What I know on both sides of the spectrum is the staff that provides the care only knows the person they see. They do not know the person you know prior to being afflicted with this terrible disease. You and others may visit, have photos in their room, and other trinkets of a past life, but that is only a glimpse of a life previous to dementia. Nursing home staff spends a lot of time focusing on the tasks at hand so their residents are physically taken care of, but little time is spent on emotional care. In my own employment experience and other employed care providers, I know a special thing happens when staff members know the background of the person they’re caring for. This kind of knowledge is a basis for a relationship, and emotional care, rather than just physical care. A previous blog I wrote for Great Places, called Love Letters is my own emotional experience working as an aid in a nursing home at 17. This experience of mine has been the basis of my life working and interacting with seniors.
Years later when my grandmother was placed in a nursing home after residing with family, I felt it was important for the staff to know who my grandmother was, pre-dementia. It is nearly impossible to meet with staff members that would have time to hear about my grandmother’s life, so I decided to post it in her room.
I wrote and framed a letter from her family to the staff of the nursing home. This is what was posted;
I felt that this letter posted in my grandmother’s room would give the staff a brief description of who she is, masked by an illness called dementia. It gave staff things to talk to my grandma about…memories to recall. If one staff person read this letter and treated my grandmother better because of it, I accomplished what I set out to do. The letter was typed in beautiful font, on linen paper, and framed with a mat of handmade flowered paper. It reflected the beauty of my grandmother and her life.
I encourage anyone worrying about a loved one living in a facility with dementia to reveal the life and personality of your family member prior to the devastating illness they are living with. How you do it is not the focus. Use what I have done or do something creative on your own, but do make it a priority to emotionally involve the staff in your loved ones care. When you witness staff interacting on an emotional level, rather than just a physical level, your worries will be lessened, and care will improve.
This blog is written in memory of my grandmother, who I adored, and all of the seniors and families living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Angil Tarach can be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org , or www.visitingangels.com/annarbor
The bobs plotter scratches beside the precedent.