96-year-old lives alone with help from his nurse

Aug 13, 2012
Belfast Public Health Nurse Shannon Robbins checks Bradstreet’ s blood pressure at his home.

By the time most people hit 96 years old, they are homebound, live with family or are in a nursing home where they get lots of help. But what do you do if you are 96 years old, living alone, still driving and the closest family member lives nearly an hour away?

Eddie Bradstreet fits into that category. He isn’t homebound, since he still drives, and can do most things for himself, but occasionally he could use a little help.

This is where Belfast Public Health Nurse Shannon Robbins RN steps in. Bradstreet saw her picture in the newspaper after she was hired for the position several months ago and gave her a call. He needed help making his shower work for him. He no longer can stand to shower and when he sat on the chair he’d put in the shower, he couldn’t reach the sprayer to wash his back.

Shannon visited him and made some suggestions for a safer situation. Bradstreet had a plumber come in and install a hook to hold the shower hose where he could reach it.

While she was there, Shannon also took Bradstreet’s vital signs, including his blood pressure, which has a tendency to run high. His blood pressure was fine that day.

She also talked to him about cooking his own meals and he told her he does that in a toaster oven because he is afraid to use the oven in his stove. He worries that something will happen to him before he shuts the oven off and his house will burn down.

“I like to try and do what I can do myself… I like to make pies. I’m a good cook and I like to eat,” he says.

On a subsequent visit, Bradstreet tells her where the instructions are on how to work the oven. As Shannon announces that she thinks she has figured out the timer oven, Bradstreet replies, “I thought you’d be able to with the directions.” She is also able to show him how to use the oven on a timer that will shut it off automatically when the entered time is up.

She also discovers that the hook for the shower wasn’t strong enough and fell off. She assures Bradstreet that she has seen more sturdy hooks and will order one for him. She also tries to make the chair in the shower less wobbly and urges him to be very careful.

On this visit, Bradstreet’s blood pressure is higher than it should be, so Shannon tells him she will be back in a week to check it again. She is also trying to find a home aide to occasionally help Bradstreet with some of his chores.

As for Bradstreet, he says his favorite part of Shannon’s visits is that she talks to him and “lifts my spirits.” Bradstreet, who used to teach classes for ambulance personnel for years, misses seeing the people he used to teach and work with. But he remembers their names with no hesitation.

Today, Bradstreet enjoys going to church, church suppers and church fairs. “I like to eat and see the people,” he explains,” especially the ones I know,” who are getting fewer in number. “I don’t talk a lot but I like to be around people.”

Bradstreet says he tries to keep his mind working by repeating things he knows by heart, such as the Lord’s Prayer and the 23rd Psalm. He also thinks about things he used to do and the people who were in the First Aid and CPR classes that he taught for the Red Cross.

When he went in to renew his driver’s license last September, the person giving the eye tests was amazed, “Your eyes are almost perfect,” adding, “You will be 100 years old, the next time you come in to renew your license.”

Bradstreet isn’t so sure he will be there for that but he does still get around the house, both inside and out; does his own housework; and goes to church on a regular basis. He attends either the First Church or the Calvary Church, where he particularly likes seeing all the young people “bustling around.”

Bradstreet receives phone calls every day from his granddaughter, who lives in Penobscot, his daughter in Robinson (who is a public health nurse), and his son in Massachusetts. He carries his cell phone with him all the time so he won’t miss their calls. There are other people who used to live in Belfast that he also talks with quite regularly.

Bradstreet, who lost his wife, Hazel, three years ago, says of Shannon, “whenever I want her to, she comes down.” Shannon replies that Bradstreet is one of the easiest clients that she works with.

“I guess she’s all right,” replies Bradstreet, and then he turns to Shannon and says, “You’re very good to me.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: Susan Guthrie | Aug 14, 2012 10:02

Lovely story. Although the media is filled with human behaving badly, it is only because our attention is drawn only to what is unusual. The vast majority of human interactions are loving and compassionate. This story is unusual because of his age.



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