On Wednesday I had the privilege of shadowing Lauren on her support calls to see her in action, hear some feedback on the service and to also witness first hand the impact she has on others. We all know support and care is something we all may come to eventually need, but it's so easy to underestimate it's sheer importance and why the quality of care, when it comes to even the smallest of things make a huge huge difference.
Whilst we were jumping from call to call, providing our general befriending service, preparing meals, and helping those who were scheduled into Wednesdays call list Lauren received a call regarding one of the people we support (whose name has been changed for the purpose of this article) Mary, who had become panicked whilst in town after realizing her purse wasn't in her bag while she was attempting to buy something in the local chemists.
What I witnessed was nothing short of incredible and demonstrated just how much a caring and reassuring voice can completely turn around a very stressful and upsetting situation. Lauren in her now 8 years of experience supporting people like Mary knew exactly what was needed and within minutes of receiving the call, rearranged her following calls so that we could be there to assist Mary.
When we arrived at the bank where Mary had then gone to try to seek some help in locating her purse, Mary was thankfully in really good hands. The attendant at Nationwide was really helpful in helping Mary to calm down after the panic of realizing her purse wasn't in her bag as she'd thought and had allowed her to wait away from the crowd until she felt calm and had someone who could be with her.
We then arrived and asked Mary how she was feeling and calmly suggested that we'd drive her to her house to look there first. Mary struggles with Dementia and is in the very early stages, and one thing that Lauren knows from her experience is that things that seem quite minor to others such as losing a purse, or not being able to recall a recent event can really affect someone's confidence particularly with the looming worry that over time this will gradually only get worse. This can contribute to fears and concerns for themselves and how they will keep themselves safe, particularly if they feel they cannot rely on their own memory to maintain what would normally be regular daily routines. Lauren has found that it's in these moments where helping a person to stay calm and offering reassurance to them can help to mitigate and lessen the negative impact that these situations can have on their confidence.
When we arrived at Mary's house Lauren immediately knew what was needed. She asked Mary very calmly if she could remember where she last was. Even though Mary struggles to recall her day thoroughly, the bits she can remember can help us to identify the possible events of the day and therefore where her purse may have then ended up. From Mary's account we were able to establish she went to boots, went to the bank, went to the church and was at home; we just didn't know the order these events took place. We then said back to Mary possible things that could have taken place in between these events happening.
By offering calm reassurance and patience Mary had lots of opportunity to remember as much as she could so that she still felt in control of the situation with the intention that it would encourage her to maintain confidence in herself and that she was still very independent in spite of having a bad day with her memory. After helping Mary look in her house, we then drove her to the church. By doing this we were not only able to look and see if it had been left there, but by Mary being back in the church it helped her to piece together other parts of her day following going to church.
It was in the church that Mary then remembered her friend's name who had driven her into town so that we could find a contact number for them to ask if the purse had fallen into the car. Luckily that's exactly what had happened. Mary's purse was a black purse and had fallen onto the floor of the car which was also black and was one of the reasons Mary couldn't see it and wouldn't have realized when leaving the car. It's important to note here that a good way to support people with dementia is to encourage them to use brightly coloured objects that contrast against other backgrounds which can be a good way to help support someone to locate and recognize things as dementia can also begin to affect sight.
Did you know? Red is the first colour we see in our lives as children, and the last colour we lose in our old age.
Seeing the relief on Mary's face when we managed to locate her purse and collect it with her was incredibly rewarding and really reflected just how much of an impact that support had made. Mary didn't need to sit with her worry overnight uncertain on how or where to go about finding her purse, particularly with the worry of how she'd pay for things or cancel her card if it came to it. Rearranging a call was a very minor thing Lauren could do, so she could be there to be a friend to Mary in that moment- and this meant Mary could leave the situation knowing help is always on hand and she never needs to face a worrying situation alone.
We would also like to pay thanks to the staff at nationwide who were brilliant in offering support and reassurance to Mary while she didn't know what to do next.