You know me so well!

Written by Victoria Metcalfe, Dementia Consultant, Anchor

Victoria Metcalfe

Victoria Metcalfe

I had a birthday this week. It was one with a zero in it… I sat nervously in my living room all day, responding to birthday well-wishers by text and email, dreading the possibility that one of my nearest and dearest might have had the bright idea of throwing me a surprise party. I hate surprises. I love surprising other people – but I’m awful at being taken by surprise. Thankfully, this message must have trickled through somehow and it seems I needn’t have worried; my friends know me well!

Knowing someone well is the focus of a big piece of work I’m involved in at the moment. I’m a Dementia Consultant working for Anchor and we have been looking at how one-page profiles can be used to ensure that the people that live and work in a care home can really know and understand each other well. One-page profiles do much more than this of course. They help people with common interests and outlooks be matched together, they communicate important information for people who might not be able to communicate it themselves, they empower people to direct their own support and live the life they choose, but ‘knowing someone well’ really is at the heart of the concept.

Over 25 years ago I had a chance encounter with a young man who had Alzheimer’s . He changed my outlook on life. I can clearly remember to this day my first meeting with him and how distressed he seemed about being unable to communicate with the people around him.  I remember those same people equally as clearly and how little they were attempting to engage and understand him. They saw him as a bunch of symptoms not a person and it was incredibly sad to realise.  My overriding feeling about this was one of injustice and it is the injustice of people being marginalised or defined by their illness that still motivates me today to be person-centred in everything I do; to have empathy, compassion and most importantly of all, to care about knowing people well and basing support on this in-depth knowledge of them.

I’ve never had a planned career path – it just wasn’t something that I set out for myself. But I’ve been working with people with dementia for more than 25 years now, with social services, with the Alzheimer’s Society and for the last 13 years with Anchor. I knew when I joined Anchor that I agreed with and believed in their organisational values but it is the people I work with and their relationships with the people we support and their families that has made this job so worthwhile for me.

Anchor is the largest not-for profit provider of support and housing for people over the age of 55 in England but that’s not what makes us special. We are special because we believe in seeing and treating people as individuals. We provide person-centred care and moreover we want to improve on this further, embedding person-centred thinking deep into the culture of our organisation by making tools like one-page profiles commonplace for colleagues and customers.  We believe in doing with a person not doing for them. In supporting family and friends to adapt to a person’s changing abilities and always focusing on what they can do not what they can’t do. In a world that can see older adults as broken people, our celebration of people’s individual talents and gifts and determination to support them to live the life they choice is something I’m really proud to be a part of.

My own one-page profile describes what people like and admire about me, what is important to me and how best to support me. Needless to say I have included in it that I don’t like surprises – something which my friends might know about me but might be useful for a work colleague to know too. I’ve already changed my approach to team members after reading their profiles and understanding them better. It’s strange, you can work with someone for years and think you know them so well only to learn important information that you just hadn’t uncovered before – this is the power of the one-page profile; the succinct way it communicates the essential information to enable relationships, collaborative working and support.

This week I’m attending the annual Dementia Congress. I’ve spoke most years but this time I’m going just to soak up the information, to learn about the new and innovative ways people are transforming care for people with dementia, to meet colleagues and share best practice. I’ll be shouting from the roof tops about one-page profiles and how this relatively untapped resource could revolutionise care for people with dementia. I believe that the one-page profiles that we are introducing in Anchor really will change people’s lives;  helping people with dementia live a life that makes sense to them in the way that they want and all based on a deep understanding of who someone is and what is important to them. Everyone should be able to say ‘you know me so well’ and soon they will!

Look around the rest of this site using the menu bar at the top of this page to learn more about one-page profiles, how to create your own and to read stories from people using them from birth to end of life.

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