I’ll never forget when granny went into residential care. We wanted her to stay in her house for as long as possible; but as time went on it was clear that she wasn’t able to cope – with the stairs and the cat and the business of life. As time went on and she became more frail, the doctors said ‘she needs round the clock support’. So we looked at all the different homes that were available and chose the one that seemed kindest and best.
The staff were professional and did their job well. But they didn’t see my granny: the woman who loved cats and murder mysteries and had a filthy laugh. They saw a patient; an old lady, as faded as the photos on her dresser – photos of a world that had since passed.
This week I read about a campaign called ‘Face to a Name’. It was launched by the daughter of a woman being nursed through dementia. The daughter brought in a small black and white picture of her mother as a young woman – laughing and vibrant. When she showed it to the nurse, the nurse looked at the picture and said, ‘Oh my god, that’s your mother’, then burst into tears. She showed it to the other nurses and it transformed the quality of her mother’s care. As the nurse explained, knowing a bit about her patient made an enormous difference – instead of being one of a queue of elderly strangers, she was someone to whom she could now relate.
It’s a great idea and I hope it makes a real difference. But it’s also a reminder to me, when I push past others in the check-out queue, or snap at the call-centres who phone during dinner. Each of these people have stories and value that can’t always be seen. How we relate to each other now, shapes who we will also become. When someone sees you as nothing, you believe you are nothing. But if they see in you beauty and hope – it becomes a possibility. I’m praying God will help me put faces to names and to see others as He does too.