February 7, 2011

Subculture: Shadowing

6.00 pm

She begins sitting on the couch, she is watching the entertainment news programs. She switches to a country music channel. Her husband is wheelchair-bound. It is a very quite house. They are both very quiet. While we are talking to her, Steve makes sounds, Dianne tells her helper that he needs to go to the bathroom. But Dianne doesn’t help with this, she tells us she can’t do all the physical lifting, that’s what the helper is for. She feels kind of awkward with us here, she seems really stiff. We sit for a while, making small talk. He husband thumps his foot against the wheelchair, and mumbles something. He cannot form words very well. She gets up and goes straight to him. He talks to her again, not making any words again. She is talking to him in a quiet, soothing voice. Simple language. Not like talking to a child, but still very basic. She somehow understands what he’s saying–Joseph and I don’t understand anything he says. She wheels him over to the kitchen table, and sets his out place mat. His is very still, she says that she must have been right that he was hungry. There is a younger woman in the kitchen, she is one of the part-time helpers (she is younger, looks like her twenties?) Dianne joins her in the kitchen and works on preparing the meal. It’s something mushy. She sets the food in front of Steve, and she helps him put his special silverware in his hands, and then the helper takes over for her. We continue with the interview.

From the shadowing, Joseph and I gleaned some key insights to the everyday life of Dianne, a woman who is on the "heavy care" end of our subculture spectrum. We did this shadowing when we initially came to interview her. Earlier, during the interview, she mentioned that she is very reliant on media sources such as the internet (she loves pandora), email, and her television with satellite. This seemed to prove true as she was always a bit distracted by the TV But when her husband needed help, she was quick to jump to his aid.
Sitting with her, we got a clear idea of what some of her values were. She values the time that she spends with her husband, in contrast to the idea that he could be in assisted living right now instead. She does all that she can to keep her husband with her. Her shortcomings include her physical limitations that keep her from being able to give him full care. Because of this, she relies on the 24/7 support of hired helpers. She says that it is hard to find helpers for certain hours and certain days (like no one wants to come in during church time).
Anyway, her simple language is something that seemed to show her speaking style, as well as her knack for patience (an essential skill, all care takers have noted). Even though it is unclear to other people, Dianne was able to understand what her husband said to her, and he seemed to understand what she was saying back to him.

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