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  • Writer's pictureRobin Tthomson

Constant contact with those you love: the tragedy of the care homes

Covid-19 has made us all aware that those who are cut off from their loved ones find it hard to flourish, or even live. This applies to us all, but even more to those living with dementia. The plight of many in care homes and of those who have longed to see them, has been heart-breaking. In fact it has been a scandal.

Even those remaining together at home have found the restrictions of lockdown difficult, with a lack of familiar activities and stimulation. Because relating positively with those living with dementia is one of the most important contributions we can make.

‘Your body language is more important than what you say,’ my daughter Sarah told me many times, long before I understood it myself.

Positive activities maintain and strengthen the person with dementia’s relationship abilities. They provide mental and physical stimulation and are pleasurable. That experience leads to continuing good feelings, which contribute to our flourishing. Even if the person doesn’t remember the pleasurable experiences, they have value. (Lee-Fay Low, Live and Laugh with Dementia, Chatswood, NSW: Exisle Publishing, 2014, pages 1, 5)

Active relationships also help to maintain a person’s self-identity. Many living with dementia ‘rely on … the way they are treated by the people around them, to tell them who they are in the world and how things are … If people round them treat them with respect and happiness they are more likely to feel like a respected and happy person.’ (Lee-Fay Low, page 9)

I discovered her book and skimmed through it on the day before Shoko died.

‘This is really good,’ I thought. ‘What new activities can I find to stimulate her?’

I brought out a pack of cards to play a game which she used to love. We had played it only a few months earlier. But this time she didn’t get it at all. I put the cards away and asked myself ‘What else could we do?’ The main activity we had left was singing, and fortunately we still enjoyed that each day.

Others had been helping a lot to keep Shoko occupied and stimulated. They enabled me to focus on providing practical, loving care, as best as I could. It confirmed my realisation that ongoing relating to the person living with Alzheimer’s is absolutely vital.

There may not be a cure, but we can treat the person, by the way in which we relate and help to improve the quality of their life. And slowing down the progress of the disease could make a significant difference, to them and to their caregivers.

That’s why the situation of the care homes has been such a tragedy.

{Read the post here ‘Changing the system and building your support team’}

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