The Sound of My Voice
I do not have a mellifluous voice. Anyone who has heard me speaking with Denise knows that. The kindest thing that anyone has ever said about it was that it is, uh, “different.” So I often think about how it must grate on Mary’s ears throughout the day as I must, of necessity, direct her in her ADLs.
The only thing she can do by herself at this point is make a cup of tea – and she usually forgets the tea bag and forgets to drink it anyway. I have to physically get her out of bed and direct every step she makes from the toileting process through dressing and breakfast, until I get her parked on the couch for the day. Mary’s obnoxiousness has changed from aggression to passive-aggression, so I have to be careful just how I phrase directions and how I modulate my voice or she will just refuse to cooperate. This will result in her sitting on the toilet for 1 1/2 hours or refusing to get into position when she falls on the floor so that I can lift her up.
Thus I have to keep my voice light but not nursing-home perky and never say “let’s” do such-and-such. I always keep in mind her mood and how she will interpret anything I say. If she is in a bad mood, I can tell she thinks I’m being condescending. As hard I work at getting just the right tone, I know that it has to be very hard for her to have me constantly giving her directions. Although she has forgotten how to do most ADLs, the minute I say, for instance as she is putting her soiled undies into the garbage, “Okay, Mary, I’ll take those for the laundry,” she recovers, puts the undies in my hand and says, “Stop telling me how to do what I know how to do.”
Trying to maintain a shred of dignity when she cannot go to the toilet alone is difficult. And telling an 86-year-old who was accomplished in many areas during her active life that it is okay to pull up her pants now is also difficult. The now-toddler Mary needs direction that the octogenarian Mary cannot tolerate hearing.
Getting just the right balance in my voice and my words in order to help her feel she is really making the decisions and doing the work is a challenge I struggle to meet.