Thursday, May 27, 2010

Lessons in Care

By Belinda

Sally, Sue, Jackie, Sam, Tracey, Stephanie, Cheryl, Lisa, Pat, Lorraine, Kerry, Jodie; I get to know them all, as three times a day, in pairs, they let themselves in through the front door of Mum's flat, with the key kept in the key safe outside.

When Mum first needed more help than we could give, it was hard to get accustomed to having our privacy invaded, and on such a regularly daily schedule.

How reassuring it is now, though, to see the good care she receives; overseen by Rob's watchful eye.

"You all right Pieter?" says Sam. She sits beside Mum and opens the TV guide.

"What day is it today?" she says, and then begins to read out the programs.

"You like "Dickinson's Real Deal" don't you Pieter?" and Mum nods, their heads together, absorbed for the moment in planning the day's viewing.

To hear the easy conversation, knowing that these women share more of Mum's life than I do now, makes me happy. I feel that she is in kind hands. They are quick and efficient; they have to be; but they talk to her, sharing chit-chat and laughter.

But I have to adjust to how early Mum goes to bed now. She used to insist on being the last one up in the household, and when she visited me in Canada we laughed at how she had to relinquish that right to me, as I reserved "late night pottering rights" here. But now her Helping Hands ladies arrive at just after 7.00 p.m. to help her get ready for bed and at 7.30 she is tucked in, waiting for Rob, who comes down to put in eye drops and talks to her for a while as he does her inhalers for the night and leaves at about 8.00.

I want to make a change, but I don't. I am very aware that I am entering a delicate eco-system in which I don't live. I have no right to interfere in a routine that works and which gives Rob the time he also needs, to rest.

But I do think about how long the night is, and Mum does necessarily spend hours alone in the day. So one day as we sit on the couch together, I ask, just making conversation, if she would ever want to think about a care home. I never want to think of it, but it might be a support she needs one day.

I am just wondering, but Mum is quick to vehemently answer, "No!" followed by the exclamation, "They are interfering busybodies!"

The forceful words are uncharacteristic of Mum. I try to explain that I wondered if she might sometimes be lonely, but she explains, deliberately, "Belinda, I have a normal life."

And I understand. She makes me think about my own work with an agency that supports people who have disabilities.

When interviewing, there is a scenario question we sometimes use about a lady who compulsively collects small plastic items and stashes them in her room. One day when she is out at work, the staff decide to have a clean out and they throw away her collection. When she comes home, she discovers that her items are gone and is distraught.

"What," we ask, "Would you do?"

I have heard gasps of horror and seen expressions of concern on candidate's faces. Often they say that they will comfort the woman. But when pressed, "Would you do anything more?" after a pause to think, some people say that they would write a report. This is when I feel the panic in my chest building because of what too often comes next. The report is not to document the abuse of invading privacy and taking personal property, but to document the woman's behaviour.

How often are we, "Interfering busybodies" in people's lives? Mum makes me wonder. The phrase perfectly captures the distinction between giving needed (and wanted) support, and Mum's intuitive awareness of how boundaries can be crossed as in the scenario above.

I'm listening to a fascinating audio book called Drive:The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink. In it he says that what people really want is, Competence; Autonomy and Relatedness. I found that an interesting point to ponder. So simple really. If we work towards environments that are fertile hotbeds growing competence, autonomy and relatedness we would be moving in a good direction.


Marilyn said...

I so agree with your conclusion and love the personal anecdote you shared and your Mum's vehement wisdom.

I've spent decades working with teens and also a lot of time with young children. Now I spent a good deal of time with the elderly. Across the board, every age and stage, those three factors are key.

mercygraceword said...

Charlotte thanks you :o)


Dave Hingsburger said...

A report! Only in the hardest heart is a 'report' an act of compassion. Wonderful post!

Belinda said...

Ah, yes, Deborah--Charlotte...:)

And Dave, thank you. Perhaps this will be my linked post for the disability fair in June. :)

Dave Hingsburger said...

Belinda, that is perfect!! I'll make sure it gets listed. Dave