Sunday 13 November 2016

Two Eyed Seeing: The Common Wisdom of Aboriginal Peoples and Caregivers

Last week I happened to be in Toronto for a Master Class in patient and family oriented research. I'm passionate about putting the patient and family experience at the heart of research so that we can have programs and services based on the truth of what happens at home when those we love become ill or infirm. 

Anyway, that course is where I first heard about Albert Marshall, an Elder of the Mi'kmaw Nation in Nova Scotia and a passionate advocate of cross-cultural understandings including an idea call Two-Eyed Seeing. 

Two-Eyed Seeing (or Etauptmumk in the Mi'kmaw language) refers to learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of Western knowledges and ways of knowing... and learning to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all. 

It's clear how this idea can transform the conversation between, for example, social policymakers or health care providers and members of First Nations communities.  But I began to wonder if this idea doesn't apply more broadly to all caregivers. 

First of all, caregiving is all about Two-Eyed Seeing. Take yesterday. Fresh from a three hour case conference about Nick's nursing care on Friday, I visited Mom yesterday. She needed groceries, so I drove over to the store around the corner from her apartment. As I pushed the cart up and down the aisles, I looked at the strawberry mini-pies. Would Mom eat that? She's not hungry these days - what could I buy that would tempt her. Over there, boxes of frozen sausage rolls were on display - Nick loves those!  I could pick one up for my boy and drop it off on my way home. Reflecting on that short shopping trip, I was thinking with four eyes - four, counting Jim at home because I was thinking about what to cook for dinner last night, too.

In advocacy, in research with patients and families, in working with physicians and policymakers, we need to ask everyone to join us in practicing Two Eyed Seeing. This is the duality of life at home looking after someone we love. So if people in 'the system' want to help us, they need to understand that.

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