So, this new care home residency is the first residency Pippa and I are doing on our own – on our own together, thankfully. Our training continues but the training wheels are off and although Susanna continues to support and guide us when needed, she is no longer running along beside us, we are doing it! The staff have been very supportive too.
What’s so interesting – and challenging – about the residents I’m working with this time is how diverse they are, in terms of the language they use, and the obstacles to clear 2-way understanding and comprehension.
N speaks very quietly – at times the words barely leave his mouth – and he speaks quickly. He also has a strong West Indian accent and sometimes speaks in dialect. It’s taken me some time but I’m beginning to understand him better. He also can’t see very well, so eye contact isn’t possible, but his hearing is good. He laughs often, and I laugh with him, and it feels good, even when I don’t know what we’re laughing about. It feels good.
I’m excited to be working in Spanish with M, who speaks very little English. It feels really good to use my translation skills here, and the communication bridge which her book will be – with her words in Spanish and the line-by-line translation in English – feels twice as important. Perhaps the staff will be able to read her book with her and communicate through Spanish.
H has an intense desire for conversation – so much so that she appears to carry on a conversation, despite hearing very little. It was only when I asked her a direct question (loudly, in her ear) that it confirmed she hadn’t heard me. She’s become very adept at the appearance of a conversation, because she wants so badly to connect. She often expresses frustration that nobody talks to her (though of course they do, but she can’t hear them and then she doesn’t remember). I remembered Susanna working with someone who was deaf last year, and how she communicated through showing him what she was writing – so I thought I’ll try that. It turns out her eyesight is very poor as well, so I soon learnt to write very large, clear letters that fill the page with just a few words. She takes my book from me and reads it, and it pleases her enormously to read her words. It’s a laborious process, and tricky because she says a lot and writing large takes much longer so I can only capture a fraction of what she says. This is where the recording helps enormously, to help get the remaining 75% of what she said which I missed. [recording our exchange is a temporary memory aid which helps us to transcribe a resident’s words accurately, after which we delete the recording]. It’s extremely gratifying for us both, to know that she has heard/understood me, and that I have heard her. She says “ you can understand me” and her face lights up. Because isn’t that what we all want – to know that we are heard and understood?