For a Bank Holiday Monday it was unusual to be heading off to work but hey, what else would I be doing on a beautiful hot day? It was to be the start of a mixed week of revelation and determination. I was determined this week to spend more time with the residents and get to know some characteristics and start to understand capabilities. Plus there was the Bingo effect: more about that shortly.
I was developing the routine of starting the day with writing some ideas down, the 30 minute drive into work with its beautiful country views was inspiring for some reason. A chat with cook as I made a cuppa was always enlightening. She was happy to support me in whatever ideas I had that would benefit the residents. After working pretty much solo all my life, this team work was proving to be fruitful. I was talking to anyone who asked what ideas I'd had so far and was judging their reaction. This in turn was teaching me a lot as the conversations developed into them sharing their knowledge with me and me getting to know them as people and them me.
Where is Home?
I was seated in a lounge reading some notes about a resident when one of the guys was getting more and more distressed. 'I wanna go home' was all he could say. No amount of support was making him realise that this was home. I sat quietly and watched as the staff tried to sooth him, taking him back to his room to get him into familiar surroundings, but he didn't settle for a few hours. It was then that I had a chat with a nurse. Where is home? was it here, his last house, his family home as a child? Maybe if he visited any of those, he wouldn't feel at home. Home is a feeling. A feeling of safety and love where you felt comfortable she explained. These words stayed with me and had a profound effect on my understanding of dementia as a whole.
I also got to see the pride the staff got from doing their job well. A support worker took from his pocket a crumpled card and offered it me. A lovely thank you from a family of a man he cared for thanking him for all the work he did with their relative. It made that young man proud that he had an effect on someone's life for the better.
And along came Bingo
No, not the game but a fluffy orange ball I had bought in.
Bingo was duly named after one of the Banana Splits [you can tell my age remembering them!] everyone who saw him immediately smiled. A good sign I figured but it was about to be tested. One of the gentlemen who sat in the window was feeling very low and I went in to see him for a chat. A local man who was a POW and had an OBE, he was usually chatty but today he wasn't. I took in Bingo, what effect would it have? 'What the heck is that?' he asked. 'This is Bingo my boyfriend' I said as I offered it to him. He chuckled as I offered Bingo to him, 'You daft bugger' he said, but he was happily feeling his fur and bouncing him slightly on his knee. Bingo was a success!
It was agreed that Bingo needed his relatives to visit each unit...so off I went in search of them. They were to make an appearance later in the week.
Meanwhile I chatted to residents and staff, spending some quality time with a male nurse discussing the ideas I had and learning from him as he had done my role for a time. His enthusiasm was infectious and he gave me some great information. We were on the same wavelength: it was seeming like I was going in the right direction. Anyone with any length of time in the care roles made no bones about telling me that my job was difficult. I'm glad they are all so honest. I'm also glad of my organisational skills, they will certainly be coming into play in a big way. I was relishing the challenge.
The Bingo Effect take 2
So, it was time to unleash the Bingo family to the residents. What would they think? Infact, what do you think? What would happen when I left them to it, would they create havoc?
I wandered the units, dishing out the balls, leaving the kids: the small Pukey and Chilly in Reception in the care of Admin. [I won't go into the bizarre conversations we had about these guys, you would think I was bonkers.....] I wondered if the staff or residents would take to them, only time would tell.
There are therapy balls I've now found that you can buy that are textured I've now discovered, so I hoped these would be similar in their effect. I found out much sooner than I thought. On my morning meet and greet on Thursday I could hear laughter [for once not mine, the staff always knew where I was], it was coming from the lounge upstairs. I stood watching through the window. Yoric was in action! [Yellow furball]. The support worker was deep into a one to one session with a male resident. Back and forth, back and forth, bouncing in the middle, throwing high high then low. I asked if I could join in and before long the resident was doing dummy shots and spinning Yoric so he was hard to catch! He then decided to put him on the floor, lifting him with his toe and also spinning him on the spot with his hand. The resident was happy and smiling, chatting and enjoying the interaction. These furballs were proving great therapy!
I left eventually with a big smile on my face. I felt proud and happy that I had helped bring smiles to people. Lets hope it continues!