Posts Tagged With: Carers

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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My blogs are very much straight from the horses mouth ….( strange expression come to think of it !)…

My gosh …. I use loads of strange expressions, sayings, malapropisms…. Don’t we all ?!

So how does this all work out when it comes to communication with people with a dementia I wonder ?

I think it is a fascinating part of our rich world of words!

To be continued …..but I am at the Edinburgh Fringe at the moment …. So off for more words !!! ….

Back live ! ( another expression !)

So – here’s my thoughts on non-literal language use – based on personal experience in communicating with people with various dementias …

Many articles will advise against using metaphor, idiom etc as it is confusing for the listener … But I am not so sure about this . Surely it is more about the WAY in which you communicate more than the specific words. Expressions that have been widely used over the decades certainly seem to trigger response ….. Elbow grease, glad rags, Sunday best, waste not want not, all dressed up and nowhere to go, icing on the cake, …. Daft as a brush ! I agree that newer expressions might not work too well …. Totally wicked !?!

But when I am using the expression I am also using body language, context and facial expression …. So that’s the main part of the communication – non verbal as its called ….

I have certainly listened to metaphor-rich stories or chattering from people with a dementia …. Infact there are many insights to be had from careful listening to meaning behind and beyond the literal …. After all – surely the oft expressed plea ‘I want to go home’ is using the notion of home as ‘safe secure and familiar’ …..

Word finding difficulty is a common problem in some types of dementia – and of course every person remains an individual – and I am only sharing my own experiences …. It is just another way of looking at things perhaps to consider if the less precise and literal WE are in our words the less pressure the LISTENER might feel in attempting to find precise words ….?

I once had a poetry making session with some lovely ladies and gents in a hampshire care home … A total blast ( yet another daft expression !?!) ….
I took a coconut and wooden mixing spoon along as props to trigger of and inspire poetry ! Trust me – it worked ! The objects took on characteristics and relationships … And a story …. Now if that isn’t playing around with non-literal … ?! I will find that poem and post it on here …. Keep looking !




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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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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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