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.
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