PLEASE NOTE: Even though this blog is now dormant there are many useful, insightful posts. Scroll back from the end or forward from the beginning. Also, check out my writer's blog. Periodically I will add posts here if they provide additional information about living well with Dementia / Alzheimer's Disease.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Good Will Ambassador

When I visit Gregory during meal time, which I often do, Manny and I take turns helping him with his meal.

When Gregory is with Manny, I become a good will ambassador in the dining room. I circulate among all of the tables chatting with the residents. I know almost all of them by name.

 I free free to tap a shoulder or hold a hand. I have even been brave enough to offer a kiss or hug now and then to a few of them.

I ask how they are feeling, I ask after their day. I  listen to their comments and complaints. I  compliment their clothing or their new hairdo.

Sometimes they will ask me for more juice, or a bit more food. Sometimes they will ask for, or I will suggest,  a PBJ or toasted cheese sandwich if they do not like the day's food offerings.

I offer to help a resident cut up the chicken into easy bite size peaces. Sometimes the resident will refuse. I respect their refusal but quality by saying, "I used to be a waiter, you know!" Often she will relent and push the plate toward me for cutting.

Sometimes I will let a CNA know that "so and so" hasn't eaten any of her meal or "so and so" is so sleepy that she is nodding off into her mashed potatoes.

Sometimes a residents feel frightened or confused and I can help calm them, sometimes if only for the moment with their returning to the same fears moments later. But at least for the moment of our interaction, they felt peace.

Sometimes they mumble or gesture and I behave as though I know what they are saying with a nondescript: "Uh huh" or "I see!" or "I know what you mean." If they are mumbling with a happy face I know that I should enjoy with them. If they are mumbling with an unhappy face, I know I should empathize or comfort them.

Often I will lie. Lie to a resident about when their son is coming to visit, how they can get home before dinner, if their husband is still at work, if they can go down to buy a new pair of shoes.

I have found that the "lying" comes fairly easily if I have no expectations of solving a problem or understanding what the problem is. Also my background in writing "Creative Non-Fiction" helps me weave stories for the resident that meets their needs, even if incorrect or a lie.

Notice that I have used the words OFTEN and SOMETIMES a lot. This reflects that day by day, hour by hour, sometimes moment by moment perceptions; needs, moods etc are in a constant state of change for many residents. For some residents, they are not at all present but still will respond to a touch, or a song, or the taste of food on their lips.

I get great joy in my role of Good Will Ambassador and feel that this should be a role on the unit. One person could be available just to chat, interact, smile, tap, shake a hand, tell a story, listen to a story. Wouldn't that be lovely?

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