When my mother entered a care home, there were certain things I never expected I would be doing, such as explaining about HPV. However, when one spends time visiting a loved one, one gets involved in the oddest things. I call these incidents ‘little care home surprises.’
These surprises can be a memorable conversation I have with the residents, or a strange activity I get roped into. Sometimes it is an interaction I have with the staff, or an interaction I observe between the residents. They can be pleasant or unpleasant or indifferent. What qualifies them as care home surprises is quite simply that I never ever imagined they would happen.
The example below is a conversation I never thought I would be having at a care home. I think it is a good example of the care home surprises that make visiting, um, interesting.
Sometimes when I am visiting my mother, the residents are watching a tv show or movie. Questions tend to arise. “What’s going on?” is the most common. It is very hard to follow a plot when you have dementia. Often I explain what is happening in a scene or give a summary of the plot if more is needed.
And then there are the commercials. Given the over-dramatization of ‘problems’ that the product is touted to solve, these commercials can cause a bit of alarm and a lot of confusion for the residents.
Last week one of the commercials was a dramatized plea to get parents to vaccinate their children against HPV. It started with snippets of both boys and girls telling the camera, “My parents didn’t do anything. I got HPV.” “My parents didn’t tell me. I got cancer.”
Care Home Surprises, Example A
“What’s HPV?” one of the residents asked me.
I bravely launched in. “HPV stands for the Human Papilloma virus. It is a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cancer.”
“Fortunately,” I continued, “we now have a vaccine available that is able to largely protect people.” I explained that the point of the commercial was 1.) to remind parents to get their children vaccinated and 2.) to vaccinate their sons as well as their daughters, because males can end up with cancer, too. People tend to think it just causes cancer in women.
“It must not be very common,” my enquiring-minds-want-to-know lady stated.
“Oh, it is. It is very widespread, which is why it is so great that this generation of kids will be largely protected.”
“Oh.” General head-nodding except from two ladies who were asleep. Well, I guess they were nodding also, just not in quite the same way.
My mother, when I turned back to her, was looking at me with her famous you-must-be-kidding look that I know so well. At least I didn’t get chastised for talking about sex. Hey, I was just answering the lady’s question.
This conversation was not what I expected when I arrived that day. It’s just one of many little care home surprises that come my way. Visiting a care home is definitely not boring.