I was chatting on twitter today with the wonderful Shirley Ayres @ShirleyAyres. Shirley kindly Re- Tweeted my post on the " Getting to know me "document along with mentioning that she liked the idea of the document.
Shirley asked “What do you think about it as a son who cared for his mum?”
This is a good question as I voluntarily promote the use of this document and initiative on my tour.
Love, loneliness, smiles, fear, joy, and sadness. These are some of the words, the feelings and emotions that describe caring for my mum, and mum’s 5 year journey from diagnosis until she sadly passed away.
I remember one evening my mum was taken into hospital with concerns for her health. It was mid-evening, although it was much later by the time it was decided that she should stay overnight for more check-ups and a ward bed was found.
My mum was not in hospital very often until the last months of her life, as dementia and other health issues took their toll. It was always just us two, often stumbling through the days and nights and this was ever changing.
I remember that evening walking down the hospital corridors after mum was settled; it was just after midnight. This overwhelming feeling of fear and dreadful loneliness took hold of me.
It was one of the loneliest walks of my life.
I sat on the steps outside the hospital crying, with so many questions running through my head.
Would mum be ok? How will they know all the little things that help mum understand; that make it better? The things that make mum feel safe and that mum truly needs?
Have all the things that I have been doing when caring for mum been right?
My mum was very poorly and how would they know when mum needed a drink? My mum could not ask at this time, but I always knew. She would smack her lips very softly to me and I would know mum was thirsty and needed a drink.
How would they know my mum was very fearful when people spoke too loudly or when too many people gathered near or around her? After all it was always just mum and me at home.
But the big question was and for me still is, is how would they know who Joan Whitelaw is?
That’s important. It has to be; if we don't know who people truly are, who they have been, who we can support and help them to still be, then we can't really say we are caring for someone.
Over the 5 hours I sat holding mum’s hand at the hospital that evening, we could have been putting together Joan’s story, mum’s story, our story about the things that matter.
This is not just for the person; this will help staff to do the thing they wake up each day to do, and do it with compassion and care. This will help everyone: the person; the family; the carer; staff.
So I do hope staff use "Getting to Know me". After all, if caring is about people and relationships then you have to get to know the person.
Getting to know the whole person, not just the patient and the illness, is the driving motivation behind a new, nationally developed resource to improve the experiences of vulnerable adults and their carers in acute hospital settings.
The ‘Getting to Know Me’ document developed by Alzheimer Scotland and The Scottish Government records personal information about the patient’s likes and dislikes, names of family and friends, and what may be worrying them while they are in hospital.
The information, which will be kept at the bedside during a hospital stay or when attending outpatient services, helps staff to build positive relationships with patients and their carers by allowing them to get a fuller understanding of their life story, preferred routines and specific pieces of information such as what helps them to rest or relax.
Con Gillespie, Lead Nurse, Emergency Care and Medical Services, said “We are confident that this will enhance care and if used properly will facilitate better care for an individual’s needs and reduce the risks of not addressing what they require.”
“It will be helpful if carers ask staff for a copy to complete when their loved one is admitted to a hospital ward, as staff will be able to supply these once wards are stocked with copies.”
Dementia Carer Voices Project Officer Tommy Whitelaw has been invited to participate in the rolling out of this programme across NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. Tommy will be sharing his experience of caring for his late Mother Joan with Lead Nurses and staff, to highlight the importance of ‘remembering the person’ and looking beyond an individual’s diagnosis.
Tommy said “Many people simply saw my Mum as a wee woman with dementia and used that as their starting point, failing to recognise the life she had led and could have continued to lead for as long as possible.”
“‘Getting to Know Me’ is all about recognising each individual’s unique life story, abilities, likes and dislikes, so I am privileged to take part in its promotion in any way I can.”
To view the document, click here . This can be printed off and photocopied.