Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Voice and Choice

We went to see the movie 'Contagion' on Sunday and, while there, saw something that I wished were actually contagious - good care. I often see people with disabilities at the movies with staff or paid carers. Almost without exception it seems that the staff think that they are going to the movies and taking the person with a disability along - rather than being there to enable the person with the disability to enjoy the movie. I remember once watching a staff berate a person with a disability for deciding on popcorn just before the movie started. The staff was going to miss the start of the movie. Um, excuse me, but you're job isn't 'movie watching' ... but I think that the question of whose needs need to be met is answered incorrectly most of the time.

Not this time.

The fellow with the disability made it through a little over half of the movie before getting fidgety. This movie is quite talky ... and at some point the fellow seemed lost by the movie so he began looking around at other people and squirming around in his seat. In fact, this is when I noticed him. We'd come in a little late so most were seated already by the time we took our place. I noticed the staff lean over and say something to him quietly, I saw him answer by pointing at the film and smiling. (Note: I wasn't staring, they were almost right in my sight line. I noticed the movement.)

About ten minutes later, just as the pace was picked up and the plot raced towards the conclusion, the fellow with the disability indicated that he was ready to go. Without question, without debate, without subtle pressure, the staff smiled, gathered the stuff and got up. The two of them quietly left the theatre, I heard them going down the aisle way towards the door the staff's voice saying, 'Well, what would you like to get up to now?' There was a warm friendliness in the voice. No trace of annoyance that the staff was going to have to go about the rest of his days not knowing if the world was saved or damned.

I don't know who the young man worked for, I don't know who trained him in respectful care, I don't know how it was that he came to see his job as going with, supporting at -- rather than 'movie watching' and 'taking a tag-a-longer'. But however he came to it, the realization showed. He did himself proud, He did our profession proud. But most of all, he allowed a young man the opportunity to make decisions, to utilize choices and to have a voice that mattered.

Voice and choice, the fundamentals of good care. Simple. Easy. And, beautiful in practice.

8 comments:

Belinda said...

Whoever he was I shout "Bravo" to this young man, who didn't know who was watching.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but are you certain this was in fact a caring staff person, and not a loving family member?

tekeal said...

that is so nice to hear, regardless of caregiver or family member...

Dave Hingsburger said...

Ms Debbie Downer, I don't mind your question at all ... yeah, I'm pretty certain this was a staff member, not a family member. And, I'll get killed for this, I think that this would have been equally, if not more, remarkable if it WAS a family member. Anyways, sometimes I simply need to have readers trust that I'm seeing what I'm seeing, I don't want to always outline how I came to a conclusion.

Kristine said...

Gold star for him!

I'll even award a second gold star just for being a "him." You don't see enough males in these kind of jobs, at least that's what I've observed.

Mike Mayer said...

Thanks for the good news...we all need an example of what "should be" to follow at times.

Crow Jane said...

That made me smile.

Amanda Forest Vivian said...

I think it's different with a family member or non-staff friend because in that case both people's preferences should be equally important (taking into account their respective abilities to tolerate frustration/restlessness without getting really upset). I think a lot of staff, even if they care about their job, don't understand that doing something with someone when you're being paid isn't the same as going somewhere with a friend. Barring some really high need on the part of the staff person (like needing to sit down or needing to go to the bathroom really badly), there shouldn't really be compromises between the two people. Sometimes I feel like staff think they're helping or teaching a disabled person to be more thoughtful by encouraging the disabled person to compromise, but really you're not doing your job if you don't do what they want.