Updated: Apr 26
On Wednesday afternoons, I would look forward to visiting George. He lived in an assisted living facility with his partner and would spend his day in his chair, quietly looking out of the window. A wonderful traditional English gentleman, it was so easy to love his calm and patient manner. He would sometimes kiss my hand as I left after a visit and offer me some of his much-loved Maltesers.
I was very lucky to have lots of information about George, which made it easier for me to come up with a variety of ideas for approaches that I thought might appeal to him. Approaches using reminiscence are a great way to be able to share something from the past. They give people a feeling of control as they are the ones sharing something with another person, rather than being the one that is receiving or listening to information.
As luck would have it, George’s partner happened to mention one day that George once lived in a village called Hawkhurst, which is 12 miles southeast of Royal Tunbridge Wells. I knew Hawkhurst well and that there were lots of lovely pictures I could download onto my tablet that he may recognise. I could use them as memory prompts, creating the opportunity to reminisce.
I had pictures of the church, and a parade of shops. When sitting with George and going through them, he suddenly brightened and became very animated. He spoke very little usually but he excitedly pointed at the shops and began telling me he lived in the house opposite and grew up there. I was a little taken aback but overjoyed that he had this reaction, and I knew that I had to explore this further.
I decided to take a trip to Hawkhurst. I took lots and lots of pictures as I wasn’t entirely sure which house would have been his exactly. Hawkhurst is a quaint, pretty village and apart from the supermarket, Tesco, it probably had not changed that much. I even took a video as I walked down the street (I received a lot of strange looks while doing this!).
I looked forward to being able to share these pictures with him. When I arrived, George was dozing in his chair, so I knelt at his side and very gently placed my hand on his arm so as not to startle him. George had hearing loss, so I was always very mindful when approaching him. He calmly woke and placed his hand on mine while smiling. I took my usual spot next to him.
After our usual meet and greet, I passed the tablet to him. We started with the video, which showed my walk down Hawkhurst high street. George’s eyes widened and a huge smile lit up his whole face. He started pointing to places, then he started to talk – and quite a lot! So much so that his partner came over to see what was going on. He pointed to a shop and told me that it used to be a pharmacy. He spoke about the village hall, and he told me how he would look out of his window at the high street as a young boy, and that he used to play the organ in the church. To see George suddenly light up in this way, and for all three of us to share in this moment, was a real honour and a fond memory that I will always treasure.
If you would like to know more about how we could use approaches like these when supporting your loved one, please do get in touch.