What would you want people to know about you if you couldn’t tell them? We find out how ‘This is me’ can help to personalise care for people affected by dementia.
When Paula Thomas’s mother, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2019, eventually needed carers for support, she found a helpful tool called ‘This is me’.
The simple leaflet, produced by Alzheimer’s Society, is a record of a person’s background, likes and dislikes for people who can’t easily share this information themselves.
This is me can include details about the person’s culture, family, life and routines.
It’s designed so that professionals can provide care that’s person-centred – tailored to the person’s interests, abilities, history and personality.
A huge difference
‘When Mum finally had a needs assessment and carers were put in place, This is me was really useful for planning activities and social outings that she would enjoy,’ explains Paula.
I used This is me to tell them how much she likes animals, and her carers use this as a distraction technique to help her when she is particularly confused or anxious.
‘I’ve also listed her favourite foods (she always had a very sweet tooth) and hobbies (she loves jigsaws).
‘This is me has made a huge difference, as it’s something carers can refer back and add to.’
Britt Greenfield, Dementia Advisor at the Society, recalls how helpful This is me was during her time volunteering in hospital.
‘Before my current job, I was a volunteer at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, visiting patients with dementia.
Every known person with dementia had a This is me near their bed or in their top drawer. This was so valuable as I saw so many different people weekly, it was hard to remember their interests or backgrounds.
‘This helped me to build a rapport quicker, as I knew more about the person.
‘One gentleman was an engineer who worked on Concorde. I got him talking about this for ages and, as I knew nothing about it, he was happy to teach me, which brightened both our afternoons.’
A personalised-care tool for dementia
Since it was created in 2010, This is me continues to grow in popularity and has been endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing.
Kathy De Mattia, Writer/Editor at the Society, says, ‘We love how passionate people feel about This is me, and we receive a lot of positive feedback, as well as ideas to make it even better.
We reviewed This is me in 2023, involving people with dementia, their carers, family and friends, and professionals. The response was incredible, and we were able to reshape the tool with all the new ideas.
The updated This is me is a booklet that includes the person’s preferred name and interests on the cover, with new sections for improved person-centred care.
Benefits of using This is me
This is me is widely used in hospitals but can be used in any setting, including at home or in a care home.
Kathy wants more professionals to understand just how helpful it is and to use it.
Helen Saville, Dementia Advisor, recommended This is me to a couple she was supporting for the husband’s two-week stay in a care home. The man has type 1 diabetes in addition to his dementia.
‘The care home was aware of this and had agreed a plan of action with diabetes specialists prior to him entering the home,’ Helen says. ‘This is me was more of a backup, with extra hints and tips.
This is me can be invaluable in providing missing information at a time when loved ones are under stress. Things can be added as you think of them and before they are actually needed.
‘Unfortunately, the care home did not use the document, which had specific written instructions saying that when his blood sugars are checked at night, he may need a few biscuits to help him through.
‘So he did suffer a few night-time “hypo” incidents, but is home and fine now.’
This underlines how important it is for professionals to make use of This is me, and the difference it can make when they do.
How can you help?
Your donations help us develop tools like ‘This is me’ so people with dementia can get the care they need.