First a story. During a physical exam on a 67-year-old male, I asked him what his plans for retirement were. He stated that he was going to retire in 6 months and had plenty to do around the house. I explained that when you have 24 hours a day, seven days a week that whatever needed to be done around the house would be done in 3 months and that he needed to know what to do then. We kicked around a few ideas and he decided he would go back to school and study history. He loved history. Years later, I saw him again. He had gone back to school, met a young woman, left his wife and married his newfound love. I learned that interventions, no matter how benign they maybe, have potential consequences. He was happy; his x-wife was not.
According to feedback from my patients, I gave great advice. Unfortunately, I rarely followed my own advice. Part of my yearly physical involved asking my older patients what they planned to do after retirement. Over the many years I practiced medicine, I had discovered that retirees who had no advanced planning became overweight sloths. They tended to eat, sleep and watch TV while waiting for something to miraculously fill the long days and nights of retirement.
I found that those who planned their retirement activities in advance did well. Golfers, tennis players and pickle ball enthusiasts did the best. Women did better than men. Even those women who had no plans found something constructive to do. Women’s superiority over men is a topic for another article.
I truthfully didn’t expect that I would ever retire. I told my patients that I would die in the office seeing patients and I meant it. My only real outside interest was cooking. I talked about working with wood; but, after building my family room furniture with a good friend, I realized that what I needed was missing. I had no talent for woodwork; and, if I did, my bad back would get in the way.
When I opened the office, I installed double doors at the entrance. I jestingly told patients that I had double doors as, on the inside, I was a fat man waiting patiently to escape from Dr Segal’s demands that I eat a healthy diet. Well, the fat man finally won.
Having no plans to retire or anything to retire to, my actual retirement was exactly as I had described it to my patients. I became a sloth, eating, sleeping and occasionally pooping (constipation is another topic for future discussion). If only I had listened to my own advice.
I’ve learned a valuable lesson. Hippocrates said, “Physician, Heal thyself.” That statement should be part of the Hippocratic Oath. In order to care for others, you have to care for yourself. There should be a firm rule. What you tell your patients to do should be what you do!
So, what am I going to do with my free time? One of my patients/friends suggested that I volunteer at the local dog rescue playing with dogs that need a kind human touch. What a great idea! I’m working on it but currently am hampered by Covid precautions. I’m writing a book even though it may never be published. I’m going to the gym and think I’m going to like boxing. I’m chasing Renee around the house. We have a catch and release policy. (If only I could remember what to do when I catch her).
I’m working at staying oriented. When every day is the same as the one before and the one after, getting disoriented is easy! I did not really understand the disorientation of retirement when I was well and practicing medicine. I probably diagnosed a memory loss in too many patients and sent a lot of patients for neuropsych testing (documents cognitive disorders). I’m going for neuropsych testing next week in preparation for deep brain stimulation.
I’m really nervous! I don’t want to know what I’m missing/losing. Am I in denial? Maybe! I’m about to find out. What I’ve learned is that a simple 4 hour memory test, that I routinely ordered, can be extremely anxiety producing. Not recognizing the effects of ordering neuropsych testing meant I couldn’t prepare my patients for the anxiety that I’m currently experiencing.
Being chronically ill is, indeed, an education. The question remains, how to teach the lessons I’m learning to a healthy medical student or resident.
Here’s your joke for the day:
A man and a woman had a quarrel:
Woman: If I had known that my life would become like this, I should have just married the devil himself.
Man: But getting married with your relatives is a taboo, isn’t it?