IWD2022: WONCA SIG on Ageing & Health

This is a space dedicated to caregivers and elderly patients, created with  collaborations from the WONCA Special Interest Group on Ageing and Health. This section includes inspiring anecdotes for the simple purpose of adding value and quality to older patient’s lives.

For International Women’s Day, SIG Ageing and Health has put together some brief vignettes about extraordinary older women. Their courage and contributions despite great old age very much emphasise our need to recognize gender equality.

ME was a 74-year-old lady who came in for progressively worsening epigastric pain over the past 6 months. She turned out to have a large pancreatic tumor on CT scan of abdomen. Her daughter, who was also a physician, tried to persuade her to have chemotherapy but she was refusing. In one of our meetings, she told me “I know my children love me and want me to stay with them as long as possible, but please tell them to stop crying for me. I know I will be a bird in paradise when I die. That is what my spiritual leader told me; I will be spreading happiness to people in heaven like I was doing it here on earth”. She spent the last few months of her life visiting old women living by themselves, keeping them company, reading them stories, and making them feel less alone. She died peacefully in her bed 5 months after the diagnosis was made. Till now, 12 years later, I keep thinking of her whenever I hear birds singing. 

Jinan Usta

I can’t believe I am nearly 98! I feel so lucky to be so well cared for. I think its important to eat naturally and to laugh a lot. I know I must do my exercises every day and keep moving but it does hurt! Small things bring a smile to my face like seeing the sheep in the paddock. I try not to worry and to accept people need to help me. Sometimes I feel useless but it passes. My daughter Maryanne tells me to not fight the river! I have a wonderful caring GP, Lyn. She always takes time to talk to me and we always have a laugh!  Brenda Age 97 

Marita Long

My patient Mary is 93 years old. She often discusses with me why she is still alive. I encourage her because really she is well known to our whole community, makes regular phone calls to the sick, and has a constant stream of visitors whom she welcomes but tells them to make their own cups of tea! Many years ago she felt a message from God that she had to keep going to look after her drug addicted son. Aged 70, he is now clean from drugs, but still lives with her. He does the shopping and the gardening, and she is training him now how to cook the vegetables he harvests from their lovely garden. She shares hints and tips about this cooking with me. Did you know for example that sweet potato leaves are very nice to eat? You can stir fry them in sesame oil, ginger and garlic, or cook them in coconut cream.
I tell her she has many reasons to stay alive! 

Dimity Pond