Monday, November 02, 2009

Reading Rules

We took care of a CVA patient for about a year and then discharged her a year or so ago as she was medically stable. She just came back on to hospice last month. She is bedbound and mostly blind thanks to maccular degeneration, thus limiting how she spends her day. The hospice chaplain and I had taken turns reading the entire Chronicles of Narnia to her during her previous hospice admission. She really loved listening to the stories and I enjoyed rereading the books. In fact, I was disappointed whenever the chaplain had read to her because that meant I missed out on a chunk of the story myself! As I assessed her activity level and interests this time around, it was apparent she had not been read to in awhile, although she did have an audiobook to listen to. There was a stack of mass market paperbacks next to her bed so I told her what she had there and she picked the one she was interested in reading/hearing. She chose a book by JD Robb, who is apparently Nora Roberts' alterego. Nora Roberts has had many of her books adapted into Lifetime movies, if you're not familiar with her work.

It is an interesting process to read a book aloud. Sentences that make sense while you're reading to yourself sometimes sound awkward when read out loud, especially when it comes to what I like to call "fluff books." Fluff books are enjoyable to read but either lack depth or are poorly written with interesting plots. The book I'm reading to this patient is definitely a fluff book. It's a science fiction murder mystery and it's interesting. I try to properly pronounce the futuristic technology but she seems to appreciate even when I get it wrong.

I usually do not edit any book that I read to a patient, with one exception. I do not use the F-word. I think it's a waste of a word and generally something else will suffice. So when the F-word is used, I substitute it for something else. I don't feel bad about this because Robb/Roberts used the F-word in one sentence and then changed it up to "fricking" the next sentence. No big deal, right?

What about reading sex scenes to a patient? I should have known that there would be a sex scene where Nora Roberts is concerned. I'm reading along when the character's husband comes home from his business trip. They're very happy to see each other, if you know what I mean. As I continued to read, I was freaking out in my head. This is so awkward! Is this even appropriate to read to someone? Should I just skip a couple of pages? Maybe this patient likes the author because of the sex scenes- then I would be depriving her. In the end, I did read the sex scene, albeit as quickly as I could. And now I just hope that there won't be any more in this book!

So what do you think? Is a little editing OK here and there? Would you have read the sex scene to a patient?

Update: Before reading further to this patient, I asked her specifically if she wanted potential sex scenes to be read to her. She quickly answered "yes, please do!" And there we have it. From now on, if I'm reading a book selected by the patient, I will first ask them their preference regarding cursing, sex scenes, and violence.


Jerry said...

Frankly, I would never read a book to a patient if there was even a chance that sex would make an appearance in it.

I'd be comfortable with the swears, though ;^)

Aren't our little quirks funny (not funny 'ha ha,' but funny 'peculiar') when it comes down to it?

Matthew Scholtes said...

I work for a non-profit which transcribes printed materials for people who are blind or print disabled. This can include letters, medical instructions, books, magazines, instructional materials and more.

Our volunteers must read materials as they are written, following Library of Congress standards. Sometimes a volunteer might not be comfortable with a given book (for various possible reasons). If that is the case, we assign it to a different volunteer.

I realize you are in a less formal position in reading for this person, but still, I feel that if one accepts the job of reading something for someone who is disabled, one should respect their wishes by reading the material accurately (or, at least, as the listener requests it to be read). If one is uncomfortable with this task, the ideal would be to find either someone else to read it, or find a pre-recorded audio version of the book.

There may be a pre-recorded audio version of that same book available, either through your local library, or through the NLS. You can help people sign up for NLS services at:

LeighSW said...

Thanks to you both for the input. I agree it's important to read a book as is, which is why I did read the sex scene to her. Next visit I think I will tactfully ask about her preference and take it from there.

SocialWrkr24/7 said...

Haha- this is one of those topics they should really talk about in a mastrrs program! I can at least tell you that they usually skip the smut when you listen to books on tape. :)

In response to the comment you left on my blog- being a psuedo auntie is the BEST.

shallowfrozenwater said...

hi, i know you don't know me but i read to my wife at night. i've actually read some pretty raunchy stuff and we've pretty much decided that it wasnt a great experience. i also didn't edit but i do edit a lot now. i now will also not do the F-word thing but i probably don't edit much of anything else.