In the 90's I was the Prosthetic Department Head at a major Veterans Hospital.  During my time there, and from my own time as an inpatient (3 years total), and my time returning for regular medical visits I've developed a pretty good sense of the attitude of patients in America.

No matter how injured or how weak a patient might have been, they fought like hell for what little bit of dignity and independence they have left.  Something as simple as feeding themselves might be looked at as a big achievement and worthy of self-pride.  This would go double at the VA hospitals because soldiers from all countries will always fight that much harder.

Sit outside a hospital in America and watch them transfer a patient to a family members car, and you'll see the patient doing all they can to assist.  They might not be able to help at all, and sometimes they're having the reverse affect, but they're certainly trying and giving it all they have.

When I contrast this to what I've seen in Thailand I'm perplexed.  Virtually 100% of the infirm in Thailand don't try to help at all.  Instead, they'll sit there in their wheelchair doing their best to take their minds somewhere else, anywhere else but in their sick body fighting to survive.  They effectively turn into a bag of potatoes someone else has to move around.

To make matters worse in the great majority of cases I'm witnessing the infirm Thai's caregivers having a remarkably cavalier attitude bordering on total indifference to the feelings and dignity of the patient.  They're none to careful during transfers, often banging heads and appendages against the door frames with enough force to stun a healthy person so I can imagine its torture to the patient.

Why is this?  Have the infirm in Thailand outlived their usefulness to society in the eyes of the healthy?  Are they seen as taking up valuable resources better put to use elsewhere?  Do their families stop loving them because they're sick or old?

Sometimes its all I can do to not lecture these insensitive family members and I'm sure if my Thai was better I'd do so more often.  However, for the most part I limit myself to smiling at the family and helping the infirm carefully and with dignity make their transfer.  My thinking is maybe if they see how much easier it can be for the patient then..   Ok, I'm probably fooling myself.

There are many values and attitudes that fit into this topic and frankly my observations help explain what I see as concerns in other areas.  Needless to say there is a lot of room for improvement in the average Thai's mindset concerning the old and infirm.  Many should feel ashamed of themselves.  Ashamed of the culture which allows them to be this way.  As family or friends of the infirm we should strive to make their remaining time as enjoyable as possible.  Helping them live with dignity and a strong spirit goes a long way towards this end.


Until next time..