Privacy in weakness

Green dialog bubbleI remember when my grandfather was in a nursing home. He wasn’t able to get around easily, his hearing was poorer, he would sleep more and seemed tired most of the time.

It seems that he had much less privacy than he did when he was living with my grandmother and aunt. People could come and see him at any time. He didn’t have the opportunity to say no.

When they would need to draw blood for tests, they would take it from a vein in his hand. We never knew whether he was screaming out of fear or pain.

The people in the nursing home lost most of their privacy in their weakness. It wasn’t up to my grandfather to decide when or what to eat. The men and women living at the facility often went to the central area of the halls to sit and wait through the day. No one to talk to. No one to listen to.

It was work for the staff to get my grandfather to the rest room or get around for the day so that added to the indignities he faced. Bathing I’m sure was difficult—someone you don’t know is taking your clothes off and doesn’t really take the time to help you understand.

When I’ve been a hospital patient in the past, I took it for granted that people I didn’t know would come and go. The nurse that helped me Friday night, I might never see again. I wouldn’t know the ultrasound tech who was examining me. No one one asked if I wanted my friend that was there to wait outside.

I read the book “Privacy” by Garret Keizer. He was visiting a hospital and the doctor he was following asked if Garret would go with him to see a patient. The doctor mentioned that he’d ask permission. The author’s response was that he wouldn’t go in; that it wasn’t fair to ask the patient. “How do you say no to the the doctor that gives you your pain meds?”

When there’s an imbalance of power, the powerful one needs to be especially respectful of the others privacy. People in a nursing home are in an imbalance of power with almost everyone and their privacy suffers as a result.

I wrote him a letter once that made him very happy.

I wonder if he was depressed. No one asked him.