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Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Sounds of Caring

One of the first things I noticed when I came to the transitional care center is that there is no music! No background theme to go with our pursuit of wellness. There is probably some scientific or medical reason for this, or maybe too many residents have complained, but whatever the reason I consider this one of the high points of my stay here. Everywhere I go these days I am assaulted by Top-40 tunes or renditions of older songs in Elevator Style. I can't ignore the sound and it seriously bugs me. I want it gone. For a while a few years ago I went around asking people in the stores that had music (which ones don't??) if it bothered them or if it is ever turned off or if anyone else complained. The clerks usually told me it helped them "pass the time". Others said it blocked out more objectionable (to them, anyway) noises. They did point out that they would be happy to reduce the volume if I asked, but this is not what I want. I want it gone altogether.

There was one time when I was in a drugstore looking for something and some popular song came on. Another customer nearby started humming along and moving to the music. Clearly some customers enjoy it and I would not want to deprive them...or would I? Yeah, actually I would, even though it cheered me to watch this woman. Whenever I witness a person just being themselves spontaneously I am usually cheered by it.

Instead of music here we hear calls for assistance, which are simple beep-like sounds, accompanied by flashing lights on top of our doors, and sirens, which go on when one of the more fragile patients moves outside restricted boundaries. The siren can mean a serious emergency. The calls usually just mean help me to the bathroom or please I want more drugs.

This is a social place in some respects. There are two main sections, twelve beds (six rooms) in each, and each section has a living-dining area, where people gather at any time of day. Certain people are out there all the time, chatting up their neighbors. Sometimes the television out there goes on and I hear (or partially watch) the news or a cooking show or, for some reason, 2-1/2 Men, which seems to be a favorite around here (maybe just because there are limited choices). I have gone out there to join the small group from time to time, and had small pleasant conversations of no particular consequence. Most of the active hours there is a lot of chattering going on in the rooms, the hallways, the social areas. Only after about nine at night does it become quiet.

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