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Language Barriers

Can’t Always Be Solved With An App

I never realized how important it was to learn my native language until one of my parents suffered a massive stroke and was unable to easily communicate with us. I came to Canada as an infant, so luckily, I spoke Italian and English. As my parents forced us to speak only Italian at home, my siblings and I encouraged my parents to learn English so that they could communicate better with everyone. One learned better than the other. But when my parent who could speak better English fell ill, we were told at the hospital not to be surprised if they would revert back to speaking their native tongue.

I had never been so happy to have had the language pushed on us as a child. It took several weeks for my parent to be able to speak, after coming out of the ICU, and when they did, their words did not make sense so frustration would set in as they tried to talk to us in their weakened state and their new words. They had suffered something called Aphasia. The part of the brain that controls language and comprehension was damaged. The words most likely made sense to them but communicating was difficult. I would often look at my parent’s eyes, to see where they were looking, hoping it would help me help them. When they were able to speak, it was usually in Italian, so we still didn’t know if they would retain any of their English.

We continued to speak both languages to my parent, hoping the words would come so that not only would they be able to talk to the staff at the hospital, but to the grandchildren who understood little Italian. One of my siblings brought in their kid’s old cue cards and had them thrown in their face, the frustration of having to relearn words, too much for my parent. Working with the therapist, we tried to get my parent to write with their unaffected hand and that was too much too. We went easy not wanting to inundate them with so much information, but at the same time, we hoped they would retain much of their speech. As time passed, we realized some words were coming back in both languages, but they still had difficulty trying to say the right words.

If they wanted to say up, they would say down. If they wanted us to lift the end of the bed, they would say shoes. So, they tried to help us understand them and we tried to understand in return. We began to pick up on their new vocabulary. The therapist working with my parent suggested printing pictures so my parent could point to them in hopes of communicating. Things like moving the bed up or down. If they were cold or hot. Not feeling well. Arm or leg. I printed several pictures and prayed it would help. It's been several years since that day we almost lost my parent, and now they are both in a nursing home, much to my dismay. My one parent who is the healthier one, cannot speak English well and my siblings and I listen to them as we talk over the phone, (given all the lock-downs) as they speak fully in Italian to the staff.

Then they get frustrated when the staff doesn’t understand them. They even speak proper Italian, not even dialect, like that’s going to make the staff understand them better. Sometimes, it's funny and we shake our heads. Other times it’s frustrating since we can’t just jump in the car and help them out, given the lock-downs. My other parent, who was the one that fell ill, actually had retained some of their English and at times would help out with a word or two, the staff laughing that the one we thought would have the problem, turned to be the helper. I am so grateful for these new language learning apps because the staff now point their phone to my one parent and are able to decipher what they are trying to say. Unfortunately, they are unable to do the same for my other parent, but we are fortunate that my one parent is there. They relay the messages in Italian, and the staff does the rest with the app.

So, if you are ever questioning why your loved ones want you to learn their language, there is a reason for it that none of us would ever understand. But the Universe has it covered! So, if you ever thought about learning a second language, do it!

SR John

Bipolar Love Caring For The Caregiver 8 Simple Steps To Self-Care now on Amazon Ghost Detective The Magic Ruby Writer

Author S R John Ghost Detective The Magic Ruby

Bipolar Love Caring For The Caregiver 8 Simple Steps To Self-Care

Life Coach - Coaching the Caregiver - Supporting those that care for loved ones

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