Mary, a resident at an aged care home, loved to keep busy and stay organised. This activity led her to other residents’ rooms where she wanted to touch belongings such as linen and clothes.
When care staff tried to gently explain to Mary that the rooms she ventured into and the belongings she touched weren’t hers, she would become agitated and upset. Staff then realised that additional advice was needed, so they contacted Dementia Support Australia (DSA).
The DSA Dementia Consultant arranged a series of telehealth consultations with staff at the care home to understand and learn more about Mary as an individual with her own unique story, and to discuss any other behaviours that they had observed.
Through this process the consultants learned that Mary had in fact worked in a laundry for over 26 years, and still loved to fold clothes. This went a long way to explaining why Mary was venturing into other residents’ rooms. She also had a history of feeling anxious that didn’t help matters
By taking the time to understand Mary’s story, DSA could provide strategies to support her and the care staff.
For example, instead of requesting Mary to leave other people’s rooms immediately, staff were encouraged to appear happy to see her, ask what she was doing, and offer to help. These activities of arranging and organising things that Mary was familiar and comfortable with would provide meaning and purposeful engagement, leading to better outcomes for everyone involved in her care.
The process to build staff understanding and knowledge
DSA consultants set up four telehealth sessions with care staff to build understanding and strategies to support Mary. Sessions were held in the mornings and late afternoons, providing opportunities for care staff on different shifts to attend.
Those who attended the first two sessions started to put these strategies in place immediately and noticed the positive effect the new approach had on Mary’s wellbeing.
A total of 30 aged care staff attended the sessions, giving a positive outcome of a consistent approach to Mary’s care. There was a request from staff for additional sessions, to discuss feedback on the progress of the strategies used to support Mary in her care.
And Mary found new activities to be involved in which improved her quality of life.
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