“This is my first foray into writing a blog and it is both challenging and exciting. I am very proud to be contributing to the ongoing conversation about how we may best support those living with a diagnosis of dementia and, in particular, those who live in residential aged care.
For this initial blog entry, I have decided to write in a conversational style that incorporates elements of fiction as well as real life and workplace experiences. The quotes at the beginning of the blog are taken directly from residents’ comments (names changed). I have attempted to reflect upon these quotes by taking you, the reader, on a journey into the mind of someone living with dementia.
Of course, one can never assume to understand totally what goes on inside another’s mind, their thought processes and how they react to daily events. The person dealing daily with dementia experiences the same diverse feelings and needs as we all do and herein lies a key for us: we are all in this together.”
“I want to go home.”
“I’ve got to get back to my wife. You don’t seem to understand! She will be worried sick if I don’t get back soon.”
“I have to go to my mother. She has not been well and I need to be with her now.”
“Please, please help me. I have to go.”
“I am looking for Bill. Where is he?”
“I’ve got to get out of here! Which door do I use to get out of here?”
How reliable is my memory? I wonder at times if it has dulled as names, dates and places visited, fade.
How many times this afternoon have I mislaid my keys and where was it I last had my spectacles? I think I may have left them at work…my spectacles, that is! Where did I last have them? Was it reading the roster, signing the agency staff pay slip…did I leave them on the desk near the computer or perhaps in the resident lounge when I was handing out those questionnaires to staff?
I have purchased a pair of those cheap thin magnifier glasses – you know the ones. I got two for the price of one from one of those discount pharmacy warehouses that have sprung up everywhere. They are replacing the local suburban chemists and I don’t like them. Anyway, where was I? Yes, two for the price of one – a bargain! So I bought them: two pairs and placed them in the glove boxes of both cars; just in case I arrive somewhere and have mislaid…forgotten…lost…my spectacles…or left them at home. Those ones that I now need to read with all the time.
The car keys! Where did I leave them? At home, I had planned to always leave the car keys in the hallway bookcase; the bookcase by the front door in the small box on the top shelf. But the box is empty. I must have put them down somewhere else in the house, near the phone perhaps, no…or on the mantle piece in the kitchen. I sometimes leave them there. I am always in the kitchen before leaving for work…got to make a sandwich to take to work and fill a water bottle (dry throat)…got to put the dog out on the back verandah with a bone…he hates it when I leave for work… being left at home…wants to come with me…in the car…loves the car. No, the keys are not there! The bedroom. They must be in the bedroom. Being at home in the morning; it’s so quiet. I often move the car out onto the street and come back inside, lie on the bed and read for half an hour…pop the keys on the bedside cabinet. Being home is everything to me. It is where I can simply be; where I can lie back and read a book…where I can do whatever. It’s where I spend time with those who are closest to me. The place I share with friends who visit for a meal and a glass of wine or two: where we laugh so hard that we cry…where we sit round the kitchen table for hours and agree to disagree on some issue at hand…where I watch the TV from a kitchen chair (only the ABC) or listen to the radio on the front veranda (only the ABC) or sit quietly and listen to the silence, the morning silence, and watch the evening flames flicker in the fireplace, winter warmth. There they are. The car keys – on the bedside cabinet!
I would worry if we weren’t all home, together…at the time we normally are. I would worry about what could have happened…about where everyone is and why they are not all here, together. In the winter afternoons about 4pm, when the sun has dropped, and the cold sets in and I am out in the mall, often I long to be at home. It’s an odd feeling that longing. “I want to go home” I hear myself say, to myself, quietly in my head.
I have to go to visit my parents, next week. Keep in touch and catch up; do a few chores and fix the gate in the garden. Mum has not been well of late and it’s between my sister and me. My brother just doesn’t get involved. He doesn’t handle people when they are not well…not that he is cold hearted – quite the opposite. It’s just that he can’t handle it. I plan to meet my sister tomorrow and visit Mum. We recently we took turns in sleeping over. Dad appreciates the support. Hopefully, when she recovers a bit more we won’t need to sleep over. I do however worry about her most days…it’s good to spend time with her…because we can talk…about lots of things…things we never had the time to talk about when we were kids. Mum tells me about how hard it was at times with Dad. They did not always get along. I worry about her often…and when I am home again I worry that she will not cope by herself; if anything happened to Dad. It’s at night when I wake from a deep dream: that I think out loud “I have to go to mother, I need to be with her now, she is not well”.
I lie awake some nights and think about Bill. What it would be like if he were not here. How he would feel if I were not here…anymore, you know, NOT HERE! Would we call out for each other? Reminds me of when I was by myself: all those years ago when Bill was away for weeks on end. I am no good by myself; one of those people who enjoys company. Well, most of the time. Sometimes it feels like ages since I have seen him. Other times I wonder where the time has gone. Wasn’t he here this morning? I can’t recall. Didn’t we have breakfast together? He brought me in coffee…the dog jumped on the bed…Bill had to run for the train…almost missed it… but he will back again tonight…and we will prepare a meal…open a bottle of red and watch the TV (ABC of course) from the kitchen chair for a short while…then eat. “Have you seen Bill, do you know where he is?”
I need to leave now and go and look for him. My mother will know where he is. Back home I think. Yes. Back home.
About Gary Campbell, EN, Eldercare
Gary Campbell has worked as an enrolled nurse for Eldercare for nearly 30 years. Gary is based at The Lodge residential aged care facility in Adelaide where he primarily cares for older South Australians living with dementia. Gary plays a lead role in supporting the rollout of Eldercare’s Dementia Excellence Program where he helps foster a positive care culture that is based on person centred support for residents. Gary is highly regarded within Eldercare for his generosity, ingenuity and dedication to quality care. He won two awards at the 2015 Aged and Community Services Gala Awards for Excellence (SA & NT) including the ‘Employee Award’ for his commitment and dedication to the care of older people.
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