Preconceptions

5

I am often surprised by things I see in the care home. Mostly it’s because of my preconceptions. There is one man with one arm and one leg, a few teeth and limited speech, and he enjoys a tab. He calls out Valentina and Sebastian’s name, though he hasn’t seen them much. Sebastian was throwing the ball into his hand. Valentina enjoys talking with a woman, who was hit by a car; I am always interested in what she remembers, and does not. Some residents who you might consider rude on occasions will push someone in their wheelchair. A man with diminished mental capacity offers comfort to a resident having a hard time. There were about thirty residents in the lounge one morning; you could see weird, but I saw stories and kindness. Valentina has got to know a man who has uncontrolled body movements, who turns out to have a good general knowledge and likes quizzes. Well, why not?

The residents are good to me too. One refills my water bottle with admirable skill in his wheelchair and another has bought me chocolate and offered a word when it’s too much.

Having a good carer makes a difference to my day. I have got to know some exceptional people. They have good technical skill, anticipate needs, are empathetic, have a laugh and are from all over the world. My frustration in explaining everything to a new carer, who doesn’t listen or who has limited common sense, is immense.

‘Do you like Jingle Bells?’ ‘What is your favourite carol?’ I know visitors might think everyone could be a bit simple. I politely explained that my brain was fine, that I like ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ and Jingle Bells. It was more how she looked at me than what she said.

An elderly Somali woman with no English moved in next to me. Sebastian’s ball catcher turns out to be from there too. One day he is outside my room talking with her.

One carer gave Sebastian a football for when he comes, they play for a few minutes and Sebastian asks when he is working.

Sometimes inappropriate behaviour needs to be handled and I have seen that done professionally.

‘How are you, how is Jane, how are the kids?’ Quick to ask and do you have time for the answer? Otherwise, I’ll say ‘up and down.’

I’ve learnt about the way Ghanaians use language to show respect. ‘Mama’. Seniority or respect for age or something else and you put a word before the name. Great to see it in action. Funny what you can learn in a care home in Borehamwood.

I am learning a lot in care home life, as are Valentina and Sebastian. Thanks everyone.

Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

2 thoughts to “Preconceptions”

  1. Valentina and Sebastian have learned that they can get past their fear of weird looking and behaving people and find a person who enjoys a smile and a chat with them……even a laugh….. Thanks to all the carers and nurses and cleaners…. for making it all work for Andrew…..

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