Triggering happy memories

A powerful example of how a one-page profile can draw out the important information needed to support someone with dementia to re-connect with their past and feel happy and safe in their surroundings.

TobyWritten by Tracey & Rose from Merry Hill House

Eighty-seven year old Toby was born and bred in Wolverhampton. Described as a real gentleman, Toby’s wife sadly passed away five years ago. His son Sean is his main carer as Toby is now in the advanced stages of dementia. Sean says Toby was a hands-on husband and father and his family was always his priority. Toby has an infectious smile and personality to match, he has always had strong work ethics and Sean can’t remember his dad ever having a day off. He recalls fondly that Toby would often say; “the harder you work and save for something, the more you’ll appreciate it.”  Throughout his life Toby has liked things to be ‘in place’ and would always look immaculate.

Toby came every six weeks for a three night respite stay here at Merry Hill House. During his stays he would go around the unit collecting other people’s shoes and lining them up in his room. He’d also be fascinated with the electrical sockets and get quite agitated when staff tried to move him away for his safety.

A staff member sat with Toby and his son to discuss one-page profiles and how through discussions we could find a solution to help Toby feel happier, safer and more independent in his environment. Toby was present but unable to contribute a great deal verbally due to his dementia which meant that his son Sean was the one that provided the rich insight into Toby’s life.  It became clear very quickly that Toby led a full and active life, working and spending quality time with family. For many years he was an electrician and in his spare time he would take his son to a unit he owned where they built a barge together.

As a group, staff were asked to think about how we could use the information gleaned from his one-page profile to reduce the risk and to increase Toby’s wellbeing, giving him back the feeling of control in his day to day life.  We wanted to help Toby re-connect with his past and for him to feel busy as this is what he was used to. Together the team and Sean made a list of some of the items that would help Toby. Sean was to pack extra pairs of shoes when Toby came to stay and we were to provide shoe polish and a blacking brush so that he could polish shoes just like he did for his family as a child on a Sunday afternoon. We also filled a box with electrical items like plugs, light switches and a flex. Whenever Toby started touching the sockets or gathering shoes we were able to lead him to his boxes and he was happy again.

We have noticed a great difference in Toby’s wellbeing as has Sean who now uses the boxes at home too. Toby will spend many an hour polishing shoes until they are pristine, he will also sit with a small screw driver taking the plugs apart and connecting flex to them. We learnt this important information from Toby’s one-page profile and we are now able to support him to do the things that trigger his happiest memories; a wonderful outcome from having a good conversation and recording the important information on just one page.

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