Jacqueline’s poem: Dignity in dementia

Jacqueline Harrison is the registered manager at a nursing home where many residents are living with dementia. Read her story and poem, ‘Dignity’, written as a reminder for staff to see beyond dementia when providing care.

I’ve been working at Westmorland Court for the past five years and it’s a privilege to look after elderly people. Families are entrusting their loved ones to our care and, in my opinion, it’s the most rewarding job in the world.

We have a mixture of residents at the home, both nursing and residential. A lot of them have various levels of dementia which impacts on their daily lives. 

For each client I have written a “This is Me” document which gives the carers a brief insight into the person, their background, likes and dislikes and how they liked to be cared for.

Jacqueline and husband Simon

Jacqueline and husband Simon

A staff reminder

As well as This is Me, I decided to write a poem for staff to help them look beyond dementia. It’s important to remember that our residents all had lives before they were diagnosed.

A copy of the poem was placed in our staff room to remind people of its content. The reaction was extremely positive. Staff commented that it had reminded them to think about the person, not just the condition, and that every person with dementia is different.

I think the key thing is something that my parents taught me when I was growing up – ‘treat others as you wish to be treated’.

We must remember to ask permission before giving care, explain in detail what’s going to happen, reassure, offer choices and respect decisions made. Above all, remember that people with dementia are human beings. We will all grow old one day.

DIGNITY by Jacqueline Harrison

I may seem old and frail to you,
My “faculties” all gone.
I may need help in all I do,
But that doesn’t mean “I’m done”

I was just like you once, you know
My abilities all intact.
I had a job, a life, a home
And that, my dear carer, is a fact!

Just because I now need help
With any daily task
Doesn’t mean I’ve lost my dignity
It’s just something old age likes to mask

Please remember when you help me
That I’m still “ME” inside
So yes, though you wash and feed me
I still have my dignity and pride

Dignity is so important
It might be the last thing that I own
So please, dear carer, remember
To treat me as one of your own

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11 comments

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Such a beautiful poem. Some thing to remind us who they where before they got dementia..

Thank you for your kind comment Martie, much appreciated

Thank you, Jacqueline, for your lovely poem, and the compassion it expresses. It's wonderful!

Thank you Ann, I feel very humble

Jacqueline's work ethic is quite ' simply the best ' !! I am humbled to read her poem and can equate to it 100 per cent as my late Husband ' Bobby ' suffered from Parkinson's and P's related dementia for 13 years. He was the most wonderful, gentle, caring and loving man and was loved by all who knew him. To see him gradually ' stolen ' from me ( us ) was one of the most cruel things to happen to me ( us ) ! Fortunately we had the most brilliant carers during the last two years of Bobby's life who became part of our family. Everyone suffering from any sort of dementia, their loved ones AND carers are forever in my thoughts and prayers. My love to you all.

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss Isobel. Dementia truly is a cruel illness. Not just for the sufferer but also their loved ones. I'm so glad that you had wonderful carers for Bobby. Your comment about my work ethic really touched me.

What a beautiful compilation of dementias patient feeling! It may raise awareness in people who mistreat dementia or alzhiemer patients asuming them dead bodies!

Thank you so much Tahira. I hope it does help raise awareness and reminds people to think about the person not just the condition

It is so lovely to have come across this website and to read your poem Jacqueline. I have the onset of Altzheimers and am still in the very early stages. I hope and pray that when the time comes that I have to go into care, it is to a home which has taken your poem as their guiding light and and have the care and love for those, that they minister to as you do for those in your care.

Oh Terry your comments brought tears to my eyes thank you so much . I am sorry to hear of your diagnosis and I wish you well. I am proud to do the job that I do.

Let us all hope that this will be used in all care homes across the country. Very Weill expressed, Jacqueline!

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