The Domains, Half A World Away
All examples are taken from the daily lives of the Elders in South Africa.
Communicating a sense of wellbeing for people living with dementia who finds it difficult to communicate seems a huge challenge for most Care Partners. How do we know that someone is experiencing the “domains of wellbeing?”
This is my room. Look at these pictures on the wall, there I am on my wedding day, those are my grandchildren, and look – that is my husband. (Photographs are clearly marked to indicate who the people are in the photograph to avoid confusion and embarressment.) This is my favourite chair – my husband bought it when we moved into our house. And this was the first blanket I ever knitted. If you look outside the door, you will see the sign that tells you a bit more about me – I sometimes forget these things that is why they are written down so that you can remind me when I forget. And it helps the staff to remember the things that are important to me. Like my glass of sherry before I go to bed in the evening. It makes me feel very special when the staff remember these small things.
The staff is helping me to paint. I have never painted before in my life, but now that I find it so difficult to write words and letters, I paint little cards and they write in it for me and I can send it to my children and grandchildren for their birthdays. I like painting. It makes me feel that I can still do something. I also like to help with peeling vegetables. I like to see the carrots and potatoes when they are clean and floating in the water. When we eat I like to see the others enjoy the vegetables that I have peeled.
Choosing what I want to wear in the morning is one of my favourite rituals. I feel very special when the staff take their time to help me decide what I want to wear. Sometimes they laugh when I choose my bright colours, but I feel that I look good in bright colours and that no one will forget about me when I am dressed in bright happy colours. It also gives the others something to talk about. I also decide what activities I want to join – sometimes I feel very confused and then I don’t want to talk or listen to peole. I then like listening to my favourite music. The staff know which songs I like and they allow me to choose the best ones.
My family is far away. I get very lonely at times. Then I look at my photographs, and on weekends I get to speak to my family on the computer. I see my grandchildren and their house and their pets – it is a wonderful thing to feel that they can see and hear me. Sometimes I just sit and listen to them talk and I feel so good. My Care Partner is a very special person. She spends time with me, and tells met about her family and her children. She shows me photographs of them and it feels as if I know them well. I like to hear stories about her life.
Music brings meaning to my life. I can sit and listen to classical music for hours. It lifts my spirit, makes me feel connected and always makes me realise that I am part of a greater meaning. I don’t know if people understand that – but it is all I need.
There are many things that bring joy in my life. Seeing my children on the computer, being in the garden when they mow the lawn, the new buds on the Oak Tree in Spring, hearing the children playing in the schoolyard next door. But what brings me most joy is when our housedog chooses my bed for his nap. I know that this is not allowed, but the sun on my bed is the best in the house. Then I will sit in the chair and he will sleep on my bed. And I will watch him and he knows it and when he wakes up he makes a big yawn with a sound that makes me laugh.
I am happy.