On the way home from another series of meetings in London today and I was struck by how good it is to meet with clients and our trainers. Communication is so important in any circumstance and understanding how to communicate is essential.
Whilst in China last week, I visited an Elderly Care Centre and I was struck by how we sometimes don’t need words to communicate. One smile or one touch from another human being can mean so much to these people and it really seemed to make their day. Engaging with these people no matter how, whether by smiling, sitting beside them, gentle touch and all without being able to speak the language was a very powerful experience that has impacted me greatly.
My own mum had a stroke in 2015 aged 73, which has severely impacted her ability to interact. She however, tries when she has the energy, to engage through gestures, through eye contact and through trying to help the carers when getting dressed. If given the time and with patience she is capable of more and it’s important to remember that even though she can’t speak she is taking it all in.
When she was in a hospital for Rehab she was ignored, kept deliberately away from others, left at the back of the room by nurses who said “well what does it matter, she can’t speak anyway”, this to us as a family felt like they had given up on her. Physios couldn’t be bothered, OTs lost interest and Speech and Language didn’t seem to get it at all. To be frank, I was totally disgusted with their attitude, and this attitude prevailed amongst the staff like an infection spreading. I knew in order for her to survive, we had to do something, I had to use all my knowledge and contacts and begin to speak for her. I knew she wanted out of that place, that’s all she’s ever wanted, to be home with her family, her husband and her beloved dog.
She’s been home for over a year now and the difference with her care team (we employ) has been phenomenal. These staff care, they really care. Led by a former colleague of mine, mum has progressed and progressed, small steps to us but huge for her. She’s engaged a great deal of the time, communication being the key, care, love and affection being paramount. Her quality of life has improved so much. The staff are amazing, under the leadership of two nurses who know exactly what they are doing and the carers who are truly wonderful. So yes communication has been a huge factor and we all should reflect for a while on why we do what we do and how we do it. If nurses, doctors and care staff take time to listen to what’s not being said, they will “hear” and see so much more.
MA BSc RGN Post Grad Cert
CEO Annie Barr Associates