The patient Mr X, the subject of this case study, is 92 years old. He suffers from COPD and is on a 24/7 oxygen supply. He lives alone although he has 30 retired/elderly neighbours in his block of flats where there is an on-site manager during the day.
He has an agency carer who comes for an hour each morning to help him with his personal hygiene and another carer visits for an hour from 6pm each day. The patient's mobility is extremely limited due to his breathlessness which has been compounded by the after effects of several falls over recent years which required surgery.
I have befriended him for 7 months to date in my capacity as a community volunteer with the North London Hospice.
During my initial visits Mr X candidly explained that he was lonely. He said that the problem with being his age is that 'everyone else is dead', by which he was referring to his late wife, who died four years ago.
His wife had dementia and he had cared for her at home. His brothers predeceased him, as have most of his friends. He feels that he doesn't have much in common with his neighbours.
He is an intelligent person with a varied interest in politics, sport and history. He is a good conversationalist and has retained his sense of humour despite his physical difficulties. I established common ground with him from the very start of my visits.
My weekly visits last for about 2.5 hours and the time flies, due not least to the contribution made by the patient himself. He regularly tells me how grateful he is for my visits and how much he looks forward to them.
When I saw him on my last visit he asked whether it might be possible for me to drive him on something of a nostalgic 'tour' around some of his old haunts in North London, where he was brought up and went to school, and in another area where he lived with his late wife.
He has a portable oxygen supply and so I will be able to take him out when the weather picks up a bit. He has also invited me to take him in his wheelchair to a local Italian restaurant one lunchtime!
I'm glad that, through North London Hospice, I have been able to make at least some contribution to the patient's quality of life, given how much he looks forward to my visits and the stimulation it gives him during my time there.