Week 8 of our “in my shoes” series, looking at dementia from different perspectives, continues today with a thought-provoking guest post by Trisha Lewis. As a professional entertainer and actor, Trisha specialises in providing reminiscence sessions and entertainment with triggers and music…just the sort of creativity we need to bring a bit of fun and happiness into the lives of people living with dementia…
When I was younger I used to have two recurrent nightmares – I was being pursued and needed to phone the police for help but I kept putting my finger in the wrong holes and it took forever to wind round and it was always the wrong number…Meanwhile my fear was increasing as my attacker got nearer…
The other was that I really believed I was awake and all my bedroom seemed real and I had woken from a nightmare … went into my parents room for comfort… but they laughed at me and told me to go away…
I was devastated at their uncaring responses and convinced I was awake … I was not! I never want to feel helpless and unheard like in those nightmares – who would?! I never want to feel I don’t exist as a REAL life, awake individual!
I do just wonder whether some residents in care homes might sometimes have such nightmarish sensations sparked off in the remaining connections and chemistry of their brains…… but then it occurred to me that maybe the carers could feel like that too ?
Here’s the scenario I witnessed….. and have done on many other occasions over the years!
I had been booked to do one of my reminiscence sessions in a care home I go to about 2 or 3 times a year – I am aware that the activity organiser is going to be away on holiday. The residents are in the lounge watching (or not)Wimbledon ! Some residents seem keen on idea of entertainment, others are sleeping , one seems reluctant and another who was sitting right in front of TV is annoyed that she can’t carry on watching. I can see that no carers are going to be involved in the session over and beyond getting the residents into the lounge and in place. It is now up to me to make the atmosphere as pleasant as possible. It is not up to me to force anyone to ‘blinking well enjoy themselves’ or even join in at all! I just want to make everyone feel comfortable and have a sense that they are free to continue with their afternoon in any way they choose. Of course I hope they will choose to stay and enjoy!
The lady asks what is going on and can she carry on watching tennis….. the carer has moved her away from the TV and to be honest dismissed her requests.
The session gets under way – this lady seems quite relaxed now and the reluctant lady also stayed and seemed reasonable happy! The sleeping lady woke with a beaming smile when I started singing ‘If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake’! No surprise – we know music is magic! I know that reminiscence delivered thoughtfully is also magic….. but what do we know about that carer? – or thousands like her? – because they too are individuals who need caring for!
I go to the next home – and lo and behold – a whole different atmosphere! The Activity organiser is not only there but VERY engaged! The carers seem in good spirits and even the receptionist is cheery.
So….. do we get annoyed with the carer in the first scenario – doesn’t she care? Does she dislike the resident? Well – I doubt it! The thing is the carer has as much right and need as the resident to be treated as a REAL life awake individual. Had she had a bad day? What is happening in her life? Is the management supporting her? Has it all become a dull routine of toilet duty and unreasonable demands? Is anybody listening to her? Maybe there doesn’t need to be such a dividing line between carers and residents – sharing is part of caring and residents might rather like the feeling that they can care for the carer in some way ….. now there’s a thought!
Trisha Lewis @DementiaUnravel