We had our first visit with our hospice members on Monday.
A girl who I knew last semester from Justice Walking (Sally) and I were assigned to Dorothy, an 80-year-old lady. When we got there, Kelly, our contact, told us that we may not see Dorothy today, as she might not want to see people. She apparently just got over a stomach infection and was not in the mood to see anyone (except for Pauline, a volunteer there).
Kelly told us the plan was to have Pauline go in and try to convince Dorothy to let us come in to meet her. Although I went along with Kelly’s plan, I wondered the whole time, why are we trying to meet her if she doesn’t want any visitors? My guess is that a lot of these folks probably don’t want visitors, but ultimately find it better for them when they do have visitors, which is why Kelly and others have these ways of getting visitors in.
The plan worked in the end, as we eventually got in to meet Dorothy. When we came in, she had this huge smile on her face, which I think meant she was either happy to have visitors, or just nervous.
Dorothy is an interesting case. She has almost no use of her hands, which were shriveled and kept close to her chest. She is confined to a wheelchair, only getting up to go to bed it seems. The biggest thing though was her speech. My guess is she suffered from a stroke as her mouth was constantly open and her words were very slurred. This made it incredibly difficult to communicate with her. Sometimes she would gesture and say something neither Sally and I understood, and I think the biggest problem this semester will be communication.
Walking in, I had no idea what to do. Sally had done this before, so I tried to follow her lead. At one point I asked Dorothy if there was anything she needed from us, and the response she gave I couldn’t understand… Sally then asked the majority of the questions, while I just tried to stand there and not look like I had no idea what the hell I was doing. The biggest problem I’m having at this point is communication as well. I’m really worried that anything I say might offend her, and Kelly said with a lot of hospice patients can be pretty volatile. Although I’m not entirely sure how to go about communicating if I’m too worried anything I say might offend her.
By the end, Sally and I left, and that was my first experience with hospice. Short, awkward, and a lot of “what the hell am I doing” moments. Hopefully things change, but at this point I’m still in that awkward phase of not being sure what to do. Thank God for Sally. I think if I were on my own I would be even more up the creek with an even smaller boat.
Let’s hope next time goes better!