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Internship Week 3
As I explained in the previous post on Mondays I'm going to the administrative office, which is close to my home. Finally, we got to meet our supervisor. She was sick for a week and during the last week I didn't go to the office so I didn't have a chance to meet her. She was described as very nice by the two guys and she was indeed. Yet, I felt that she lacked in some things. She is a psychotherapist, which is fine for her job, it's not like she does anything with it. Her job is being a social counselor so she doesn't really practice therapy. Anyway, my problem with her was that when she started explaining about the nursing home we'd visit this week, her knowledge contradicted mine. She supported the use of Mini Mental Examination (it's a test to check cognitive impairment in elders) as a very solid test when it's not. I told her what I knew about the recent studies that show that an elder with great education can easily surpass the difficulty of the test and she acted like I didn't speak. I mean, I know that she attended the same university as me but 20 years ago there wasn't a class about geropsychology. Plus, she chose to study therapy and they rarely learn about cognitive and neuropsychological examinations. I've worked twice in researches about elders and during the four years I've studied I've learned and applied over 20 tests. It's not like it could influence her job but as a psychologist you're supposed to be a professional/researcher and keeping up with the new studies, specially when you check faculties of populations like elders.

Anyway, they gave us some directions about the nursing home and they told us to prepare some stuff to do with the elders. Out of us three, I was the most excited. I love elders and I'm sure that my mentality and memory problems are close to them lol. My classmates were there a day before and when I met them they didn't seem pleased. When I went to the place, which is very far but we didn't have to be there early -thank god-, there were about 15 old ladies in the living room. I spoke with a couple till my classmates came, they were waiting for their coffee.

Everyday at 10am the ladies would sit in the living room waiting for greek coffee. Since it was morning, I drank with them too. I usually don't drink any kind of coffee after 2pm because I can't sleep at night and my hands are shaking. Till they drink their coffee we had small talks with everyone. The elders are generally very happy when they meet strangers, specially when they are young, and you don't even have to start a discussion. They find things to talk to you about. So I learned a lot about the lives of the women I spoke to (I'll share them in the end of this post) and they also shared their feelings about the nursing home. The main complaint of everyone was that they rarely go out of the place. Most of them couldn't walk without help and most of the elders there had dementia so it makes it practically impossible to take them all out. When they were still in their home, their kids would go out for walks with them. Also, since there were elders with dementia, the elders who were healthy in terms of cognitive functions were annoyed with the demented because they'd usually get lost and go to other beds to sleep or they needed help to eat. They were making cliques and it made things difficult in terms of socialization. Unfortunately, this was an administrative problem. The place was supposed to be for elders without any kind of mental sickness, but they started taking demented elders since the economic crisis to be able to fill the beds and continue to work as a nursing home. Last time students were sent to do their practice, the healthy elders complained that they only spent time with the demented so an instruction we were given was to do stuff with both teams.

The psychologist there was lacking a lot. She previously worked with kids with autism or special needs kids, which is not completely unrelated to the elders but still one needs a better education. Basically she was making rounds talking to people about very general things. When we were discussing she asked me about examinations and she had never heard of GDS (Geriatric Depression Scale). I realize that there was a reason why the ladies suffered. She felt more like a friend visiting than a professional psychologist doing her job.

As I've said earlier we were told by the office to prepare some stuff. My classmates did nothing, not even something small of their own, they just used everything they had in the place smh. They were so uninterested about the whole thing but I can't hate because I was like that the previous week. I came to the psychologist with so many ideas and we ended up doing two, one for the healthy elders and one for the demented. For the healthy elders I took small pieces of paper and I wrote some themes like music, cooking, cinema, summer. Each lady picked one and we'd talk about it. For example, on cooking I asked them questions like what is your specialite, where did you get your recipes, who taught you to cook, did you bake. I was the coordinator of the discussion and they seemed very interested in it. For the demented elders, since they were ladies I thought of cutting clothes from fashion magazines and asking them questions about the colours, the shapes, when do we wear them and why. Basically we'd see their cognitive functions in action and it would be a good practice. My classmate had many fashion magazines, so I cut winter clothes and she cut summer clothes. They also seemed very pleased with this, even some ladies who had depression joined us and played. That's what we were doing for three days. We divided them by groups and worked each time with different people. Usually at 12:30 pm they ate so our job was over for the day and we'd sit with the psychologist and talk about our experience.

I left some stories for the last part. One lady was 99 years old and her brain worked better than mine. She didn't need any help in doing anything and she didn't have any problem with her body. I was amazed because you don't usually meet elders in such a good physic in this age. She let me in her room which was very nice and clean and full of embroideries she made. I haven't met a more talented person in embroidery than her. One of her needleworks reminded me of that classic scene in Utena where the prince kneels and takes young Utena's hand. I wanted to take a picture but I didn't want to sound rude so I didn't ask. BUT IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL, I'D SERIOUSLY PAY TO HAVE IT. The next day I sat next to her while drinking my coffee and I don't know how we started talking about marriage. I told her that I don't want to get married and she told me not to because I don't need any man, friends are great tho. She never got married and she did everything for herself as she told me. In my opinion she could perfectly live on her own house but she wanted to have friends around that's why she went to the nursing home. She's my inspiration tbh, I hope I'll become like her if I reach that age.

Another lady told me that her parents died when she was 10 and as an orphan, her godmother took her and raised her. Yet, she didn't get married early. She wanted to make her own money, she even bought her own house and in her 40s she met her husband, they got married and lived together for 15 years without having any kids. That woman is 86 years old now and I'm surprised by her story too. When these ladies lived their youth this country was poor and one war started after the other. Most of them barely finished elementary school, it's actually really hard to find educated people from that time. I can't even imagine how much strength they had to be able to make a living without a man protecting them.

I heard more interesting stories, but I shared only a couple because that post is already long and I'm tired of writing. Next week, we are going to a center of daily care for elders. This is the first time I hear about this, I don't know what it is either.

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I'm glad this week was something you particularly enjoy. :)

My mom recently told me that there is a high incidence of depression among the elderly, and seeing you discuss it and tests regarding it made me curious about something. Have you studied any things that people can do to reduce the chances of suffering depression specifically as an elderly person? Like anything elderly people can do to help avoid depression or anything younger people can do to help avoid depression when they get older? I mean things related to specifically to depression in the elderly, not just the things they say to do in general for people of all ages like exercise and stuff.

That's a difficult question to answer because the researchers are still looking into it. Your mom is right, generally depression has higher percentages in young people (in their 20s) and in elders. But one of the first things I learned in geropsychology classes was that it's a different kind of depression. For example, the exam I mentioned in my post, GDS, can find depressive symptoms in elders but not in the younger population. According to one of the theories (there are countless) depression is the result of the malfuction of a brain system that controls emotion. Basically as we get older and reach our 60s we can't control this system well and studies have shown that elders can't tell thin lines of emotion like irony/sarcasm. In this case, we can't really do anything because it's part of evolution of the human brain. In cases like dementia, we also can't do anything about because the person realizes that he/she has problems and they will never go back to their previous lifestyle. Unfortunately, we can only work with healthy elders with depression (healthy in their cognitive functions). A good start is for them is to find a hobby and then find a way to socialize. There was a great program in the US, which hired elders for minimum wage to work in schools in poorer areas and helping children read for their classes. Elders feel great when they know they are helping others and they are still valuable to the society. Some start travelling a lot in that age, which is good too.

Yeah my mom said it was different, which is why I wondered if there were any specific precautionary/preventative things for it. Thanks for your explanations!

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