Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Big Man on Campus

When I first considered moving Robert into the New Home, I consulted with Other Brother. I wasn’t sure about the decision and one of my concerns was that Robert would be the most high functioning person in the New Home. Yes, the person using a walker, periodically falling down from seizures, usually incontinent and sometimes obstinate about good hygiene habits is the most high functioning person at the New Home.

I was worried that Robert would lose some of his hard earned independent living skills and, frankly, I wanted him to be challenged a bit. I also wanted to provide him with people he could have conversations with and maybe even someone to play cards with.

Old Home had an elderly population, most of who were deaf and with various stages of dementia. Robert got used to not being answered when he greeted them in the morning or said good night in the evening. It was difficult for me to watch him continue to try to converse with them, though. It was if each morning he expected that would be the morning someone would answer back. He did have a friend there and she always answered him but I’m not convinced she actually heard him. She was kind enough to acknowledge him and hang out with him during the daytime activities and that always warmed my heart.

Other Brother reminded me that Robert likes to help others less fortunate (a truly remarkable trait in my little brother). He suggested Robert would have an opportunity to be “Big Man on Campus” at the New Home and would probably really like it at the New Home.

I still had my concerns but moved Robert into the New Home.

The other residents aren’t verbal but Robert has found a way to communicate with them. Robert tells me they are all deaf (I think because they aren’t verbal he lumps them in the same category as the people at his Old Home). His roommate is the only one who is actually deaf but he can read lips a bit and sign. He also uses a wheelchair.

Robert doesn’t sign but I have seen them find ways to communicate. Robert and I were playing cards in his room one night and his roommate (we’ll call him “B”) came in to watch television. Robert looked up from the card game and I followed his gaze over to “B” rolling into the room. Once “B” looked over at Robert I glanced back to Robert to catch him doing a very deliberate head nod and “B” returning the gesture.

Robert had waited until “B” could see him and then said hi in a way that he knew “B” would understand. All guys do the head nod apparently!

A few days later, one of the Aides told me that “B” was starting to be more independent about laying out his clothes and changing by himself. She attributed this to Robert’s independence rubbing off on “B.” I was delighted to hear this.

Another resident is a little guy with Down Syndrome. He loves to watch Robert and I play cards but also likes to eat anything he finds on the floor (tissues are his favorite). Robert and “B” have taken it upon themselves to alert the staff when this little sweetheart is being naughty. They’ve become the Tissue Police!

Robert helps in other ways around the New Home too: his job is to open the blinds in the morning and close them at night. He clears his dishes after meals which I tried to help him with the other night when the Aide stopped me. She wanted me to watch him in action so he showed me how he puts his dishes on the seat of his walker and then pushes the walker into the kitchen and deposits the dishes in the sink. Clever!

Robert tells the Aides when Little Guy has food on his face and he sometimes will clear the dishes for “B” also.

Robert’s skills have certainly not diminished (well, his balance seems worse but that’s not from moving into the New Home). He is creating new routines and finding ways to be useful and helpful in his New Home.

He really is enjoying being Big Man on Campus.

Does this mean I have to admit to Other Brother that he was right?   :-)

1 comment:

Other Brother said...

The desire to help others is a family trait, which is especially strong with Robert's Sister.