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Mrs. Finch and Ms. Virginia

Evan Heald

A Different View

Most days, Mrs. Finch’s perspective was outrageously optimistic and embarrassingly complimentary. Although she had the typical assortment of nonagenarian maladies, she would not let that define her; whenever she visited my office, it was hard to get to a chief complaint because of her relentless focus on how nicely the parking lot had been graveled, or “what a sweet, sweet nurse you have,” or my partner’s haircut or the

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Busting Grandma Out

S.E. Street

I had been in London on business all of seven hours when my son, Tom, called me at two in the morning from our hometown, Sydney, Australia. 

“Grandma’s had a fall. She’s been taken to the hospital, but she’s all right.”

My mother’s having a fall was nothing unusual; she had always been an unpredictable fainter. My husband and children and I called it her party trick, making light of it to soothe

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long story - blum 2

Long Story


Alan Blum

About the artist: 

Alan Blum is a Professor and Gerald Leon Wallace MD Endowed Chair in Family Medicine at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Tuscaloosa. A self-taught artist, he has published three books of his sketches and stories of patients, and his artworks have appeared in more than a dozen medical journals and textbooks. He is a frequent guest speaker at medical schools in courses in the humanities.

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(Not So) Golden Years

Madge Kaplan

When I read news articles about caring for elderly parents at a distance, I sometimes shake my head. There’s a tendency to put the best spin on the experience: as long as you contact the right people, get the right information and treat the ups and downs as just part of life’s challenges, you’ll be fine. You can do this!

I find myself wondering when the author last talked to a caregiver at

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Checking Boxes

Regina Harrell

I am a primary-care doctor who makes house calls in and around Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Most of my visits are in neighborhoods, but today my rounds start at a house located down a dirt road a few miles outside of town.

Gingerly, I cross the front walk; Mrs. Edgars told me that she killed a rattlesnake in her flowerbed last year.

She is at the door, expecting my visit. Mr. Edgars sits on the

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Return of the Hero

Peg Ackerman

Blanched by anemia, Mary rested quietly in the hospital bed. Her pallor made her barely visible amid the bleached bed linens–she seemed a mere shock of white hair against the pillowcase. 

Age ninety-three, she’d visited the hospital a half-dozen times in as many months, shuttling between nursing home and hospital as many elders unwittingly do in their last year of life. She may have preferred to stay put, but no one knew for sure:

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Audrey Cortez

Years ago I worked as a registered nurse in a busy surgical pre-admission clinic, preparing patients who’d been scheduled for surgery for the upcoming operation and hospital experience.

My workdays were packed with back-to-back, hour-long appointments. Whatever surgery the patient was facing–oral, orthopedic or anything else–every interview followed the same format. I would greet the patient, who’d often bring along a family member, and quickly escort them both into my small

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Nineteen Steps

Priscilla Mainardi

Tuesday morning, eight o’clock, and I have seven things to do. Check vitals, change a dressing, get a patient out of bed, send another to the operating room. Review lab results, give medications, start a blood transfusion.

I have six patients, and they have an average of five morning medications each. I make three trips to the med room for supplies, two trips to the pantry for fresh water. 

Mrs. Napoli has eight

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Memento Mori

Craig W. Steele

Quo Vadis Nursing Home haunts the east side of Erie Street,

squatting opposite Roselawn Cemetery, whose wrought-iron gates 

gape tauntingly wide and welcoming. Today will soon be buried: 

three wizened men sit rocking, speechless, on the front porch, 

yearning for the shadowed marble and granite headstones,

no longer afraid of death, only of dying–suspended

between fear and need, stoically awaiting

the next busload of grade-schoolers determined

to brighten their deep-shadowed days.


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Sara Brodsky

I sit with three demented women in their nineties.
Three after-dinner conversations fly,
banging into each other,
drifting off course.
Aunt Sylvia insists she must call her mother.
Edith announces she works for her father.
Mimi declares she has two daughters.
I grab onto this shooting star.
“Where do your daughters live?” I ask. 
Mimi closes

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Catching Chickens

Daniel Klawitter

Morphine doesn’t do much for dementia.

I know this because my grandmother

was trying to catch an imaginary chicken 

on her deathbed.

Wanting to calm her fevered thrashing, 

my sister cleverly said: “It’s okay grandma.

I caught the chicken for you.

You can rest now.”

But my grandmother’s faded blue eyes 

suddenly sprang wide open, and fixing my surprised 

sister with a stern and lucid glare, declared:

“No you did NOT!”

And I’m

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You Don’t Have to Put Your Teeth in for Me

Karen Peacock

He pulled the covers over his shedding skin,
Put a napkin over his phlegm-filled cup
Turned the volume down on the TV
And up in his ear,
Cleared his throat through the foggy mask,
Tipped the seat down to his bedside commode
As he reached for his teeth,
And I said, You don’t have to put your teeth in for me.

About the poet:

Karen Peacock is a board-certified art therapist

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