The importance of communicating with residents during lockdown

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An activities co-ordinator with South-West base dementia care provider Camelot Care has been using his previous experience of working with people with autism to highlight the importance of communicating even more carefully than usual with residents during lockdown. 

Jason Saunders, who leads the activities team at Avalon Nursing Home in Bridgwater, said: “People living with dementia have cognitive issues which can make it so much harder for them to understand the need for the Covid safety precautions and health protection measures, and this can lead to high levels of frustration. 

“It is up to us to notice when our residents are trying to express their worries and do what we can to reassure them.  

“One of the techniques I used in a previous position, working with people with autism, was to devise a special story board to address hard-to-understand subjects that were causing concern, and we’re finding these work incredibly well with our residents living with dementia as well. 

“I’ve created story boards to address issues like why places we usually visit are currently closed, why staff and visiting health care professionals are wearing PPE, what social distancing is all about, and to explain why testing is needed and what it involves. 

“The everyday safety measures which my colleagues and I are now used to still come as a surprise every day to many of our residents, so the story boards ensure we are consistent with our answers to their questions and that we don’t miss any of the issues which may be important to them. 

“For instance, the story board about testing explains it is to keep the individual and others around them safe, how the person doing the test will be dressed up to protect them from germs and what they will be wearing, and says that lots of people may need the test so there might be a short wait involved. It also explains what the swabbing involves, and that it might not feel very nice, but it will be finished very quickly. 

“Our nurses are able to share this story board with residents just before testing occurs, which maximises the chance they’ll remember why they’re being tested and really goes a long way to minimising any confusing and allaying our residents’ concerns.” 

The care regime at Avalon also involves carers engaging individually with each of their residents and communicating with other members of the team every day to ensure individuals’ concerns and interests are shared. 

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