Live and Learn – The soft Voices of Helping

Live and Learn

By Melanie Knapp

I open the door to her nursing home room making a bit of noise. I want her to hear me come in. She is ninety-nine years old with a bit of hearing loss. She is dressed with pretty flowers on her shirt with dark slacks and sits on a chair beside her bed looking at her poetry.

She smiles when she sees me. I shout, “How are you?” She sits seemingly not hearing me. I clearly say, “It’s a sunny day outside!” I annunciate very well. I’m not sure how to reach her.  I shout again, “What are you doing Grandma?” She doesn’t respond.

I think to myself, she must be having a very bad day. My grandma has had dementia for several years. Sometimes she makes sense and sometimes she doesn’t. It’s frustrating, funny and flustering.  I yell, “Grandma do you want this coffee I brought you?” She still doesn’t answer. I think to myself that her dementia must be getting worse.

The tall nurse with short brown hair comes in and puts a few things away. She has seen me before and is not surprised I am visiting.  She says softly almost in a whisper, “Oh, hello Anne.” My grandma looks up and says, “Oh hello dear.” I am surprised.

It is rare for my grandma to ignore me and talk to a nurse. I open my mouth in astonishment and close it again.  I gently and softly ask my grandma, “would she like some fresh coffee?” She says,  “thanks dear, yes I would”

It turns out that I was the one that wasn’t communicating gently enough. Live and learn.

Could this apply to other situations too? Could we treat people that don’t function totally normal, in more polite and dignified ways?  I know I’m going to try to treat all people well.


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