A productive morning

Hey, hope you’re all having a good Thursday so far?

I have had a good morning ๐Ÿ˜Š I attended a Carer’ Information Drop-In event hosted by the local County Council. I didn’t get to speak to many carers sadly, BUT I have made some great contacts in my bid to start up carer support sessions in the hospital.

One of the things that we value as professionals is the level of support and dedication from the unpaid carers and family members, whose loved ones we see in hospital for a short period, often when they are at their most unwell. It is at this time that the carers also need a greater level of support, time to discuss what is going on, what lead to the admission, often a new diagnosis in the case of dementia. I am hoping to host a weekly session where carers can meet with professionals and support staff, gain information about their loved one’s condition, find out about resources they can access once they are home to support them. I have more names and organisations who I can rope in, so in summary, I am a happy bunny ๐Ÿ˜Š๐Ÿ‘ฏ x x

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Finding Sanctuary

This is my first blog in response to a prompt!

When thinking about the work I do with people with dementia, the word “sanctuary” brings images to me feeling safe and at peace. When someone with dementia is admitted to an acute hospital, these feelings are beyond their grasp.

Imagine being wheeled into a bustling, noisy, white room, with lots of voices and machines. You have no idea where you are or why you are there. People start asking you lots of questions, and you can’t tell them the answer. You may tell them what you think they want to hear “Oh, I’m fine dear”. You start to feel scared, as you don’t know what is expected of you. You’re attached to machines to trace your heartbeat, they take blood from you, ask you to “wee in a pot” – what is going on?

“I want to go home”

“You can’t go yet, the doctor needs to see you.”

“But there’s nothing wrong with me. Let me go home!”

All too often, scenes like these play out and end up with security being called to “manage” the situation. In a busy department, with someone becoming difficult to manage, surrounded by very unwell individuals, it is understandable that staff call security for assistance. However, it doesn’t need to get to that stage.

Our hospital does have Dementia Case Workers who can support people with dementia on admission and in the assessment unit. There are trolleys with activities to distract individuals. However, the environment itself needs addressing. A room where people can find “sanctuary” ย within the assessment department would be ideal. Somewhere less clinical, with less stiumlation overload. Less noise and lighting. Quiet music. Sensory equipment to sooth them. In this situation, people would be more likely to want to eat, to take their medication, to be able to talk without the pressure and the fear.

We all need sanctuary, where we can feel safe and at peace. Where’s yours?

All good wishes,

x x x

The Magic of Music

Happy weekend, all!

Yesterday, I was lucky enough to perform with my friends at a local steam & craft fair, dancing to swing and jive music – my best friend leads a troupe called the Strolling Sirens. An older couple got up and jived together – they had clearly been dancing together for years, as they could anticipate each others’ steps and were so in synch with each other. And they were wonderful to watch, I couldn’t stop smiling!

Music and dancing for individuals with dementia is such an amazing way of making a connection. I have cared for people who were unable to speak, however could sing along to a favourite song; people unable to care for themselves or mobilise tapping their toes or clapping in time to a showtune. It is a magical tool, unlocking memories of happy times for people, allowing loved ones to share special moments with their parent/spouse. Music brings happiness. It connects with a deep seated memory that dementia cannot take away. “Singing for the Brain” groups are a testament to this.

Have a peaceful evening x x

Magic Moments

There are so many special moments that I cherish from my work with individuals and families living with dementia, and today has added to these moments.
I visited a couple, and their amazing daughter, who I have known for nearly ten years. Her Mum has advanced Alzheimer’s and her father has moderate Vascular Dementia. They are now together in residential care, and have been settled there for a couple of years. When I first met them at their flat, they were living relatively independently, with support from family. Things deteriorated slowly, and we organised increasing levels of support in the home. The difficulty peaked when Dad stated he felt suicidal because he couldn’t manage at home and couldn’t understand Mum’s changing behaviours and moods. At this point, we managed to find a care placement and they have settled fairly well. There have been hiccups along the way with physical health problems, and most recently, Mum had a fall and since then, has deteriorated greatly over the past couple of weeks – limited communication, fear and resistance on care intervention, and quite sleepy a lot if the time.
When I saw then today, Mum was quite tired. She did acknowledge me and held my hand, but didn’t open her eyes. The magic happened when Dad joined us. He wanted to sing (firstly, he wanted us to sing with him!), and he began singing a song from a musical. His eyes sparkled and he became animated, acting out the story of the song. Mum, on hearing his voice, began whispering the lyrics too, and at the end said how beautiful it was. There were smiles between them, holding hands, telling each other “I love you”. So much happiness in those few moments, so much warmth and love. And seeing the joy on their daughter’s face, seeing her parents’ joy. Magic.
X x

 

And here I am!

So, after months of pondering, here I am! I have spent nearly twenty years working with people with dementia, and I have always wanted a way in which to share some of my experiences, both positive and more challenging. I would like to share with you where I am today – having spent ten years working as a Memory Nurse, which involved assessing and diagnosing people with dementia, supporting them and their loved ones through this difficult (understatement!) time, and continuing to support them in all aspects of their lives really. Medication, navigating the social care system, advocating for them with the benefits system, liaisong with other agencies to seek the best support for them and their loved ones.

I have been in my current role of a year, working within an acute hospital with the Older Person’s Mental Health Liaison Team. The bread and butter of the role is assessment of individuals with a host of mental health issues, but the majority of our referrals are for individuals with a variety of needs, at all stages of dementia, and supporting the ward teams in their care provision. I am excited to be involved in two new projects within the hospital, and hope to share my journey in these projects with you. Firstly, the hospital is relaunching the Dementia Champions initiative, which means that on every ward there will be staff members with a particular interest in supporting individuals with dementia and supporting their colleagues in providing the most appropriate care for them. The second is setting up drop-in sessions for “carers” – family members, friends, neighbours – of individuals currently being cared for in the hospital, giving them a forum to ask questions and share with others in their situation. These will be run in conjunction with other carer support services in the city, so that the carers will know where they can gain continued support when their loved one has been discharged.

I hope some of my musings will be useful to you, enlightening, educational, entertaining maybe? I will be pleased to hear from you with your thoughts and experiences too.

Good night for now, hope to see you soon x x