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Grumpy Old Men? Think again!

Dig deeper when dealing with difficult residents...

Katrina's Story

Katrina, an AO in Paisley, relays a situation which taught her a lesson early on in her training. "A rather handsome gent called George, came to live in a Residential Home where I was working. He was - I'm being honest - gruff, bad termpered and unsociable. A recent fall had done irreperable damage to his pelvic bone and he was now wheelchair-bound.

I chatted to him, at his pace, but he was never in a mood to speak about anything. No relatives came to visit him and he had brought with him little more than his clothing. During morning exercises he would curse and demand to be taken to another room, which was promptly carried out by care staff. A poor appetite and dysthemia followed. Suspecting depression, I asked the Charge Nurse if they knew what was wrong with him.

The Charge nurse smiled sympathetically. "He's just one of life's grumpy old men".

Then one day, I brought in some old items from a neighbouring bric-a-brac shop. As I sorted through the pile, I noticed George's attention fixed to something below a bundle of hats and stoles. Lifting the bundle, I found the focus of his attention; an old pair of tap shoes! George's face softened as I brought them to him. Years fell from him as he held them up and inspected them. Then he spoke to me, the harshness in his voice softened by nostalgia. "Had a pair just like these, long ago now. I was a dancer". jass hands

This was the most information he had imparted to me since moving to the home. I kept quiet, not wanting to spoil the moment.

"That's how I met my wife, you know. Dancing partners, we were. We were gold".

He shuffled his body within the chair to sit more upright, wincing in pain as he did so. He told me about past triumphs and trophies, competitions, and with poignance, his current lack of mobility. Now I understood. I hung the shoes on his wall and got him busy, rebuilding his life story through scrapbooks we made from pictures on the web. I even had him teach me some simple tap moves which I introduced into the seated exercise session!"

George's story holds a valuable lesson for every Care Staff employee. It takes time to get to know a resident. Sometimes, the only hint of a person's past may be a photograph on a client's bedside table and one can only wonder at the life they led up to that point.

But that is the point: one should wonder. Remember that everyone has a unique history of triumphs, losses, heartbreaks and precious memories.

By helping residents - in particular, dementia residents - to share their stories and a few smiles, we can help them to retain their past and identity for that bit longer.

. Posted in Care Staff Articles