Serendipity lends a hand


I’d like to highlight what I think is one of the most important parts of a ‘care plan’: the bit that attempts to convey a little of the life history, passions, interests and preferences of the person being cared for. That way, helpers don’t just see an ‘old person’; they see the individual.

Lately, I’ve been wondering how to record more of Marj’s life so that her family and those who support her know a bit more about her. We know some stories between us, but not all, I’m sure.

an older couple marj and jack
Marj and her husband Jack

Years ago, I bought Marj a journal which, page by page, prompts her to think about and record her thoughts and experiences. However, she either didn’t get around to it or didn’t want to. To be honest, I have failed to prioritise my own journaling ambitions, so I can understand.

dear grandma from me to you book journal
Marj’s journal

I rediscovered the journal recently in a cupboard and I wondered if I could use it differently.

Around the same time, I found a research paper* that suggested that a daily 10 minute chat improves the quality of life for people living with dementia. This makes sense, since loneliness is also widely reported as detrimental to both mental and physical health. However, sometimes what to talk about can be a challenge. It struck me that asking Marj a question a day could be a great way of engaging and reminiscing. I could note down her thoughts on the journal pages too.

While I was mulling this over, by chance I met Roy Moëd at an event organised by mutual work acquaintances. He introduced me to his company LifeBook.  He was palpably excited, because some earlier radio interviews were generating interest in the company. Roy talked about the amazing work that LifeBook is doing, and that motivated me to get cracking on my own project. He also offered the following advice: after asking about a particular time, ask how it felt too. This was to be a perceptive insight.

The next day, as Marj and I chatted over a hot chocolate and a DIY home manicure, I asked her the first question, about her life as a young girl, how she felt then and looking back. I can tell you that things were tough for her and many others in the Potteries in the ’30s and ’40s. Marj is happy that those days are behind her.

From now on, every day that Marj is inclined towards a longer chat, I’ll ask her about a facet of her life. I think we are in for some interesting conversations, all of which I’ll be recording in the journal.

When my boat comes in, I’ll be commissioning LifeBook. Take a look; it’s a great idea, especially for those whose whole life has not been lived and recorded on social media. A wonderful, love-filled gift.

ladies wearing love heart hats
Happy Valentine’s Day

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PS, No payment or value contribution was received from LifeBook for this post.

*Author Prof Clive Ballard, University of Exeter, published in PLOS Medicine Journal, 6 Feb 2018. Article title ‘Impact of person-centred care training and person-centred activities on quality of life, agitation, and antipsychotic use in people with dementia living in nursing homes: a cluster-randomised controlled trial’. This was a nine month trial across care homes in south London, north London and Buckinghamshire.  Click here for full details.