“Still people, just like you and me” – Susan Barton – In Their Shoes

As part of Alzheimer's Awareness month, we are profiling our staff as we take a walk 'In their shoes'.

Up next is Susan Barton, Home Manager at Oldbury Grange nursing home who has managed nursing homes which care for residents living with dementia for more than 15 years. She talked about her experience and key learnings during this time.

“The most important thing I have learnt is that those living with the condition are still people, just like you and me. Dementia is nothing to be ashamed of and families need to learn to be as supportive as they can possibly be.

We really want to make Oldbury Grange feel like a home from home for our residents; somewhere they can sit in their favourite chair, wear the clothes they feel comfortable in and read their favourite book in peace.

Much like this, residents must also be able to have the freedom they deserve, and choice to do what they want, when they want. Whether they want to have their hair cut, walk in the gardens or choose the food they feel like eating.

I’m a great believer in photographs. Photographs tell a story, capture memories and are great for looking back on with friends and family. This is why I encourage all of our residents’ loved ones to bring pictures which could be used to decorate rooms along with any memorabilia that may spark memories for those living with dementia.

Recently we had a resident whose granddaughter had just got married. Very thoughtfully, the happy couple had put together the most beautiful album full of snippets from their big day so that their loved one, who was unable to make their big day, had something lovely to keep.

In terms of advice and reassurance to families who are bringing a loved one to our nursing home, we always sit down together beforehand and explain what we have at the nursing home, the mealtimes and the choice of food. I find that this is also a great opportunity to discuss the resident’s background, health problems and anything else that may be important.

When first arriving at the home, I advise that family members do not return to see their loved one for a couple of days to give them the opportunity to settle in to their new environment, get accustomed to their new room and meet new people.

Safety is our priority and it is important to have protocols in place across our home for those who are living with dementia who may no longer have a concept of danger. To ensure loved ones feel safe and secure and to avoid undue stress or panic, we have alarmed doors and staff on hand 24/7 to help guide residents to wherever they wish to go.

We do understand it is important to provide security for our residents without depriving them of their liberties, so we do our utmost to plan daily scheduled activities as well as encouraging family and friends to take their loved ones out for lunch.

I am so proud of my staff who work around the clock to provide our residents with high-quality care. Each one of my staff are hardworking, brave and completely dedicated which is always great to see and work alongside.”

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