Carole had been living at The Lawns Care Home for quite a while, yet her carers were still struggling to get her to shower. Carole would simply say “maybe tomorrow dear,” and would return to her daily routine of watching hours of telly in the communal lounge.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon existence for care home residents. And it begs the question, why get up, washed and dressed just for a day on the couch? Don’t get me wrong, we all enjoy those ‘slobbing out’ days from time to time, right? But if this was all that was on offer for me, I might stop making an effort, too.
However, at the point I met Carole, the staff were really quite worried about her dignity, and the increasing risk of skin sores and urinary tract infections that come from not having regular proper showers. ‘Body washes’ with a flannel can only do so much. From the carer’s perspective, it’s a tough one. They were doing their best to encourage, but ultimately, Carole is her own person, with the right - and at this time, the capacity - to choose her own level of hygiene.
(Unfortunately there are cases where individuals do lack capacity to understand the negative consequences of declining all support with personal hygiene, to which the response from professionals requires a Best Interests meeting and a complex care plan, and an example of this is discussed in more detail in another blog). When Plan With Care introduced Sarah, a Creative Companion, into Carole’s life, the intention was to provide a more fulfilling social life through building a meaningful relationship with someone that shared some of her interests. But an additional and wonderful side effect emerged: Carole herself started to request showers! Time spent with Sarah was now something to look forward to, and a reason to make an effort with her appearance. Such a simple thing as ‘friendship’ can make all the difference.
Carole reconnected with the things that used to be important to her, and it emerged that not only did she enjoy dressing smartly, she was quite the expert, having worked in a fashion retail outlet for many years! On one of my visits a few months after Carole met Sarah, we sat flicking through a fashion magazine together, with Carole critiquing the outfits of the models, no holds barred with the twinkle in her eye. I was delighted, as assertiveness and humour are two of the indicators of wellbeing. Sarah took the time to really get to know Carole, one-to-one, and understand who she is and was, regardless of her dementia. This effort paid off, and is undoubtedly the primary source of Carole’s flourishing. Her better mood has lead to improved relationships with the other residents, and Sarah has shared her findings with the carers, so they too can celebrate the stories she comes back with from outings with Sarah each week, or from reminiscing about her life. Together, everyone plays a part in ensuring that Carole’s later life is as full and fun as possible.
We understand that not everyone has the time or tools to facilitate interventions like this.
If you feel that your loved-one would benefit from ‘a Sarah’ – please get in touch and we’ll find out how we can help.
All names of both people and places have been changed to protect their identity .