This week’s guest post comes from Natasha Wilson, Assistant Coordinator of The South Yorkshire Dementia Creative Arts Exhibition. Here is her story.
I’ve always known that working in the social care sector would come with many ups & downs. Every day is different and often you are faced with challenges and circumstances beyond your control. I have also always known, that working with older people is something I am meant to do, for whatever reason. It is my vocation & I love it. Below is just one of many examples I could offer, about working with older people, and those who have Dementia. I’d like to think it could encourage others to at least consider a career working with such wonderful people. It’s a true privilege. There are many stories of awful experiences in care homes, but I’d like to counteract that with a positive.
A few months ago whilst at the care home I volunteer at, I sat with a 90 year old wonderfully funny and fiercely independent lady, who also has Dementia. I know all about her fascinating life from speaking to her previously, but I know telling these stories brings her great joy and pride, and so I sat and reacted like it was the first time I had heard her amazing stories. She told me again about her younger years in Germany and about her German side of the family. Out of pure curiosity, I then asked her if she ever had to learn to speak German. “Oh of course!” was the reply. In that moment, she started recalling the numbers 1-10 in German. It was a splendid moment. I asked her if she would try to teach me, so I could boast about it mainly! We both laughed and then spent a good amount of time going through the numbers. She would say them, I would repeat, and we would start over again. We laughed at how terrible & “Yorkshire” my German sounded and laughed even harder when I asked if she knew any rude words (“yes, as they are the most important ones” she assured me!) Other residents were also getting involved and laughing along with us, recalling school memories of learning the language. Care staff who occasionally listened in to our conversations looked astonished that this lady could recall and be in such good command of a different language. It made me wonder how many other amazing skills, talents & assets were not sought out because of the overarching assumptions based on ageism. Cooks, teachers, tailors, mechanics, artists… All buried beneath grey hair, wrinkled faces and a diagnosis of Dementia. Never beckoned out, recognised or praised.
Assumptions & stereotypes are very damaging, and so I urge anybody to be more open minded the next time they talk to a person with Dementia.
…And just to prove that I was listening properly; eins, sfvie, dry, (can’t remember!), foomf, (can’t remember!), seeban, oct…. That’s about it, I’ll revise harder next time!
Assistant Coordinator of The South Yorkshire Dementia Creative Arts Exhibition
This October I did the ‘Memory Walk’ for the Alzheimer’s Society. Please click the link if you would like to sponsor me – http://www.justgiving.com/natashas-memory-walk-for-the-alzsoc