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A Piece of My Mind
January 6, 2015

Skin Deep

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York
JAMA. 2015;313(1):33-34. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.14047

My mother asks me to apply the bacitracin to the small open sore on her back, at the site of a skin biopsy that has not healed properly. She lifts her shirt up from the waist so I can get a better look. On her lower back, I see a 2 × 2-cm red-bordered lesion, with some central necrosis and crusting, just below the beltline. I have noticed that lately she has demonstrated less modesty about enlisting my help or assessment involving different parts of her body—I am still not sure whether this reflects the disinhibition of starting to lose some of her cognitive edge, or maybe the surrender to practicality of a 92-year-old who realizes she can’t manage her daily life as independently as before. Either way, it makes me slightly uncomfortable; not for lack of familiarity with the landscape of the body, in my 30 years as a physician, but rather that my mother is leading me into a territory that I may not feel ready to explore with her.

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