Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Caregiving Journal - Misunderstandings


Today I had a miscommunication with Pa over coffee. Before starting to serve coffee I asked Pa if he’d already made himself a cup. He confirmed he had and I asked him if he’d added the new creamer in the fridge. He said he hadn’t and that he drank the coffee black.

So, I proceeded to serve my sis her coffee, then prepared my own. As I started drinking my cup, Pa asked, “Where’s mine?” I said, “Oh, did you want another cup? You usually don’t drink more than one.” Then Pa mentioned that he hadn’t had any coffee yet today. “You didn’t?” I asked, “but we just had a whole conversation about you making a cup of black coffee without the cream.” Pa corrected me, explaining that he hadn’t been talking about today, but another day. Needless to say, I served him a cup of coffee, but I wondered what exactly went wrong. Pa tried to blame the odd misunderstanding on the paper-shredder noise, but he wasn’t using it at the time.

So I think back to two weeks ago when the flu left me with laryngitis, and I had to whisper everything to communicate for 2 whole days. Pa told me not to talk to him until I got my voice back and sounded “normal”. While I was offended at the time, I now realize that it’s likely my whispers were unintelligible to him.

A week after that, my sister came into the room Pa was sitting in to ask her to turn down the volume to his computer. She was hearing the TV show Pa was watching in the next room, even though the door to her office door was closed, and Pa had headphones on. (Yes, he was wearing headphones and Sis could still hear the show in the next room with the door closed.)

In the last few weeks when I’ve tried to ask Pa something, he often does not respond. I usually end up calling him loudly to get his attention and then repeating whatever it was I said. If we haven’t made eye contact yet, he often isn’t listening.

I had interpreted Pa’s behavior as passive aggressive behavior or that he was mad about something. However recently, the last few times when I’ve walked up to Pa to tell him something, he’s jumped and clutched his chest out of fear from my having surprised him, even though I was talking as I walked up. I’ve now started raising my voice to gain Pa’s attention.

It’s becoming pretty clear that Pa’s hearing is a big problem. After 26 years working at the airport, the noise damage has taken a toll. It concerns me that recent studies have found that older adults with hearing loss have increased risk of cognitive decline, and Pa’s own mother died from dementia.  Pa has mentioned considering a hearing aid before. I think now’s a good time to start exploring his options.

Lessons Learned – 1) Don’t raise your voice. Get someone’s attention before speaking to them. 2) Get close to them when talking. 3) Make eye contact to be sure the person knows you are speaking to them.

Caregivers - Have you had a sensory perception misunderstanding? What did you discover? How did you augment it?

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