Thursday, January 14, 2010

The walls have ears

Caring for a loved one is easy for many. We recall the father who baked bread, or cradled grandchildren lovingly in his arms. For others, seeing a father disabled, frail, confused weak and unable to feed himself demands that we ask others to help us with this task. I honour those who provided care to my father. Most were phenomenal. Others could use some improvement, or a couple of suggestions to help them be even better.

Case Study #7
I recall walking down the hallway in a LTC facility. The staff had been nothing but kind to my father, and towards all of us who cared for him. My dear father, who had been in choirs for many, many years, used to sing. Loudly. All the time. It was only nearer the end that I realized that music and the old hymns he dearly loved were not only comforting to him, but by singing her released endorphins that eased his pain.

His singing was a sign of his pain. And not only did he have pain. He was cold. I spent much time trying to convince staff to dress him with both a t-shirt AND a sweatshirt, of which he had plenty. They kept forgetting. I would put Post-it notes on his wardrobe, asking if they would kindly do so.  All LTC homes have to have a Family Council by legislation, just like schools. When I was the Family Council Chair, I recall several discussion that revolved around treating residents as individuals, and learning what each person needed. Communication, a simple issue, I thought, is compounded by the time it takes to read all the files, the transition of shifts, and keeping up on the latest concerns of residents. It is time-consuming.

Yes, sound carries well down the hall.

I recall walking down the hall and could hear a PSW speaking to another. She was complaining about her work in LTC. It wasn't that she didn't like the residents, she told another, it was the work load and the constant demands. The lack of continuity, since she'd be transferred from one wing to another. Just when she got to know her case load, she would be transferred.

All I remember from what I overheard, was the misery in her voice. Now, residents pick up this emotion. You only have to read Jill Bolte Taylor's book, My Stroke of Insight, to understand.

Jill Bolte Taylor, in her book My Stroke of Insight, demonstrated the respect, or lack thereof, that some staff members or visitors display to those who are perceived to be ill. Dr. Bolte Taylor suffered a life-threatening blood clot in her brain and wrote of her experiences. Since she had moments of clarity, with little brain function on the left side of her brain, she was able to understand emotions and feelings without having the language to articulate them at the time.

As I wrote in *my* book:

She reminds caregivers and staff members that the best way to help those who are ill is to let them sleep. Beyond that, a caregiver’s respectful attitude is perceived on a deeper psychosocial level even by those with brain injuries and apparent dementia. She found that those who came in to visit her, if they possessed a positive attitude, and brought energy and a strong spirit into her room, gave her added energy. So many burned-out workers in LTC are hard-pressed to keep their energy up. So many of our RNs and RPNs are stressed-out beyond their abilities to cope. This has a profound effect on those in care.

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