As dementia progresses with a loved one, it can be exceptionally traumatic when they fail to remember close relatives and times they have shared together. One of the ways to make this easier for everyone is to start creating a memory book. This is similar to a photo album, although usually contains a lot more description alongside each picture – perhaps an anecdote about the day, rather than just the date and location. It is also important to write who is in the picture – you may think it is obvious, but in time the relative you are making it for may struggle to put a name to a face. Just make it simple from the word go!
Another good idea with memory books is to make them ‘themed’. That is, make one for birthdays, one for holidays, one for past-times and hobbies, and one for relatives and families. This may seem daunting, but some may be very small, and only a few may be larger. You don’t need to include every photo ever taken of your mum with your son at his birthday parties for example, but just a few to jog memories and encourage conversation. And, if you’re a family member making a family book…encourage a close friend to make one of their friendship with the person – the more the better, and the responsibility doesn’t have to fall solely onto one or two people’s shoulders.
With today’s online technology, it is possible to make a memory book online – many sites offer templates and software that will do all the hard work for you, as long as you provide the photos and information! This way is good if you have a lot of digital photos, or want to send multiple copies to various people. However, there is always the old-fashioned way, better for most if they have many printed photos, or they don’t feel particularly computer savvy! Either way, this is a fantastic opportunity to go through photos and memories with family and friends…it might be emotional, but it will be so very worth it in the end!
We thought we'd take the opportunity on St Georges day to highlight some of the fabulous English manufactured products that we stock. Here at Age Enable we are always on the look out for fabulous quality products made right here in Blighty.
Since we started trading we have always been a huge supporter of AJ Way and their beautifully crafted chairs that they have been making in High Wycombe for nearly 80 years. High Seat Chairs and Riser Recliners produced in a huge array of fabrics and sizes. They really do give the personal touch.
A real expert in back care and pressure relief right here in England. Harley is the brand of choice for many in the Health Care industry. Up in Preston they manufacture everything from orthopaedic pillows, back supports, memory foam mattresses and pressure relief cushions.
Lack of time to get everything done was a big complaint by staff when I worked in a nursing home. Often relatives find that an elderly relative will have their abilities deteriorate when they go into a care home or start receiving home help care, and this is often down to a loss in their independence. And time (or lack of it) is quite often the route of the problem.
As a carer, when you’re in a rush in the morning and assisting Mrs X by putting her socks on for her may seem harmless to some, but actually in a few months Mrs X (who, when she came into the care home, could put her own socks fine - it just took 15 minutes) can no longer do it at all. You might still be asking her if she wants her socks on so she has the choice (which is obviously important), but you have also de-skilled her. Over time, these things build up and in the end, Mrs X needs a lot of help with everything, when she could have managed alright if she was given the time.
There is a fine line between supporting someone and helping them. Support might be putting their stocking on a stocking aid and then allowing them to do it themselves. Help often ends with people just doing it for the person. Chances are, if it’s saving you time as the carer, it’s not actually helping the person you are caring for in the long run. This is why, if the relative is still in their own home and you are caring for them or they are receiving home care, it is important to ensure that every piece of equipment is in place to allow them to do things for themselves – like bath rails and stocking aids – as this not only helps them retain their independence, but also allows them to retain key skills that will disappear long before you realise they’re gone.
Saturday, 16th March 2013. 08.10 hrs:
Pushed myself, in wheelchair, into my shower room which was also my lavatory. Pulled myself upright, using the only disability aid in the room. Turned half-right and lowered myself onto the padded lavatory seat (padded, incidentally, at my expense – to be well worth it). Did what I had come to do. Felt around for bell cord to call carer to help me off as folding bar (my expense again) was in the upright position. Cord was definitely missing. Not worried as both door to to room in which I was sitting was open as was the main door to my bed/sitting room. Called as loud as I could for help. No response. Repeated until... 09.15: at last, a carer responded. She popped her head round the corner and said “What’s wrong? I’m feeding a lady.”I replied that I was stuck and could she help. She replied “I’ll tell someone” and disappeared.
Nothing happened. I was beginning to get both cold and frightened (the room was unheated) and I knew that carers would be busy serving breakfast. I waited until I thought I heard voices in the corridor and shouted again. Nothing. Continued shouting at intervals.Eventually another carer appeared. By this time I was both scared and enraged.She entered, must have seen my predicament and asked why I had not rung the bell. Where is it ? “Silly, it’s behind you” and left. Reached as far as I could. No bell cord. Called again. Carer appeared and asked where I kept my (rubber) gloves. Can’t remember what I replied but it was probably rude and very loud!
Silence. Shouted some more. Now shivering and becoming disorientated. Eventually a cheerful Bank (doesn’t work for one Home but is hired in place of Home’s regular employees – at twice the cost) carer appeared. Anne, a strong lady, helped me to get up, as by this time, task was beyond me. Cleaned my bum. Pulled up pants and trousers. Positioned wheelchair behind me.
09.40 hrs: Sat down. Nurse Gwen came in. Turned up radiator and put my fleece over shoulders. Words of good cheer.
14.15 hrs: Went on shopping spree.
Resilient old bugger, I hear you say!
I was talking to someone I had just met and when it came up that I was a care assistant the first thing she asked me was “Do you take care of yourself?” I thought this was an odd question and I replied with “well…I eat food and shower regularly if that’s what you mean…?”. Turns out what she meant was: did I still wear makeup and perfume? Did I get home from work and do the things I enjoyed like cooking good food, listening to music, socialising with friends. She was truly concerned that because of the physically and emotionally demanding nature of my job that I wasn’t doing the things I enjoyed to support my own mental well-bring. And when I thought about it, I wasn’t. Not like I had used to. I wasn’t enjoying myself like I had, or even doing simple things like bothering to put makeup on. Many others I worked with felt the same.
I’m not saying that I didn’t love my job. I loved working with elderly people, and feeling like I was helping them to retain a level of independence that they craved now they were in a nursing home. But for many carers, their role as a carer becomes a description of who they are entirely. And that is all, especially those who are a primary carer for a relative. For some that may be fine, but for others it may be severely impacting on their mental well-being. Feeling stressed and tired often comes with this role, but if you feel like that all the time and it is impinging on your social and family life, and what you want to do, then perhaps consider seeking help. Most age-related and carer charities have helplines, online advice, or befriending services, that can offer support. This might be all you need. But if you are really struggling, then consider going to see your doctor for professional help. There is no shame in getting help yourself, because then the help you give others will be so much more effective. And the chances are, the person you are caring for wants you to be healthy and happy too.
We are now stocking the Lifemax High Vision Reading Lamp. Recently citied by the Daily Mail as one of the best gadgets for later life. A great product for those with limited vision or who do a lot of close work, such as needlework.
BUY NOW: High Vision Reading Lamp
I feel that education and training is always targeted towards younger people. Certainly, a lot of my friends want to undertake as much education as they can right now, because they think that when they get older, have families, and ‘settle down’, they will neither have the time or the money to be in education.
More recently, I’ve come to believe this doesn’t have to be the case. First, with the amount of online training and courses such as the Open University out there, you don’t even need to leave your own home to work. Second, for most courses there is usually a part-time alternative allowing you to work and balance family responsibilities at the same time as your course. This is not to say it would not be hard; for some, even being able to find time and financial resources to do that may be impossible. But what about when you are older still? Your kids are grown up and your family responsibilities are lessened. Maybe you’re nearing retirement age but don’t feel ready to change your lifestyle?
I was recently at a university interview day for a Masters in Social Work and the first thing I noticed was that I was the youngest person there. I’m a couple of years out of my BA and some of my friends have already completed their Masters, so it surprised me. And aside from some of the people being 5 or 10 years older, there was a man there who said he was nearing retirement. He had spent most of his life working with people, but he didn’t like gardening all that much so was looking for a new challenge.
Talking to him showed me that, for some people, it is not too late to retrain and start something new. Some may say he was ‘too old’ to be retraining, especially in Social Work which is known for its long and stressful workloads. But I commend him for pursuing a new dream. He has a wealth of life experience that few could bring to the role, and for a job like that, it will get him a lot further than the ‘life experience’ of a barely-twenty-three-year-old! Plus, he was giving himself the confidence boost in retaining financial independence, but also making a difference to people’s lives.
Writing this blog was fuelled by a recent article in the Telegraph, but the point of my post is not to say you must go back into education or training as you retire. But if there is something you really want to do, and you have the drive and resources to get there, then don’t let your age hold you back.
Every week in the care home I worked at, a PAT (Pets As Therapy) dog would come and walk around the lounge and all the rooms in the home to see the residents, who would be able to stroke him and give him a treat. On several occasions a donkey came round, and once, a rather large pony! And for nearly every single resident, this made their day. Their faces would light up; they would talk to the dog, with the owner and then talk to you about the pets they used to have when they were younger. And even though I wouldn’t have wanted a pony traipsing through my lounge, they loved this too! Many of them, had their circumstances been different, would have happily had a dog or cat sit in the lounge with them the whole time, and I believe it would have had a hugely positive impact on their mental health. For people with dementia, where it may jolt a memory from the past, especially if the visit by a PAT animal can be combined with photos of old pets, it is particularly beneficial.
Having a pet in old age has proven health benefits – providing companionship to help prevent loneliness, security, improved social life (if you have a dog and are able to take it on short walks), and relaxation by stroking your pet, are just a few things that having an animal can enable. And even if the elderly person in question is unable to care for an animal themselves, I definitely recommend looking at the Pets As Therapy website, to see if a visit can be arranged on a regular occurrence.
It is important to keep in mind if an elderly relative decides to get their own pet, that even just a little animal like a rabbit can cost a lot of money and so available finances must be taken into account. Plus, if there is even a small chance that circumstances will change so that the person can no longer care for the animal, then arrangements must be in place – either written in the will, or arranged with a trusted relative. The Cinnamon Trust is an excellent charity which provides a walking service, and short and long term fostering if circumstances do change.