One of my patients last night was an elderly female sent from her SNF for altered mental status. While she waited for a bed to open up on the floors, I heard her crying and went to check on her.
There she sat, sobbing, as she unburdened how much she hated living at the facility, how she feared speaking about her poor treatment for fear of retribution from the staff, how she missed being able to take care of herself, and how she had no friends or family to come visit her.
The standard "we're going to take good care of you," or "it won't be long until they bring you up to a more comfortable bed" platitudes couldn't stand up to that.
So instead I sat and listened to her. And when she stopped and asked if she could have some extra oranges from another box lunch, I grabbed some. I even got her to laugh for a moment as we joked about the food.
But it wasn't long until forgot it all and started crying again.
It sounds terrible, but one of the reasons I think I find myself attracted to emergency medicine is the (relatively) quick patient turnover. Following complicated patients over long periods takes a special kin of person - cases like these are just too heart wrenching.