6th November 2017
This week marks the annual Remembrance Sunday commemorations – when communities around the country take time to reflect and remember those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom.
For many older people, thinking about what happened during wartime can be painful, sad and difficult to talk about. The impact that war had on their lives and those of the people they loved is immeasurable, with the shockwaves and impression left lasting a lifetime. Much like the poppies whose green shoots first shed a small chink of light and colour on the darkest of battlefields, signifying hope for renewed peace, wartime is also known for bringing out the best in people - with memories of communities pulling together, people looking out for each other and putting others before themselves – whether it is a young man who gave up his life on the battle field, or a mother who took in extra hungry mouths to feed when she knew that food was already scarce.
For an older person suffering from dementia, talking about the war can provide a vital connection to a world that they know and remember well – with the experiences of the war often providing the most vivid memories of their lifetime. One of our Care Heroes in particular enjoys talking with an elderly client, Mary, who is in the advanced stages of dementia. On a day to day basis, Mary requires assistance with personal care and has trouble with everyday tasks due to her declining memory. But contrary to this, when on the subject of her World War Two experiences, Mary can tell you an awful lot! Evacuated to Cornwall as a child in 1940, she can recall not only the name of the village she was relocated to, but the name and location of the Church and exactly where it was located in relation to the village shop and school. Talking about her host family and her new-found friends so clearly provides her with strong and positive memories, as well as relaxing her and alleviating stress.
Being able to access memories in this way is like finding a key to unlock a door – for our Care Heroes, understanding this and the subtleties involved is equally important with being an expert in the practical side of care. In particular for those suffering from dementia, finding ways to help clients feel secure and confident in their abilities for as long as possible is a vital part of what we provide. Remembrance Sunday is about making sure that no-one is forgotten, and that principle is one that can be carried through to care of the elderly. A person is made up of a multitude of memories and experiences, inevitably some traumatic and others positive – all of which provide the building blocks that make up who that person is today. Much like the events to remember wars throughout the years that are taking place this week, accessing the past can help us with our lives in the present day – and by helping an elderly person to remember, their quality of life can be enhanced and their sense of wellbeing increased.