Saturday 2 October 2010

Confusing the elderly

Astrid and I spent much of today visiting my dad in a 'respite' home. He didn't really want us to leave - but we're powerless to do anything else. Despite the best efforts of the staff (some of whom were very caring), it was full of desperately confused people: "Do you know where I am?" came one somewhat existential refrain from a lady who continued to ask this question even if you attempted to answer it. "Who are you? I haven't seen you before!" came another. It was like being thrust into an Ionesco play.

By the afternoon, the lady who didn't know where she was decided not only did she still not know where she was but that with equal determination she had to find "the end of the dining room". This obviously caused further confusion. Whatever anyone did contributed to the dynamic which led to the question being asked once more "is this the end of the dining room?".

The problem is, this sounds funny. But for those who are there, including my dad, it's like being in one of the circles of hell. I was wondering why the repetition. I suspect the two confused ladies are regulating themselves with these riffs (you often see children doing the same sort of thing). Often like children, they are regulating themselves at the cost of others. My dad doesn't need repetition to regulate himself, he needs intellectual stimulation. The coercive craziness of this situation must be unbearable. How could you give people the regulation that they need in this situation? Is it worth experimenting with some sort of personal technology? It would have to be bullet-proof and very easy to use...

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