As the Guardian of a ward with Autism, I have grown to love and respect the nursing home staff members who have taught me so much about his disease and care.
My ward is a 67-year-old adult who was found in an uninhabitable home and unable to care for himself after his brother’s death. Following a hospital stay, my ward was sent to a nursing home that could accommodate his needs for in-house kidney dialysis. He spends most of the day in bed with a blanket over his head. If his routine is disturbed, he bites his hands, yells, punches himself in the face, and hits his hands against the wall. He flails his arms and once broke his own leg.
The nursing home caregivers have taught me to respect his preferences. I speak to him in a very low tone of voice, and as little as possible. Too much sensory stimulation upsets him, and I never remove the blanket from his head. As a result, he recognizes the sound of my footsteps and voice. He knows I am the cookie lady. Once I enter the room, he hears the crinkle of my Chips Ahoy package. The blanket comes off his head and he extends his hand for a treat.
I have never seen such a strange and awful disease as my ward’s Autism. What I thought would be good for him in certain circumstances, such as a private caregiver, has not worked out. But, I have learned that with this disease, I have to accept what makes him happy and not what makes me happy — as long as the outcomes are beneficial or at least neutral for him, with no adverse implications. Thank you, Autism caregivers, for your guidance on this journey of learning and mutual discovery.
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