As part of being a Creative Companion, care homes sometimes request that we purchase any necessary toiletries or clothes for those who do not have friends or family. I particularly love to do this, and I try to be as specific and personal as possible! Identity is so vital to a person’s self-esteem and wellbeing, so I always try and make sure that the items bought are to the person’s taste and liking. Clothes can reveal what is distinct and unique about us; they’re an outward expression of how we see ourselves. It always reminds me of a lady I once knew that only liked to wear orange, and how she would have felt about herself if I had bought her different coloured clothes – how this would have affected her feelings of self-confidence, identity and worth.
I have one lady who I know likes Marks and Spencer’s clothes only – practical and not ‘girly’. She does not like jumpers, preferring warmer tops, zipped or buttoned at the front, so she can easily get these on and off herself, as she likes to be as independent as possible. She feels more comfortable in corduroy trousers. I have another lady who likes nightdresses to be long, but not down to the ankle – instead, just over the knee, with long sleeves, not short. She likes them to be of a stretchy material to make changing easier and less distressing.
I have also learnt when taking toiletries into a care home setting that it is important to label the items so that they are less likely to be misplaced. I either put on white labels or use a marker pen to put on names and room numbers. If I am sending items through the post, I find screw capped lids are less likely to leak. Spray on aerosols and perfume are not allowed in the post; to get around this, I send roll-on deodorant.
I have one lovely lady who is very tactile and loves to hold your hand or have her hair combed. She likes looking and smelling nice. So, I tend to take in nice hand creams. We enjoy smelling them together, which is a lovely sensory experience. We tried rose and lavender, but our agreed favourite is sandalwood and patchouli. She takes great pleasure in having her hands massaged with different hand creams – I always try to get the stronger smelling creams so she can enjoy them.
Although they may seem small, these things can make a world of difference to somebody, and can do so much to support a person to retain their uniqueness, identity and individuality.
To read more about the role of a Creative Companion and what we can do, read our blog ‘A Magical Moment’, where I talk about a visit I made to Clare in her care home.