A Delightful Man First.

I work in a small care home with three residents, all of whom have dementia. 

One client, let’s call him Peter, had a fall downstairs some time ago and, as a result had brain damage resulting in dementia some years later. 

He is a delightful man, well-mannered, the perfect gentleman who would help out if he could. He speaks, but I have little sense of what he is saying, though on another level, I often understand what he is attempting to get across. He often requires prompting to go to the bathroom and needs a continence pad at night plus a ‘kylie’ on his bed to keep him dry. 

Peter worked as a paediatrician and a surgeon, and his daughter from another state visited recently. She was sharing how her dad would get permission from funeral directors to look at deceased people and study the workings of the knee. This was one of the operations he did regularly. It reminded me of Leonardo da Vinci who did a similar study on deceased persons in Firenze, Italy.

I like to focus on the man before me (not his condition of dementia) and treat him with the utmost dignity and respect. 

Peter continues to have the same eye for detail. When I suggest he wash his hands after toileting or before meals, he does it so well. It’s a ritual he is well versed in, and I can feel the care he would have taken in the past with his work.

He also likes to write. One evening shift after dinner I gave him paper and pen and he wrote for over an hour. Some words were legible, and he invited me to read it. Again, it felt like he was writing from a time gone by, where he went into detail thoroughly and by asking me to read his writing was looking for views on this subject. 

Recently I felt to bring in some shells from my collection. They were in need of a good clean. Peter picked up a white spiky-spined murex shell that looked similar to the spine and for a hour or so gave complete focus to the task of cleaning it. With his eye for detail, he completed the job thoroughly. During this time, I was able to give my attention to another man who was requiring extra support with food intake. 

Peter also enjoys places of beauty. So, I gave him photo books of beautiful places in nature, which can keep him settled and from wandering out of the care home. He naturally enjoys looking at anatomy books, which I often bring in for him to study.

I like to provide Peter with meaningful activities which give him a sense of purpose in what he does and seems to settle him more deeply into his body. 

When I see Peter at the beginning of each shift I am often greeted with a beaming smile as he lies in bed. This smile matches my own. I suggest that I will run the shower so he can get out of bed and directly into a warm shower which he enjoys. Peter is a tall man and when drying his body together – one towel each, he often bends down to match my petite height so I can dry his shoulders or give him a shave. Another caring trait that has not been lost. 

I feel the love I have for him and all the residents, and the joy to witness the sparkle in his eyes.

Working with Peter can be fun and purposeful. As I said earlier, he is a delightful man. 

4 thoughts on “A Delightful Man First.”

  1. Victoria Warburton

    Such a beautiful article… that whilst attending to ‘the physical’ would clearly be no mean task, there is zero belittling, zero judgement, zero struggle, and only the celebration and cherishing of a man who continues to be responsive to delight, shared Joy and being given tasks through which to serve others. And how blessed he is to be looked after by this writer.

  2. Thank you for this. It is so important to see the person before us rather than the condition(s) they may have. My mother is in a care home and has been diagnosed with dementia and I find it makes a massive difference to her, how I approach her and speak with her. If we see beyond the dementia, we connect with something deeper within the person which to me, is love in action.

  3. This is so beautiful to read, the care between you both.

    What I’ve noticed is that, more often than not, there can be a sadness about a life once lived when people are in their elder years and especially so with those with dementia. This is not the case here, far from it.

    Nothing is lost; his life, as I experience it from your writing, is full of warmth and love. I loved reading how his life is full and rich, that there is nothing amiss when we relate to another in the fullness of their being. Very beautiful, thank you.

  4. This article offers a masterclass on the caring relationship. True care is listening, observing and responding – this carer is moved to serve from observation alone, not from anything mental or pre-scripted – she simply responds with love to the person before her and we witness the joy that unfolds for both of them.

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