Friday, January 22, 2016

Informing Caregivers What Your LO Was Like Pre Dementia Is Important

"Who is this?"  I often wonder as I spend time in nursing facilities or dementia units, does the staff who interact with the patients actually know "who this is"?

Every dementia patient has a past. Just like everyone does. But how many times does the facility, or anyone for that matter know who this person was before their diagnosis?

I can imagine a facility where there are patents who were avid golfers once upon a time. A facility where they have past school teachers. A place where more than one patient played some sort of musical instrument in their day.

The thing is these people, everyone of them had a life before this horrid disease started ravishing their mind and body.

I am not living in the land of Oz here, I realize that there is only so much time in a shift, and only so many staff members helping these people. No one has the time to sit down and talk about old times for a half hour or so.

But what would it hurt if the staff or anyone who comes into contact with the patient just mention something to them about what they did and how proud their family must be of them.

Will they hear it? Will they understand? Some perhaps. Most, not likely. But it takes nothing but a little bit of time. Just that extra little something to say, "Good morning Miss Janice, one of the best school teachers to come out of Hillstreet School system."

Let them know, that you know that they were somebody, that they are somebody, and you know about their past.

When staff ask me what can be done to help make the patients lives here more tolerable, I ask them, "What does your staff know about each patient?"

Do they know anything about them? Do they know their first names, or what they like to called? When their birthday is? Maybe what town they grew up in?

All these are just little tidbits you can say when interacting with these folks. And the thing is you can do this everyday. Because of their memory loss they will never realize you asked them that yesterday or even just minutes ago.

It may just raise a sparkle in their eye for just a tiny second. It may make just the smallest of grins come across an old tired face. They may just sit there and stare blankly into the wall.

But the thing is, it doesn't cost a dime. It doesn't take but a minute, and perhaps, just maybe it will reach them.

Staff members need to do this. Family members need to do this. We all need to do this.

Leeanne Chames and I Skyped yesterday like we do about three times a week. I went back and watched it. And I saw something. I saw a man I hadn't seen for sometime. I saw a man talking about who he was. What he had done in his prior life before this disease took everything from him.

I watched as he talked about working in law enforcement. I could see a spark in his eye I hadn't seen in a long time. He was reliving what he was, what he had done, what he loved to do.

It was only a few minutes, but he was there. The man I knew. The man who told everyone we would get through this. I saw no darkness in his eyes, I saw him talking and sharing stories. He was so proud.

I hadn't seen this man in a long time. Even the man in the mirror looks strange to him. But there he was yesterday. In all his glory. Talking to another wonderful friend about who he used to be...

©   Rick Phelps  2016