A post by ILS team member Eric Kidwell:
My mother is in a nursing home. She has dementia. It has been rough.
Today, she called me and told me that she was packing up and moving in to the Fasser Hotel in the town where she grew up. That would be fine, but she can’t walk at all and requires 24 hour care. Oh… and the Fasser Hotel was torn down about 50 years ago.
All that is just part of every day with someone in your life with dementia or alzheimer’s. But was not normal was the comments by the transportation staffer who was bringing in a new patient to the room next to my mother. He pointed out to his patient that it was great that his room was right there at the end of the hallway by the exit. That way, “He could escape anytime he wanted to.”
Now, he was just making what he thought was harmless small talk. But that little comment cut into me. I’ve spent a good amount of time in the last few years trying to convince my mother not to try and escape. On one level it was a little insensitive. On another level it was downright dangerous. Patients try to wander off from the facility very often. They really don’t need to know where the exits are and that those doors are the way to escape.
In healthcare we need to consider the things we say based on where we are and who we are speaking to more than in other fields. We should definitely engage people on the human level. But we always need to be sure that we aren’t putting small talk and the need to keep things light ahead of compassion and safety.