Without a doubt, one of the most important documents in older person care is the Alzheimer’s Society This is me support tool. It enables carers to access information with which to provide holistic care and is underpinned by a social model of care rather than a medical model, so important in today’s world of fast paced, pressurised, and increasingly politicised healthcare services. It places the person in the centre of care, ensuring their likes, dislikes, and preferences are recorded for the whole team to access.
Indeed, a favourite teaching strategy when introducing new students to dementia care is to provide them with two copies of ‘this is me’ and ask them to take them home for their partners or significant others to complete in the manner of ‘Mr and Mrs’ style 1970s TV programme. I have heard many stories of students returning the next day reporting back to the group that their other half had failed hopelessly in filling in the form, prompting them to realise the precariousness of ensuring person centred care in such instances.
With this in mind, I was pleased to receive through the post today, a copy of ‘Please Tell me…’ hot off the press from Golden Duck publishing. It is a large, non-threatening, and easy is to navigate book designed to give to someone you care for, to record their cherished memories. It is a book designed to be used, not left to gather dust on an out of reach shelf; a working document with spaces to draw, stick in photos, and colour in together. The book has two underlying principles; firstly that it should give pleasure to those working on the book, and secondly that the contents help them to feel valued and good about themselves.
For me this book is another piece in the jigsaw puzzle of getting older person care right. Ground breakers include Atul Gawande who forced a rethink of the medical model in his book ‘Being Mortal’; the social movements such as the #last1000days campaign which has drawn attention to the importance of making the most of the time remaining to older people in hospital and how small changes can make a huge difference to the very people that matter; as well as #endpjparalysis which encourages patients to get up, dressed and moving while in hospital.
These campaigns originate from healthcare professionals, but other social movements driven by the very people who use healthcare services are becoming a driving force in changing practice towards person centred care. The excellent John’s Campaign is one such campaign. Named after Dr. John Gerrard who died following a catastrophic stay in hospital, his daughter Nicci Gerrard and friend Julia Jones co-founded the campaign to welcome families into hospitals and care facilities. Since the campaign began over 1000 institutions have pledged their support, but (as we all know) change is slow and there is still more to be done.
Any document is only as good as the person completing it, and this valuable book gives the opportunity for the person themselves to tell their own story. It encourages reflection about their own life, going back as far as childhood and early years with the opportunity to reflect on happy memories and focus on what makes them who they are today. It is such a simple yet brilliant idea and has echoes of baby books, student year books, and journals which celebrate the different stages of life events.
Why should older age be any different?
When a person has reached the pinnacle of their life with rich experiences to draw from, why not take this opportunity to record and remember what makes them who they are and their life essence? Favourite activities, songs, pets, food, special people, and important things that make up special times. There is an opportunity to share hopes for the future and a visitor’s page which reminds us of the importance of shared experiences. As a nurse I find this book particularly useful should a patient be admitted to hospital as it contains valuable information which would enable me to care for them in a meaningful way. When not in use it could even be kept safely in an overnight bag in case of an emergency hospital admission.
Caring for frail older people with memory loss in a safe and meaningful way continues to be puzzling in the existing infrastructure. The pieces are slowly coming together but more work needs to be done to ensure older people do not fall behind in their journey. This book offers one more piece to the puzzle and provides us with a useful and practical way to implement person centred care.
‘Please tell me…’ is available from Golden Duck publishers from 24th October 2017 or via the John’s Campaign website.