Tuesday 13 July 2010
It’s simple . . .
When an elderly person has spent some time in hospital, following a fall perhaps, or an infection (actually, infections usually occur after the elderly any person has been admitted to hospital) tests of preparedness to return home or to remove to another care facility are conducted. Sometimes, when a patient has demonstrated confusion, mental states are checked – 'What's your address?' or 'What day is it today?' (I am frequently unsure what day it is now that I no longer have the framework of a working day, so I don't think that's a reliable marker!) Otherwise the tests are used to assess mobility, strength and a degree of organisational ability in addition to mental capability.
One test that seems to be standard involves making a cup of tea – or coffee, I suppose, if tea is not the patient's beverage of choice. It reminds me of one of the tasks that used to be set for 5 and 6-year-olds – describing in correct sequence the stages required to make a sandwich, which is probably actually definitely more taxing than making tea or coffee. That reminds me – my grandson made tea a few months ago. When he brought the mugs to us - (We're not posh, we don't often use cups and saucers. You get more tea in a mug than a cup and don't have to keep getting up to refill it, not that we're lazy, of course!) - but as I was saying writing typing, Callum brought the tea to us. It was nice and hot but had lots of tea leaves floating in it. Gillian said tactfully, 'How did you make this, Callum?' 'I put a spoonful in each mug and poured in the boiling water,' he replied, clearly puzzled. It's the logical thing to do when that's the way tea is made – at home – with tea bags. Actually, I have no objection to some tea leaves in my mug but a complete teaspoonful is too much. Since then Callum has made tea correctly in the teapot.In the hospital utility room/kitchen, specially equipped with the appropriate requisites – a short flight of steps to check safety and ability on staircases, cooker, fridge, pots, pans, baking trays, mixing bowls, kettles, tea pots, mugs, cups and so forth – the patient is invited to make tea. Some fall fail at the first hurdle obstacle, unable to find the tea (often in a tea caddy labelled TEA). Difficulties over the choice of kettle should not arise – some are electric, others are heated on a hob. The examinee may be wondering how many people are expected to take tea and whether they would prefer cups or mugs but this is not to be taken into account – it is simply the ability to make a pot of tea that is being assessed. Now, some might fail because they are of the 'old school' – warm the pot and then empty – whoever does that?? (Me, occasionally, trying to impress . . . generally I like to 'shock' the flavour out of the tea leaves!) Others may omit to boil the water and attempt to produce a good brew with cold or tepid water. Yet others may not have the strength to lift a full kettle or teapot.
On the basis that making a pot of tea is an indicator of one's mental and physical abilities I must confess to failure in the first category! At the weekend I made tea many times but twice omitted the tea leaves! So, on those performances, I would definitely not pass the competence test!