When silence is golden

Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

We don't have crickets in long-term care, but we should. They're very soothing insects. Experts on Crickipedia maintain that they actually emit four different sounds — a calling song, an aggressive song, a courting song and a copulatory song. Most human communication fits into those categories as well. 

Given the choice between listening to crickets or the sound of a human discovering gravity from the top bunk at 3 a.m., I much prefer crickets. One memorable night at a Wyoming hostel, I was shaken awake by something extremely heavy hitting the floor of the room next door, followed by loud cursing.

After paramedics tramped up the stairs in their steel-toed tap-dancing boots and administered treatment while apparently communicating by megaphone, the guest was noisily removed. Re-attempting sleep, I never needed a calming choir of copulating crickets more, but they were frightened into silence.

In long-term care, we still sometimes struggle with the concept of quiet. We can too often be the anti-crickets, working at a volume typically reserved for causing false-start penalties at Seahawk football games. We raise our voices down hallways, have unnecessarily loud conversations in resident room doorways and move about with the subtlety of … paramedics in steel-toed tap-dancing boots. 

I've been guilty of all this myself — it's easy to forget we're in someone's home. At least overhead paging is in decline, or I think that's what I just heard announced via overhead page. “Attention all staff: We will no longer be sharing information like it's an order number at Bob's Burger Barn. This message will not be repeated.” 

Despite progress, noisy long-term care environments are a continuing challenge. But I never like to criticize without offering solutions — Nerf shoes and voice-reducing muzzles, perhaps? 

Because once we lower the volume, then we can bring out the crickets.

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