In recent times I have had the privilege of spending more time with my 98 year old Grandmother as I have taken over the logistics of her care.About two months ago she had a fall and as a result she has had to move to a rest-home.
Negotiating the aged-care culture is not for the faint-hearted. I have filled in hundreds of pages of forms and made calls to a variety of agencies who don’t share information. I am struggling to get her in a rest home close to me – made all the more difficult because it is in a different health board district. They (whoever they really are) want families to participate in the care, yet stumbling blocks to that transition are numerous.
My grandmother is very deaf and has poor vision and limited mobility, but there is little wrong with her brain. I have become her eyes and her ears to a large extent.
The Doctors and nurses are advised of her deafness but I watch her face and see the curtain of confusion descend as she fails to hear them. I sit close and speak very loudly. I can get so close; close enough that it would be classed as a violation of her personal space for someone other than family. I look her in the eye and speak quite loudly and clearly. Her eyes tell me if she has understood.
I guide her hand as I get her to sign consent forms for treatment and I explain for the fifth time why she can’t go home and that her stuff is now packed up in boxes at my house. A lifetime in a few boxes. She sighs and slumps her shoulders as I say for the umpteenth time – “Granny you know you can’t go home.”
Speaking with a raised voice, repeating information, hearing her stories again and again is tiring. But I remind myself how difficult the loss of multiple senses must be, how isolating and frustrating they must make her life. She is living in a new place, with new people, different routines and limited choices.
What she wants the most, is people to take the time to be with her, to call her by her name and not ‘darling,’ to treat her with the respect she would have had 15 years ago when she could walk unaided, cook a hearty meal and chat easily with clarity and understanding because she could hear the conversation.
I have learned that just because communication is hard, we mustn’t give up. We must persevere for our loved one. It all takes a bit longer and can be a bit draining but one day I know I’ll be walking a mile in my grandmothers shoes. I can only hope someone will take the time to talk and share with me and not be afraid to speak loudly until I am understood.