My blog for THIS time

My blogs are a little bit sporadic, and mostly just musings, but today I feel I need to share some news regarding upcoming changes to the way our health information is managed and distributed.

But first, let me muse a little :)……As with every person these days, time seems to run away from us – hence my heading… but do we really need to worry about anything else, except for this time, right now?

When supporting people living with dementia; mostly, the answer is no, we do not need to worry about any other moment except for this one right now… unless specifically asking about planning, and how to organise the day or moment to make the most out of a confusing world, please just concentrate on right now, and enjoy it, make it make sense and keep it real.

If you would like regular content, join my newsletter subscriber list to be able to see what I am up to, what information I am sharing and to ask me questions that I can answer and share with others, so we can all benefit.

And now the important stuff!…..

My Health Record – Online Health Information for all

By the end of 2018, a My Health Record will be created for every Australian, unless they choose not to have one.

As more people and their healthcare providers use the My Health Record system, Australia’s national health system will become better connected. This will result in faster and more efficient care for you and your family.

For more information, here is a link.

This will be fantastic for people living with dementia as in an emergency situation, often stress takes even simple memories away, such as a long time address or the name of a loved one who supports, or even their own name.  All information that is important can be listed in this one accessible record that is available by emergency services.  What a blessing.

If you don’t want a My Health Record, you will be able to opt out of having one created for you during a three-month period in 2018.

I have many ideas of how to keep yourself or your loved ones safe and how to make the best outcomes of time in hospital (not a pleasant time for anyone, let alone for one living with dementia!) Let me know what your thoughts and questions are around this and I will formulate my next blog around safety

LoveFest a hit! Big thank you Perth!

Thanks to all those involved in LoveFest Perth. It was a wonderful success, and many of us are still feeling the joy of such a supportive and inclusive event.  There is a resource booklet available on request for all living with and supporting those living with dementia, just contact me and I will send it to you.

In closing, as winter is coming fast to us, please be mindful of keeping warm and nourished, not only physically, but spiritually as well.  Winter is a time of isolation for many due to inclement weather, and keeping busy inside is often a challenge!  For the Spark of Life Core Spiritual Need of feeling needed and useful, my favourite pastime in this area is to ask for help peeling vegetables for soup or stews and then using a slow cooker to make the dish, enabling interaction with stirring and tasting as the day goes on – it’s amazing how satisfying this is to many!  And even if too many vegetables are peeled – it is a very cheap “activity” that occupies for a good length of time.

Stay warm and safe until the next time, with much love, Bianca

Looking for an aged care home for your loved one? Read this!

He is happiest, be he king or peasant, that finds his peace in his home.

Johann Wolfgang van Goethe

Over the last year of my practice, I have supported many seniors and their families in preparing for and finding a residential facility that was “just right” for them.

This is usually after much discussion on when is the right time, and hopefully before a crisis eventuates, so that the move is planned well and with ease rather than hastily and without much choice of where to go – hence only moving once to get to the place you would like to be to live out the rest of your life if and when you can no longer live on your own.

This takes time; and as well as looking at the costs associated with living well in a facility (such as medications, extra services, what is included, etc), really knowing what the preferences of the person are prior to moving into a facility are so important, especially when weighing up which facility is going to be the best fit.

Here’s an example:-

My client Margy (not her real name) was moving into residential care. This was after a long and trusting relationship with a home care provider had given her a safe environment to live in, but had come to the end of it’s time due to Margy’s need for 24 hour care due to her increasing needs and for her safety relating to falls and nutrition.

Margy had always been very independent and lived a life where household duties were a large part of her daily activities, so when we started looking for a facility for her, her main concerns were around being able to continue to do what she had always done – cooking, washing, cleaning, gardening.

After a reply from one admissions team stating “we do not think she would be suitable for permanent residential care where these type of tasks are carried out by staff members” was crossed off our list (- so much for consumer directed care in residential facilities!), we then went ahead with narrowing down our list of facilities that were willing to enable Margy in still doing what she loved, even if in small ways and with support.

Many facilities were deemed “suitable” for Margy in this regard from the admissions point of view, but until we viewed the residences with Margy in attendance, we could not commit to “signing the dotted line” with peace in our hearts.  This is because although the facilities were saying that this is what they were happy to do, were they doing it in a way that was enabling (or disabling) Margy?  Did the place make her heart sing?

One of Margy’s very astute observations of the right place for her was that “everyone was smiling – even the ones in the bedchairs” (in her own words).

Eventually we found a beautiful facility, one where the staff understood the importance of Margy’s needs, enabling her to be independent with support, to have her own space when needed, allowing her to have the privacy and security of her own keys for her room, but not be locked in and being part of a bigger community.

Wait-listing prior to needing immediate fulltime care, avoiding crisis and having the discussion of what is REALLY important to the person moving into residential care is so important.

Then you have time to view facilities, work out what is going to suit and narrow down your list.  For best results, my aim is for this to be organised in advance as when beds become available, they are very quickly taken up, often with not much time to consider all of the things that are important – often resulting in a poor fit for the client

To discuss more in depth ways of how to go about this, or to get your free Residential Aged Care Check list, please contact me.

With much love and Warmest Regards, Bianca

Making the move

I have just received a message from one of my former clients daughters, who has recently made the decision to move her mother to residential care after much deliberation and mixed feelings.
It was a hard decision and very emotional, as she knew her mum loved her own place, but as Sylvia was becoming more and more isolated, and her well-being was becoming compromised, she accepted a place at a local residence not far from her home.
Today, Sylvia has rekindled her interest in art, and her daughter now knows that she has made the right decision to keep her mums spark ignited and her spirit strong, as well as encouraging new relationships and being part of a community of people that love her.
The move to Residential Care can be difficult to contemplate. If you are struggling with how and when to do this, please know that I am here to support you.

This also coincides beautifully with My collaboration with Art Therapist Maree, who will be holding Art Expressions sessions at my place in Two Rocks  from the 24th of April.

With much love, Bianca

Will dementia take away my ability to choose?

Everyone will experience dementia in their own way. How it affects someone over time is unique to each individual – their attitude, relationships with others and surroundings that will all have an impact.

One question I get asked by people living with dementia is “Will I still get to make my own decisions?”.

Many people living with even the advanced stages of dementia CAN make decisions regarding their life- weighing up risks and choices when given the support, time and tools to enable them to make choices that are right for them.

How I address this is to look at and work with the person living with dementia and their loved ones around how they are managing right now – in this moment.

Many concerns come around safety, vulnerability and finance  – especially the possibility of overspending, being swindled or being taken advantage of.

If you have a trusting relationship with your loved one and you are open to sharing concerns, talk about your concerns over these things, giving choice to be able to work together on things that may need support.  If the relationship is not so good, then sometimes things have to be done in the background to ensure that things are in place to protect the best interests of the person living with dementia and their loved ones.

I am able to support you though this process and have plenty of information and tools that you can use to put both of your minds at rest regarding not only financial decisions, but life decisions as well.  My motto – like the boy scouts is “be prepared”. Please contact me for more information.

My story around this is about a lovely lady living with dementia who was struggling in her own home.  Her family were concerned around her vulnerability to being swindled from door to door salespeople and the like, and also around her general security as her ability to navigate her street and sometimes her own home was getting to the point where she was becoming disoriented and afraid.

Although the lady was extremely independent and had formal support in place a lot of the time, she had the ability to know that she was becoming anxious around being alone and often felt afraid of theft and her security. She did not want to leave her home for the fear of what residential care looked like in her mind and also that she would lose her friends and her independence.

Once we talked about her fears, her choices, her families concerns, what she wanted her life to look like and many other things, we decided all together with the final choice being made by the lady living with dementia that perhaps a “trial” of residential care may be good for her, and perhaps this would give her the opportunity to try out a few facilities of choice that the family had found that would suit their mums needs and interests.

This was a process that involved many hours of supporting the lady living with dementia, enabling her to express her feelings freely. It was not an easy time for anyone concerned.  There were tears, arguments, mistrust, feelings of guilt and many other emotions prior to the admission to the facility, but the final decision was indeed hers to go ahead.

This was all orchestrated with love in our hearts at every step, so that the lady knew that we had her best interests at heart- she could trust us and if she wanted to return home, that was fine too.

Within 2 weeks of the lady trialing residential care, we could see that the her health had improved, that her conversations were more lively, and that she was having her spirit lifted with the many activities that she was joining in to and being part of.  As well as this, we incorporated a visitors book as one of her main concerns was that no-one would visit her if she went into care.

After the 2 weeks, we again got together and discussed all of the pros and cons, her fears, what improvements needed to be made for her to stay and what her ideal life would look like in the future, and the decision was then made by the lady to move into residential care.

This is just a very brief account of what happened, but gives the answer to the question above – dementia does NOT take away your ability to choose.

Dementia may take away some of your strengths and abilities, but it won’t change who you are. With a positive outlook and the right support, it IS possible for someone living with dementia to live well and still get the best out of life by making decisions that are important to them and have these decisions adhered to and respected by others.

If you or your loved one are living with dementia, please contact me to see how I can support you.

My Story – the importance of memories

Every person has their own story and our past experiences really affect our lives in the future to come. People living with dementia are no different, except that if they haven’t shared their past experiences and they can’t remember them now,  current or future events may trigger unexplained feelings that may then be seen as “behaviours”.

If you can, get a good life history from your loved one and also the people around them. Also, start writing or verbalising your own history – it is important for your future and only you will know what insignificant things may set you off on a positive or negative note.

Formulate or purchase a My Story book or use the Story Corps App on your phone or tablet.  There are some amazing questions and you will definitely find out something new about your loved ones by using these tools – start NOW – don’t wait for the future.

I have used these items with my mum and dad and we have had some great giggles and reminiscences about both of our lives as we saw them from different perspectives.  I have given them books to write in to give back to me on my birthday to share their memories of what I was like as a child and how they saw me growing up – I am looking forward to seeing things from their perspectives – it will indeed be a gift for me and very special.

Let me share an example of how knowing someone’s  history makes a difference to the way we see things and how we can see “behaviours” as unmet needs:-

One of my beautiful ladies living with dementia was covering herself with the bedclothes in the early hours of the morning, crying out “Turn it on, turn it off!” and the family that were living with her were trying to figure out why she was calling out such words in the darkness and why she was so scared…Could it be the light?  No…Could it be the fan? No….  Could it be the music they had to soothe her at night?  No…

It didn’t  matter what item the family tried to turn on or turn off, the “behaviour” continued.  They were tired, and at their wits end trying to figure out what exactly their loved one was after, but they knew it was important to the lady and so they kept persisting.

When I came to visit, I asked the immediate family to ask ALL of the family to try and remember a time where they had heard this phrase before.  And here was the answer…

The ladies sister, who was a couple of years her junior and still living in the UK, remembered a time when they were in the war, when they used to go into bomb shelters and use a woolen army blanket to cover them from the dust and fallout of the bombs.  She and her sister used to pretend the blanket was a magic invisible cloak that would protect them both from the ravages of the war – it gave them a great feeling of safety and that they were in a place where no-one could hurt them, that they were together and had unconditional love for each other. It was their safe place where nothing could hurt them, and they could turn it on or off anytime, anywhere.

When we look at this ladies “behaviour” from this point of view, we are seeing that she is not feeling safe or loved.  Rather than a physical issue, this is an emotional one.  So how to solve this?  Every night, before the family retired for the night, one of the family members would go into the ladies room, let her know that she was safe and loved, give her a big cuddle and let her know that they would see her in the morning.  After 5 nights of this, her crying out stopped and it is now a nightly ritual for the family to continue this on and has become a pleasurable part of their routine, spending time with their loved one in a beautiful and loving way, sharing a part of her life that they never knew existed until she was craving that feeling so much that it turned into a “behaviour” – or as I like to phrase it – an unmet need.

It is up to us to change the way we see the world of people living with dementia – it is  up to us to see things in a light that makes us responsible for discovering new things rather than wiping the persons needs off as a symptom of dementia, and to do this with unconditional love.

To learn more about discovering unmet needs please contact me to see how I can support you and your loved ones