We're born with little lights burning in our heart
And they show us the way
One lights up every time we feel love in our hearts
One dies when it moves away
Aside from a smattering of pretty, but granted quite sissy, Jon and Vangelis tracks that have been a Spotify rediscovery, Passenger has provided the wall to wall musical backdrop recently. And these are words from Louis' favourite track. I've posted a video showing the man himself singing it before. I'm on a mission to keep as many of my own little lights as possible aflame by looking after myself and those around me. With the right mindset, it isn't all that hard to do.
We're born with little lights shining in our hearts
And they die along the way
'Til we're old and we're cold
And lying in the dark
'Cos they'll all burn out one day
Well, that's a bit bleak isn't it Mr Passenger! Perhaps though, when I leave my old, cold body I'll be able to take some of those little twinkling stars on with me. Who knows. For now though, I'm on a mission. For these words gave me a light bulb moment. It dawned on me that my job in later stage dementia care is about stopping people's lights going out before they leave this earth. Ch-ching!
My first Masters essays about apathy in people with dementia was submitted yesterday. It's a very common problem, far more prevalent than those behaviours that cause people to be distressed or aggressive. And alarmingly, there are indications that some carers see it as a blessing in disguise. After all it appears much easier to deal with someone sitting quietly in their chair doesn't it?
Yet apathy actually increases a person's care needs. They are disabled by their dementia at a quicker rate than if it is not addressed. The solution is simple. It is not enough just to provide bits and bobs in the environment and hope that will be enough. Lots of people with dementia have damage to their brain that means that they can't initiate things themselves any more. What they people need is proper human contact to persuade them to engage in meaningful activity. Once they're up and running special moments often ensue. I am sure that these shared experiences rekindle some of those little lights.
So how am I going to make sure that this happens? Well banging on about it seems a good way to start. Too many friends and families don't visit their loved ones in homes. I've seen this. One of the reasons is because they perceive that the pain that they feel because the person has changed so much is too unbearable. Then it might be about me helping them to see that there's still someone there who needs love and attention and showing them ways of being comfortable spending time with them again. Another explanation given is that the person has forgotten minutes after a visit that their relative has been. But that doesn't matter if the time that was spent together was productive and happy. It's a time of life where living in the moment becomes most crucial. I'm going to be reminding people of this.
I'm also going to be talking to the homes that they visit about the importance of increasing the amount of proper contact time that their residents get. Asking for increases in staff numbers is unrealistic in commercial environments but there must be lots of ways of encouraging people through the doors of homes to chat, do and play. Granted it's not going to be easy but ideas about rekindling lost sparks abound. With such a important goal it's got to be worth a try!