For people living with dementia, remembering what’s happened recently or even in recent days or weeks can be challenging. They may experience confusion and thoughts that are not based in reality. So while residents at Hugh Green may have just finished their lunch, they may ask for a second meal not long afterwards.
Gail Gunn, Senior Caregiver at Bupa Hugh Green’s Shannon Community, has been working in aged care for 25 years. She is a passionate advocate for managing dementia symptoms by supporting the resident’s requests to reduce stress and distress.
Gunn explains, “For our residents, what they are saying or believing is real and their reality. Saying ‘no’ can often cause frustration and stress. We have a rule of thumb that we never challenge or refute any requests, instead we either support or redirect the resident’s train of thought to help change their perspective.
“If a resident wants a second breakfast, we organise it. If they want to visit their mum, we may say that it’s raining, so perhaps it’s not the best day for a visit and that we’ll organise a catch-up for next week.
“If we were to challenge what they wanted to do or constantly correct them, it would be distressing for our residents and also stressful for our caregivers,” Gunn says.
People living with dementia often reflection back to long past memories. Gunn explains, “We have women who believe they have babies to take care of. To accommodate this, we have a little nursery with a bassinette, realistic baby dolls, a rocking chair and toys.
“One gentleman gets dressed every day and says there is a young lady at the door waiting for him. So, we go and have a little look and I say maybe she will come back in a while,” Gunn says.
The team work hard to preserve fond memories through conversation, activities, and prompts. Gunn continues, “Each resident has their name and a photo of their younger self and a current image. Another wall in the dining area is covered with photos of the residents, their name, and their occupations. There are teachers, bandleaders, nurses and carpenters.”
Beth McDougall, Bupa’s Dementia Advisor of 14 years says that a person-first approach drives better care within the dementia communities. “A resident who is living with dementia no longer lives in our world as we know it. So, we need to move into their world and their reality,” she says.
“It’s most important for our team to really know the person, their previous work, interests, abilities, social and family roles and their cultural and spiritual values. When we know this, we can then understand and appreciate the resident to make each day the best it can be,” says McDougall.Beth McDougall | Dementia Advisor