“My aide treats me like I’m an idiot,” Katrina typed to me on her talking computer.

“What do you mean?”

“She thinks I don’t know what’s going on!”  Her eyes radiated her emotional pain.  “She’s a bitch!”

A series of strokes had stolen Katrina’s ability to speak, leaving her a silent observer of her surroundings and interactions.  A former schoolteacher, she carefully typed her perspective on the world to me, hunt and peck with one good finger on each hand, then pushed a button that released them in a mechanical female voice.  The computer saved her, but it was a slow process and the only way to prepare a sentence in advance was to store it in a memory key.  We’d set it up so that Control-H was “Hello.”

“Does she know you can type on the computer?”

“That bitch won’t give me time to type!”  Her brows were furrowed and she appeared ready to explode with anger.  Her enforced silence was a frequent topic in our sessions.

“Let’s use psychology with her.  We’ve got to show her how smart you are.  And we need to make a personal connection to shift the dynamics.  Is there anything you know about her we can use?”

Katrina thought a moment.  “She used to work nights.”

“Perfect!  What if we set up a macro that said, ‘How do you like the day shift?’  That way she’d know you knew her well enough to be aware of her schedule, and it would set up a friendly tone.”

Her eyes lit up and she nodded.

“What memory key do you want me to program?  Hey, what about B for bitch?”

Katrina laughed.

I set up the macro and she pressed Control-B for practice.  “How do you like the day shift,” the mechanical lady said.  We discussed her plan: Control-H, Control-B the minute the aide came to her bedside.


The next week Katrina was beaming when I entered the room.

“Did it work?”

“Everything is different,” she typed.  “She talked to me like I knew what was going on!”

“You pressed the key?”

“I didn’t have to!  She just knew!”  Katrina was smiling from ear to ear.

“Well, isn’t that interesting?” I said.  “All we had to do was put it out into the world, and God took care of the rest!”

4 thoughts on “Control-B”

  1. If I could give everyone I work with one gift, it would be the sense to treat every resident as if they are still part of the world. Talking to them makes such a difference, even if it's one we can't see.

  2. From your writings, K.Tree, I know you do give them that gift. I wish every staff member realized how much their mood and presentation affects the residents. Treating people like people makes all the difference in the world.

  3. Periodically, we have photo displays in a common area of all of our Residents when they were young and whole. For some reason this impacts the staff in a very profound way. Sometimes, I think staff get into this visual rut that Residents were "born old, frail and helpless". This display reminds them that these folks could probably out smart, over achieve and walk circles around them on any given day when they were in their prime. It humbles the staff. It's worth doing every now and then, just as a collective reminder!

  4. That's a great idea, Anonymous, and I hope some facilities read your comment and try it out. On an individual basis, I encourage residents and families to put up youthful photos and perhaps post a brief bio in the room.


Leave a Comment