When Penny’s care home declared they could no-longer support her needs, we were brought in to help find her a new place to live, in an area that would be meaningful to Penny - and then see what else could be done. Moving home is considered one of life's most stressful experiences, let alone when living with advanced dementia, as Penny is. The staff reported she was often refusing any help with personal care, leaving her at high risk of skin and urinary tract infections, alongside reduced personal dignity.
First visits are really important. In a care home setting I will always knock at the bedroom door, introduce myself and ask permission to come in - just as if at the front door of a house - mindful that this is the person's home which needs to feel like a safe, private, personal space. I also bring a little something with me such as flowers which I find a good start and a conversation opener.
A kind member of staff introduced Penny and I, and while she was happy to see me and loved the flowers, it was clear she was a little wary of me. She had apparently barely spoken with the mental health team and social workers who had visited, so I knew I had to take things very slowly.
We chatted awhile, and then Penny disengaged so I decided to leave it there for now. Before my next visit I met with a friend of Penny’s who was happy to share her likes and dislikes to help make it easier for me help her to settle in a little better. He informed me that she really likes to have a notepad and pen to write down lists (a lady after my own heart!), the guardian newspaper, a nice box of tissues, and a can of Fosters!
On my return I asked the nurse if it would be ok to give Penny a can of Fosters and the nurse agreed. Penny was over the moon - she had the biggest smile on her face! We chatted for ages and she was really animated. We discussed how challenging it was in coming to a new place, but also accepting help with things. She told me that she used to be a very capable and independent lady. She let her guard down and sobbed… I gently held her hand and when the time felt right, empathised with how hard it is to adapt to these changes.
We explored how I could support her into keeping as much of her independence as possible, and with her new notepad, we wrote an initial list of all the things that would make her feel more in control and comfortable with her time here.
First on the agenda was an eye test. She had brought with her some glasses from the other home, but her friend had indicated that these were not even hers. Penny desperately wanted to see better so that she could go to the library and choose her own books to read as she really missed that. Having glasses would also mean that she could read her Guardian Newspaper as she loved to know what is going on in the world and feel more connected to it, so we made this our main priority.
I spoke to the lovely nurse on duty and informed her of Penny’s wish to have an eye test, and she arranged a visit from Specsavers. It was agreed that the home’s mobile library could be easily moved to Penny’s room for her to choose a book at her leisure, and the Guardian newspaper could also be set up for delivery every morning.
I returned to Penny’s room and informed her of the good news - the look on her face was priceless! And so began a wonderful Companionship... I hope to update soon that Penny is feeling much more comfortable accepting help and fully settled in 🙂
This blog is written by our amazing Wellbeing Companion, Carrie. The name of the person she supports has been changed.
If you know of someone in a carehome who could do with 1:1 support from a Companion to ensure they're flourishing, please get in touch with Alise:
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