music holds the key...|
Sound Connections Internship, George's blog post - Final Thoughts - 6/4/2018
At the end of the day, it is a privilege to work with the elderly. I often thought while working at the facility that it is simply remarkable the amount of life that these people have lived. The knowledge and experience they possess was, at times, staggering. This is not to say that it was easy work. It could be very sad, challenging, frustrating, and at times felt almost hopeless. Such is the case with people who work with and for humans with debilitating diseases. Alzheimer's and dementia are two of the hardest things to go through and to watch someone battle with. At times, it was easy to dehumanize these people, especially those without the ability to speak or communicate nonverbally. But despite all the hardships it is indeed a privilege and one I shall remember and carry with me for the rest of my life.
My days at the nursing home were at times repetitive but I soon learned that for these elderly people, repetition was key, and even comforting. After multiple visits my name and face would eventually (at least usually) stick in their minds and then I could see their eyes light up with recognition rather than confusion when they saw me. That was a small victory in and of itself. I learned to be patient repeating myself and speaking slowly, to take a step back and put myself in the shoes of these people who are unable to move or speak any quicker than they were.
This is perhaps the way in which I think I have most changed since beginning my work with Sound Connections. It is not often that people in their 20s get to spend days and weeks in the company of people in their 80s and 90s, and without Sound Connections I would likely have not gotten to experience those types of interactions until I was much older, perhaps in my 80s or (god willing) 90s myself. The opportunity was not wasted on me, and I often left the nursing home with an increased vigor to walk and run, live and laugh, after having seen those who can no longer do so without some difficulty if at all.
In conclusion, I cannot recommend the Sound Connections internship enough. It is valuable both to those elderly who so badly need to form connections with human beings beyond the nurses and family members in their day to day lives, but also to the volunteer who can experience a sneak preview of their own old age, perhaps, and demonstrate and practice a little humility and kindness in a world in increasingly desperate need of both.