I never thought I’d hear myself say this but I bought a $100 clock. Those that understand my frugal inclinations understand it’s an oddball thing for me to do. It’s not even an especially beautiful clock with gold embellishments or a high-tech clock that announces the time in a booming voice in the morning. It’s actually a pretty gaudy thing with huge neon blue digital numbers and letters against a black background.
I bought this clock for one reason and one reason only—it allows my mother to know the day of the week.
It’s a small convenience that undoubtedly many of us take for granted but was a PAINFUL loss for my mom after she lost her eyesight. As a matter of fact, I visibly saw her shrink when she was forced to ask other people the time and saw her frown deepen when she realized how far off her calculation was.
I bring up this seemingly insignificant clock for what? Dignity. A partial definition from the Royal College of Nursing: “To treat someone with dignity is to treat them as being of worth, in a way that is respectful of them as valued individuals.” That being said, you can put a price on a clock; you can’t put a price on Dignity.
Furthermore, I happen to believe one of the main measurements of dignity is the ability to choose for yourself. It struck me that while my mother was holed up in hospitals and rehab facilities that her freedom of choice was noticeably diminished. By nature of the environment and circumstances, people constantly invade your room without permission in the wee hours of the night like ninjas, poking and prodding with needles and fingers and scopes and whatnots. Even for someone with 20/20 vision, this may be jarring; for someone experiencing blindness, it’s annoying and often horrifying.
I noticed that even her loved ones sometimes moved or touched her without her permission—myself included. “The way you are laying…doesn’t it hurt your neck?? Let’s move you up in the bed a bit.” Was it out of love? To protect her? Perhaps. Or maybe subconsciously, it was a bit of a superiority complex that compelled us to act without asking first (the ultimate form of respect per Dignity definition).
Taking care of someone who is sick, you witness the most excruciating mourning of their self-reliance. Right now, my mother is grieving the loss of her ability to use the bathroom on her own. She cannot stand the idea of someone changing her diaper—cleaning her “filth” as she once called it–especially her own daughter.
I try to imagine what it’s like for her and I always fall short. I remember my mother as someone who wouldn’t ask for $1 if she was stranded on the street with no shirt on her back. A proud woman indeed who worked her finger to the bone for 30 years at the same company, forgoing a lot of her own dreams so we were never lacking. It’s for this reason that I try to refrain, whenever possible to likening this tender stage of her life to “reverting back to infancy” which a lot of people do. While there are many parallels, this woman has loved, toiled, reveled, fought, struggled and prevailed. Experiences that are way beyond “babydom.”
So I strive daily to uphold CHOICE as much as possible in our home because as the Royal College of Nursing puts it, she is “of WORTH!” And if a $100 clock punctuates that for her, so be it!
Truth be told, I think the topic of Dignity doesn’t have to be limited to Caregiving. So I ask you (as I constantly ask myself), “How are you expanding choice for those you love and those you serve?”