Posts Tagged With: care home

Rainbow switch

Somewhere over the rainbow is a truly magical song !

I mean this in more than just a ‘wow great song’ way …. I mean – TRULY MAGICAL !

There are many blogs which agree !

Earlier this week I was doing a reminiscence show based on the theme of days out and seaside trips …. At one point I put on a plastic mack and rain hat and clutch old fashioned thermos … And refer to the often inclement weather on British seaside holidays …. But how magical it is when the sun breaks through … And there is a beautiful rainbow ….. Cue song …..!

On the very first bar of the song – I had probably only sung the famous 2 octave apart notes – a lady who had been silently hunched with closed eyes …. sat upright and opened her eyes which sparkled and smiled … And remained alert and clearly ‘joyful’ throughout the song ! Magic !

Another previously sleepy lady started tapping her foot in time and another mirroring my hand movements – embracing the music !

This is not a one off – of all the hundreds of songs I sing or play in hundreds of settings with people with various levels and types of dementia – this is amongst the most ‘triggering’ switch ones!

I have thought about why – and of course it is connected to the minor key, the octave leap ( maybe registered by hard of hearing ) , the words …. But of course a lot of these ladies and gents were adolescents when ‘Wizard of Oz’ was released – technicolor and all ! So their brains were at a highly sensitive stage of development … Memory thrown down and embedded with a big plonk !

There have been some wet eyes and cheeks too …. But a) I think tears are a sign of being alive and b) I follow it up with ‘luvely bunch of coconuts’!


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My somewhat obsessive behaviour about feeling ‘right’ within a space …. seems to be getting even more obsessive as the years go by !  So I reckon that in x years time if I were to be in a care home setting I would be an utter nightmare for carers !!!  ‘Can’t sit here!  I want to sit there! She’ll have to move then !!!’

The other day I was half way through a reminiscence show when a lovely lady ( who was enjoying the show) started asking for something – quietly….  I went close to her and heard her more clearly – she wanted to move position in the room – gesturing towards a spot where another lady was sat ! She was in a wheelchair so I said I was not good at wheelchairs but when the carer came back in she could try to move…..( I carried on singing and defused the situation for a while!)  The lady was happy – but she asked again after the end of the show….  so I found a carer and mentioned the request…..  she immediately came and found a solution with a little bit of chair moving!  Not all carers to be honest might have responded so promptly – and I do understand – after all it would be tricky to respond to absolutely every individual request all the time……….  but I must say this is one request I was VERY sensitive to !  I know how agitated I feel ( without dementia) when I am not sitting where I feel comfortable!

I get wierd if I have my back to the room in a cafe….  or sat too close to where the loos are….. or sat with back to view…. or….. well – I am picky !!  But I CAN express my requirements and nearly always be where I want to be!  Sounds can annoy me too – too much noise, too little noise, wrong kind of noise…  TV on at volume that is barely audible ( rather have it louder or OFF!)   This list is quite long – all these little personal quirks of likes and dislikes !  And actually I am quite an easy going person !

So some of that agitated behaviour seen in a person with a dementia might be nothing more than – sat in the wrong place?  Too warm…. too cold ( I hate sitting under the air conditioning vent in coffee shops!)…. chair too high, too low….  too many cushions…. not enough… !!!  I know compromises have to be made – but maybe sometimes a simple adjustment could make a world of difference?  Just a thought !

Ah ……  the other side of this could be simply – ‘that’s MY place!’ – It’s where I feel at home, secure and safe?

When it comes to personal obsessions about environmental needs – my biggest one is – getting outside and close to nature – tress, birdsong etc…..  this is an interesting post on that very subject :-

Back to nature – a bit of "natural" Twitter brings huge benefits….

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Cuddly cortex

Take a look at the photo on the 1953 Woman’s Own … Now picture the situation I found myself in the other day …..

There was I – in a lovely Hampshire County Council care home in Gosport – towards the end of a reminiscence piece about the year 1953 …. Residents of mixed stages of dementia ….

I mention the various souvenirs of the coronation and show this magazine around … A lot of ‘ahhhs’ ensue !

Then one lady goes a step further with her response – she wants to ‘hold’ him …. ‘him’ being a 4 year old Prince Charles! But of course it was just a photo of him – not the real thing ! I was really struck by the strong instinctive urge to ‘cuddle’ !

Well – no surprise really – we all like cuddling don’t we !? Infact – the following day I was on the South Bank of the Thames … A city break …. There outside the Tate Modern was a group of assorted lads and lassies all holding little placards saying ‘Free Hugs’ ! Tentatively at first … I took my first freebie … Then relaxing into the idea … Took a further 6 ! Fabulous !

Keep on cuddling ! It’s a life force !


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Role Reversal Rules!

Carers deserve thoughtful training ideas like this – it is always a useful exercise to experience being in someone else’s shoes (
This training by looks interesting


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Moving emotions

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 !


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Sadness of a happy moment

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 ….


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Instant mood change

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 ( 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 !


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