with her smiling and speaking an unintelligible language, but saying his name over and over. It really was quite cute.

After spending quite a bit of time chatting with Brooklyn and her lovely family, we visited with a number of staff members. I am in awe of the work they do daily; their giving just never seems to stop-be it for patients, visitors, or one another. They all  wanted to take time out to get in a few ear scratches and enjoy the ever present “I really like you lean-in” from Sam who seriously crushes on more than a couple nurses.

Saturday we were scheduled to visit the Senior Behavioral Health unit, an inpatient geriatric psychiatry program at the hospital designed to address the complex mental health and medical needs of older patients. We have visited this floor before, but this time I was particularly struck by the fact that 99% of all the patients were elderly women. Is it because women live longer as a general rule or is it something else? In any event, we spent a lot of time with Annie and Karen. Despite my lack of formal training, I was struck by the fact that both women appeared lucid, knew what was going on around them and were very much aware of what was going on in the outside world. Annie, at age 82 was a real charmer. She had a twinkle in her eye and was completely captivated by Sam who made her beam from ear to ear as he leaned against her leg and looked fondly into her sparkly blue eyes. She was ever grateful we took time to visit her and thanked us repeatedly. I suspect she may have been quite the gal in her time. She left me with a smile in my heart at meeting this lovely woman despite her future being a bit uncertain with unresolved issues as to where she would be going next.

After visiting with Annie, we talked for an extended time with Karen who was in better physical shape and younger. Both Karen and Annie were to be released some time this week and both mentioned they had no family to go ‘home to’ which left me sad. I wonder how many women across the country are in the same position? And why as a society have we allowed so many to get in that position?

As you can see, Karen enjoyed her time with Sam and we talked about her family and how they’d abandoned her and how she decided to ‘create a new family’ for the holidays. She gave me her recipe for pecan pie right off the top of her head and asked if we had family to visit for Thanksgiving and if not, to please come by; she’d love to have both Sam and I. The gracious invitation from this kindly Southern-raised woman was tempting though I know my own family will be assembling for the annual football and food fest and we’ll have much to be thankful for this year (more on that in a later post). She continued on with the details surrounding the preparations for the roasted pig and shoat she was going to serve (doing it southern style for 3 days in the ground and wondering out loud as to where she’d get banana leaves to wrap the pit). I offered a solution which she thought might work and she made a note to herself to contact a floral shop about getting some from them.

Karen Grant

While I have many more thoughts about Karen, Annie and folks like them, I will continue to contemplate the state of health care for older people, particularly women. Still, all in all it was a good weekend to visit with patients and staff.

Have you ever wondered what happens to older patients with no family to care for them? What are your thoughts?

Live, love, bark! <3


29 thoughts on “Brooklyn ain’t just in NYC

  1. Love Sam and what he does. Loved the pictures. He looks immensely ‘huggable’ and I can imagine how much joy and comfort he must bring during his hospice visits

  2. It’s so great the work that you and Sam do! I wish Kali had the temperament for this type of work but 1) she get’s anxious around other dogs and barks and that would not work if we happened to run into a mother service dog in a hospital, and 2) as friendly as she is she just seems to be a one or two person dog who likes other people, especially kids, but becomes rather indifferent after just a minute or so of their attention. If you have any insights about that i would love to her them.

    Regarding the mental health of the elderly I could be wrong but i think I read something recently that indicated a much higher rate of Alzheimer disease in women than in men. My elderly aunt who I cared for for the last three years of her life had dementia. My 93 year old mother has it too. My experience has been (although with just those two data points) that hospitals and skilled nursing actually increase the visible signs of the illness. Each time my mom or my aunt would come out of the hospital or rehab they seemed to have declined mentally from when they entered. Fortunately for my aunt and my mom they both have families who love them and are there for them. But there are so many other elderly patients who go “home” to a place with no familiar faces which I think also contributes to their decreased mental facilities.

    Great work you and Sam are doing. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  3. Love to hear the Sam visitation stories and that little girl Brooklyn is a real cutie pie. I wonder why nobody names their sons Bronx. (Queens I can understand is a non-starter and nobody likes Staten Island anyway.) Ahem. Anyway, your post is timely and on point inasmuch as the holidays are always a mix of the best and the less than the best, with some reveling in the joy of being together while others suffer loneliness and detachment. Sam is a good bridge between the two. A Brooklyn bridge, you might say. But I wouldn’t say that.

  4. We have three nursing homes and a two sheltered house villages and almost all of the churches within the town have hospital and nursing home visitors. The Hospital Chaplain is from our church and we too have hospital visitors. We are a small(ish) community. In the short time that our family has been here (32 years) we have seen the decline of many of the community run support systems that were here years ago, which is sad. As people “leave” there are fewer and fewer to replace them.

  5. Little Brooklyn is absolutely adorable! I can see why Sam fell in love with her. Brooklyn the borough of NYC, however, was never one of my favorite places to be. (Just a step above the Bronx.) I’m glad I don’t live up there any more. Much as I hate the politics down here, at least it’s more affordable. For now.
    I also wonder about folks like Annie and Karen. I like Kismet’s idea about getting them together somehow.

    1. She was absolutely enchanting and a delight. Both Sam and I adored her and I’m not particularly fond of kidlets 🙂
      I would hope a simple idea like Kismet’s could be implemented to alleviate some of the loneliness older women must experience late in life. I’ve heard Brooklyn NYC is quite the hipster place these days because of its affordability. 😉

      1. It may be with Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters stationed up there. But the older I get the more I like peace & quiet. Unfortunately, the only way I get any in my own house is to get up early and then spend the day out in the yard with the dogs.

  6. I have no answers for you, as the way this country treats our elderly and our veterans always puzzles me. I’m not sure how it is out there, but here we have low income retirement centers. They are small little apartments which allows people to be independent, yet they are surrounded by others of their age. There is typically a community center and the management organizes social events for the community. They also have little signs for their doors and are supposed to put the “I’m okay” sign out by a certain time of morning. Then if it’s not out, the management will go in to check on them. Because they go by income, they are typically fairly affordable.

    Of course we also have very fancy assisted living/retirement communities as well, but they are PRICEY.

  7. In Annie and Karen’s case, the solution is obvious. Annie visits Karen for T’giving and Karen visits Annie for Christmas. If there are more older women like that, they can join in. If they need transportation, there would probably be volunteers to help in the holiday spirit.You can have them organize it-they’d have a sense of helping instead of being helpless.

  8. Beautiful post, love Sam with the little girl AND the elderly patients! I think about being in the situation you describe all the time! My little family is just my husband, myself, and our two cats. I dread the idea of being an elderly widow stuck in an institution and kind of hope I’ll be able to have some sort of control of my own destiny when and if that time comes. Very important issue and one that we all should think about!

  9. You are doing a wonderful service. Mom used to visit a lady in a nursing home and it was a real eye opener!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  10. second post today about connections. Thank you. I am also one of the people who is rejected by family and have come to know the loneliness of holidays. People say you can make your own family which is all good til everyone spends a holiday with their real family. You are trying to make a global family one person at a time and it’s a good thing. LeeAnna
    Cole says: Sam! Little kids?? They freak me out!

  11. Sam is a gem… that’s for sure… I’ve got leaky eyes as I saw him with Brooklyn…. te picture is sooo touching…. I pondered about the hospital staff on tuesday too… and I think I will bow my head… that’s such a ard and sometimes sad job, they have to be there for the patients, they have to comfort familymembers and so on… I couldn’t do this job I would take too much of the sad thing home with me…

    1. Totally. I think about those folks for days (and sometimes months after). Being sensitive is good and all, but sometimes a heavy cross to bear when you see sadness. I just hope there’ll be someone with a hug for me when the time comes. 😉

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