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Silence Is Golden

So I have spent the last two nights in a student “Res” on the Stirling campus in Scotland. I have long forgotten my undergrad student days, boarding school days and sharing a dorm with 35 men during national service. I have not forgotten my intolerance of inconsiderate people who speak at the top of their voices and slam doors whilst others want to sleep… Thanks to extreme safety measures, there are fire doors just about every five meter in this building, all of which slam with a bang when someone does not know how to properly close a door. At 01h00 in the morning…

Of course, I could not help to imagine what it must be like if you cannot escape this. If you are helpless and at the mercy of others, not being able to get up and shout at someone for banging the same door for the hundredth time whilst trying to sleep.

Imagine being in “frail care”, not being able to speak, living in bed, fully conscious. The intercom system screamed, “NURSE SMITH, COME TO THE OFFICE PLEASE, NURSE SMITH!” Unexpected, loud, suddenly. Staff talking at the top of their voices, trolleys rattling, someone else’s radio blaring terrible music. (My neighbours in Res were playing music that sounded like an oriental opera…). A television on “Noot vir Noot” (I cannot forstand the sound of Johan Stemmet’s voice!) I would go insane…

The brain, in fact for me – the soul – needs silence. Absolute silence. To reboot, to rest, to recalculate. In so many Care Home settings people feel the need to constantly have piped music – Andre Rieu and Kenny G will definitely drive me to drinking the cleaning chemicals. Why do so many human beings feel the need to constantly make a noise, albeit the noise of their own voice, the ringtone of a cellphone, humming, singing, and nattering?

Someone in a Retirement Village in KZN once told me that the only place in the home where she can have some form of silence is on the toilet. That is where she reads her bible and says her prayers.

We have to consider the impact of the environment on well-being. Some (strange) people can cut out the noise and be still. Many people cannot do that – every noise is an intrusion into their brain, into their Being. It is almost as bad as not ever getting restorative sleep – your brain simply never rests. For a brain that is already challenged with atrophy of some sort, this must be HELL. Pure, unadulterated HELL.

Yes, I love music. I love to listen to music when I feel like it. I love to listen to the music that I like, which is very specific. I like to chat, when I feel like it, and with people who I like and choose to chat with.

The past two nights I realised again that people do not “suffer” from being old, frail, or living with neurocognitive impairment. They do SUFFER from being in a world that is not aware, a world that is focused on DOING, rather than on BEING. A world where silence is not golden, it is gone! And that if I ever, God forbid, end up in a Care Home having to share my space with others who are loud and inconsiderate, well I will go bloody crazy. No one will hold me accountable for what I get up to, I promise. Be warned.

“True silence is the rest of the brain, and is to the spirit what sleep is to the body, nourishment and refreshment”. – William Penn

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