Mrs A is a 78-year-old woman with vascular dementia. She was transferred to Aranlaw House after attempts to help her remain in her own home were unsuccessful due to her failing memory, disorientation, and lack of understanding of risks. Mrs A’s condition caused her to neglect herself and frequently leave her own home and get lost, often in the middle of the night. One of the things that made her particularly vulnerable was her tendency to talk to complete strangers, telling them that she lived alone and where her home was.
Upon arriving at Aranlaw House, Mrs A was frightened, angry, and suspicious of the staff. She didn’t understand why she could no longer remain in the flat that she had lived in for over 20 years.
We began by gathering as much information as we could about Mrs A’s life history and significant events. We were given useful information by her neighbours, a friend of many years, and her GP, who had known her for over 20 years. Through this process, we gained a better understanding of her personality, preferences, and habits, which helped us to tailor our care approach to meet her specific needs.
Upon Mrs A’s arrival, the Aranlaw team immediately adopted techniques for managing the behaviours that resulted from her feelings of discomfort and fear. These are common at this stage of dementia and include:
- Taking care to not expose the person’s weaknesses
- Working with all expressed feelings, including anger, which can be frequent and sudden in onset
- Keeping our distance until invited to get closer
- Acknowledging and validating feelings rather than ignoring them or taking things personally
Most importantly, we made sure to acknowledge and appreciate Mrs A’s wealth of experience as a senior nurse by seeking her opinion on matters that we knew would be important to her. We also gave her a key to her own room and encouraged her to decorate it to her liking by choosing the colour she wanted and where she would like to hang her pictures. These small gestures helped Mrs A feel more at home and in control, which is important for promoting a sense of comfort and belonging in dementia care.
We were thrilled to observe positive changes in Mrs A’s behaviour within just four weeks of implementing our care strategy. She began to open up and confide in two staff members whom she trusted, admitting that she was frightened of losing control and struggling with memory issues. As time went on, Mrs. A became increasingly humorous and eager to help both staff and other residents in any way she could. She grew more affectionate and engaged with the staff she trusted. We were pleased to see that she no longer appeared uncomfortable in the presence of residents in Stages 2 and 3 of their illness. Instead, she tried to help them, feeling confident that her professional skills and knowledge were valued and respected. These positive changes were an indication that our care strategy was having a significant impact on Mrs. A’s wellbeing.
Mrs A has been a part of our community for almost a year now. Despite living with dementia, she continues to live life to the fullest. She enjoys spending time with our day staff and likes to “work” a full shift, only retiring to bed once the night staff arrive and everything is running smoothly. Mrs A loves going for walks with our carers and enjoys accompanying our managers when they go to collect prescriptions from the GP surgery. We’re delighted to see that Mrs A is still able to engage with the world around her and participate in activities that bring her joy.