In the this guest blog courtesy of Moray Shared Lives in Scotland, Shared Lives carer Karys talks about supporting Alex:
Alex has dementia and has been using the Shared Lives service once a week since March 2016. However, at the request of his family, Alex recently started attending twice a week as they truly value the service and comment on how stimulated he is when he gets home from his time with me.
Part of the success is down to the pairing between Alex and me. I have been able to bring an otherwise quietly spoken, man of few words out of himself. His son John tells me the only time he willingly goes into the shower, is when he tells his Dad that Karys is coming round today.
I try to do different things each week as far as possible, but whatever we do, I take lots of photos. I send the photos on to Alex’s sons, which they value as a tool to jog his memory. Activities range from going to the library, mostly for books on fishing, collecting driftwood on the beach, spending time at the seals, picnics on the beach, adult colouring, visits to garden centres, museums, fishing heritage centres, card making, going out for lunch, to name a few. Alex loves snooker, which turns out to be the only sport he can still follow, so we watch tournaments on TV. However, this week I took Alex out to play pool which he did after a bit of persuasion. He loved it and I think he surprised himself on how capable he was.
Alex is still physically fit and loves to get out for a walk. For such a quiet man, he loves the social side of getting out and meeting people. One of the things he did that his family can’t quite believe, was to dance with me at the Shared Lives Christmas party. He took a bit of convincing, but enjoyed himself once he was up.
Although Alex has lived for many years in Buckie, he is actually from Findochty originally, where I now live. This too has worked out well as many people know him and talk to him and he also loves to visit his cousin who comes to stay in the local caravan site for the entire Summer. In addition to this, my house is right on the marina, so Alex can see the boats coming in and out. On sunny days, we sit on the pier with our cups of tea and talk to the local fishermen. Alex worked his whole life as a fisherman and loves anything to do with boats and fishing.
One of the most rewarding things for his family and me is when you take Alex home and he can relay some of the things that have happened that day during which he can be quite animated.
One of the keys to ensure your service user gets as much as they can from the service is to carry out a thorough fact find on them, their past, etc, to find out what they are interested in, what they have been good at, etc. People with dementia want to feel included, feel part of the community and that is made possible by ensuring they continue to do things they used to do, but feel they maybe can’t do anymore. Even going to the library has been a very worthwhile experience with Alex and other service users. I believe that Alex allows himself to be persuaded to try things because he trusts me and perhaps somewhere in the back of his mind, he knows that we always have a great time.