#DementiaDO…Remember ME! Capturing a precious moment in time
The idea for my challenge came from a chance meeting with a gentleman living with dementia. I was called to provide urgent support to a patient in distress on one of the wards. The staff reported him as ‘kicking-off’ and wanted me to ‘sort him out!’ He actually wasn’t being hostile or aggressive, he was feeling lost and frightened and once reassured, was happy to engage in conversation.
Part of his dementia meant that he struggled to find the right words to use and would ‘go-round-the-houses’ to describe something he was trying to tell me. (It’s called ‘circumlocution’. Instead of saying ‘I’m in hospital’, a person may say ‘I’m in a large place where doctors and nurses help you get better’).
Anyway, he told me that he used to build with wood (joiner) and he was very good at it. I asked him what was the most impressive thing he had built and he started to describe a large wooden tower on a hill, not far from the hospital, in a town beginning with ‘F’. I asked if people could go up the tower and he replied “Yes and they had to pay to come down it!”
I tried hard to think about what he was trying to describe and, with more questioning and the help of google, managed to find an image of what I thought he was trying to describe to me – a huge helter-skelter on Frodsham Hill!
I printed the picture off for him and took it back to the ward. “That’s it! That’s really it!!!” He was really overwhelmed to see the picture and started to cry. I told him he must be immensely proud of what he had built and could see the pride swell. I then asked him if he had ever gone down it. He replied:
“WENT DOWN IT? I WENT DOWN IT BEFORE WE BUILT THE “EFFING” SIDE RAILS FOR IT! YOU DO SOME DAFT THINGS WHEN YOU’RE YOUNG!!!”
How fantastic! I went back to the office and wrote down his reply, with context and no ‘F’ word, next to the picture on a word document. There was room at the top for a heading so came up with this…
I put the whole thing together, laminated it for infection control purposes… J… then gave it back to the gentleman. The response was immediate. He started to show off the picture to the staff and also to his family who had turned up to visit. They had no idea he had built England’s largest wooden Helter-Skelter and were quite emotional about it.
A student nurse went past and asked me if that’s why a pub in the area was called ‘The Helter-Skelter’.
I referred him on to the master joiner with the advice:
“See the person, not the dementia”.