Caregivers: Having the Right Touch
In previous posts I've mentioned that my dear old dad is starting the process of slipping away. In the past two weeks alone he has become almost exclusively bed-bound and more of his time is spent sleeping. He does however wake for short periods. Sometimes he is very confused, very forgetful and virtually incapable of making even the simplest decision. Sometimes he wakes and we experience what some people refer to as a window, that is, a brief period of time when he is relatively lucid and able to respond. These few moments are fast becoming things to treasure.
As his dependency needs increase so the number of people visiting to help, nurse, treat and support him have grown. I tend to make what introductions I can and then I absent myself to allow them to get on with their business. Because of my dad's situation he drifts in and out of sleep fairly frequently and often in the middle of a short conversation. I began to wonder what it must be like in his situation. He is frequently roused from a deep slumber to find a total stranger standing next to him, or perched on the end of the bed, smiling benignly. His hearing is poor and his mental state is, well, also poor. The whole package is a recipe for confusion - his mainly, I suspect.
We now have nurses who sit with him during the night, for a couple of nights a week. He says he's never slept with so many women!
I sometimes catch snippets of conversations between my dad and healthcare workers. They say something about people and their approach to care:
Nurse (on first meeting him): ‘I'm here to check your bowels.' An interesting introduction!
Dad (in hospital last week): ‘I woke to find a hand between my thighs. Someone then put something on my rear that felt like it was meant to start a truck.' He had the whole of his six bedded area laughing. What seems routine and mundane to a professional caregiver is so different when you are on the receiving end. When someone is confused you can see just how strange and frightening it can be. But then most caregivers know that their approach has to be very different. Short, basic information about what they are going to do. Then, 'I am here to check your bowels', can be the best approach.
Overall, my family have been so impressed with the care and attention he is receiving. The nurses, doctors and caregivers do jobs many of us would recoil in horror from. They do it day after day, and night after night, often under extreme pressure.