The care home is a vague, looming shadow for all of us. We all know we might ‘end up’ in one. We also know that when the day comes, we might not have the energy or power to make the decision for ourselves. And although people do make that choice, no-one I know has ever said ‘I am looking forward to the day I go into a care home’. Simon Foster, Equip 4 Change.
I could do a a whole load of whistle blowing on care homes – but I don’t want to get into that game – things are never as simple as they seem on the surface – and I only get an hour or so here and there …… HOWEVER….. it is certainly true that the ‘vibe’ is there from the moment you walk in the front door! IT IS THE MANAGEMENT and the knock on effect to the carers and their knock on effect to the residents ….. and the sound of laughter !
Knowing the chat and laughs sparked off by 1940’s footballer cigarette cards during a reminiscence session – I totally support this project !
In the shoes of Tony Jameson-Allen | Co-founder of The Sporting Memories Network C.I.C.
Moving home every day
I am moving home … Address changes and utility bill sorting and removal van booking and ….. Blah blah ! Those are practicalities – but had a really strong emotional reaction the other day ! Then I thought …. If I feel this then what does a person with a dementia feel like every day … Maybe every minute ?!?
The emotions I felt were these ….
I have bonded with this house and what if I don’t with the new one ? We are not taking this sofa and I have a real cosy secure feeling about this sofa ! I don’t know what it will feel like walking out of the new flat and into the new streets and neighborhood ! What if people don’t know where I am and I miss post and things ? What if it simply feels wrong ?!
Then I thought ….. But what is it that makes a home ? Being with my partner ( on any sofa) … And having our things around us … Pictures and bits and bobs … Love …. Home making ….
So … Maybe a person with a dementia does have a constant nagging emotion of uncertainty and fear of change not understood and confusion of location ..,BUT … If the cups of tea, smiles, hand holding and cosy familiar items are present … Then maybe those emotions can be gently tipped from negative to positive ?
Just a thought !
How random does that heading sound !?…
Well … Let’s face it most of my days are full of the wonder of random connections! Dementias might seem to be about broken connections … But in some ways the missing pathways and stumbling tangles make for some fascinating connections !
A little way into my reminiscence piece the other day at an Alzheimers day group .. a lady began connecting – in a pretty lucid way – some of the events I was referring to – with – her bowling … ( I later learnt she is a keen bowler and it is the one thing she is still able to actively take part in) …. I had guessed this interest and of course made sure I responded and concurred with the connections she was making – it brought her to life !
Another lady who was content but pretty withdrawn … Suddenly opened her eyes and smiled and looked up at me and made some observations ( not lucid but that didn’t matter at all ) … She was responding to the archive radio clip I was playing of Richard Dimbleby coronation broadcast … A strong trigger for many !
The connections may have seemed random … But connections are connections random or not – and they signify life affirmation!
An excellent activity organiser was encouraging residents to dance during my reminiscence show yesterday – fabulous to see – and just how it should be ! Then there was a ‘moment’ … I was singing … a resident was dancing with activity lady … Who then encouraged his visiting wife to start dancing with him instead – they danced …. My voice cracked … But . … Hey .. I’m a professional … I held it together and continued the song … Whilst this lady danced with the physical body that is her husband … The hands holding and bodies swaying … But her eyes averted … How could she gaze into the eyes of a man that in so many ways seemed a stranger …. But the love and dancing memories lingered on in the remaining depths of that amygdala and shattered neural pathways … I knew the moment was happy there and then … But my tear ducts had reacted to an emotion that recognized the loss …
Boy oh boy …. Brains and emotions are so magnificently and maliciously complex ….
Instant mood change!
This is inspiring and relevant to all those involved with caring for someone who has a dementia …. Read on !
I was doing my ‘majestic memories’ reminiscence show (www.trishalewis.com) in a care home this morning – a home I have regularly visited over the years …. And a show I have done ‘umpteen times over last few weeks in celebration of Diamond Jubilee ….. But something was wrong ….. A usually bright and engaged lady was sat expressionless and in stony silence….and I felt her mood …. But i had to carry on with upbeat show …. 2 songs in and some interesting triggers explored …. And still no change … No interaction …. My whole being was having to work hard to resist the drag of the powerful wave of this mood…. Was it anger …was it depression …. Was it sadness …. Disapproval ….? One thing i knew for certain was I wouldn’t humour her or force interaction ….. I carried on ….even a rendition of Gracie Fields ‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake ‘ didn’t reach this lady … Who normally loves singing ….. So …. Song number 4 … ‘on the street where you live ‘ …. Still no change ….. And then the switch … This is how it happened …
ME: I love that song …. It’s from that musical isn’t it … Um . What was it called ( i knew in reality ) …. Er …..
LADY: ….Bonnie Líes over The ocean’
ME: Oh – I love that song – how does it go … (i start to sing softly ) …
LADY: ( taking over) (sings 2 verses with gusto) !
( this wasn’t part of my 1953 reminiscence show …. But who cares …. All I cared about was the unlocking of this lady’s mood …. !)
It didn’t stop there ….. From that moment on – till I was packing up and saying goodbyes …. And I suspect beyond …. Her mood was completely transformed ! She sang, she reminisced …. She was interested … Engaged …. Smiling …. Dancing ( seated dancing ) to ‘Boomps a daisy’ … Laughing … Interacting with other residents ( who in turn were caught up in her joyous mood )!
The lesson …… Don’t give up …. One positive aspect of dementias is that moods can alter in a second … Finding the trigger might be a bit hit and miss …. And shouldn’t be forced …. But it will come …. And the satisfaction is immense !
One word was all it took … A word with a pause after …. A space for the trigger to be taken and expressed …. MY …. ( ok so it was ‘my fair lady ‘) …. My ….. ( an individual’s word association) …. My ….. ‘ Bonnie lies over the ocean ‘! Fabulous !!!
And then …… Go with the flow !