Insights from elderly homes….

On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week we visited 2 different elderly homes in Copenhagen to try and gain insight into their daily lives and how it could be improved focusing on the areas of social interaction, physical activity and autonomy. We spent the two days talking to elderly people who suffered from dementia and their carers and doing observations of their daily lives. On this post i am going to write up some of my notes from these two days, that we then went on to analyze. (for privacy reasons i have left out the names of people and the elderly home)

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Day 1: Fredriksberg

  • Owned by a Methodist church and funded by the Fredriksberg Kommune
  • The manager has been there 23 years, he runs it with his wife, his son grew up there
  • There are 60 residents, 64 full time staff,each resident has their own carer for more personal tasks like washing and getting dressed. It is essential that there is a strong bond between the carer and resident. The carer will be changed until the resident feels comfortable with them.
  • Most residents have either had a stroke and have dementia.
  • Large focus on the communal areas and social activities
  • 30% of the residents die each year (this is well below average)
  • “our job is to give them their identity back, they need their identity to meet people, otherwise their is no point” (Manager)
  • In the first three or four months the residents decide if the want to live or or give up hope, there for during this time it is the sole objective of the home to make them happy, help them make friends and enjoy there time there.
  • “you can make a cold cup of coffee warm with a hug and a kiss on the cheek” When the residents are sad or frustrated they complain about things that aren’t true, during this time they need kindness ad affection that the staff will give them.
  • They make a huge effort to make sure the residents keep their independence, they have their own apartments that they bring their own furniture to , they take them of trips to parks, forests, other cities, other countries!
  • They staff know all about the residents previous life and experiences they have had, so that when the patients with dementia become frustrated, upset or angry they can calm with familiar and happy stories.
  • They have a special room called the “memory room’ It is filled with old artifacts and memories to help the residents remember old happy memories.

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In the memory room

  • There is a physical therapy room which is brilliantly equipped that that the residents enjoy using but the machine are very over complicated and hard for them to design, the interface should be put to better use or encouragement etc.

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Working out!

  • The patient don’t choose who they end up living with, so there personalities often clash and find it hard to make close friends
  • They all have different experiences from the outside world-these need to be taken into consideration more
  • The staff keep a diary of the residents to help the family know what they have been doing
  • The residents always need someone around otherwise they feel scared
  • “They give you a lot, its very rewarding, when i see them with a smile of their face i know i have done my job” (dementia specialist)
  • “It doesn’t matter if it’s a new house or an old house it’s the staff, it can be a big room or a small room it’s still the staff” (dementia specialist)
  • There i no strict schedule in the home,the residents can decide what they want to do, you have to judge every situation as it arises “Taking the temperature” (carer)
  • “We don’t notice it’s a nursing home, because we are all all alike, we do things together like a family”(Jospeph, Resident)

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At the hairdresser

Day 2: Nørrebro

  • Strong connection to the Salvation Army and is supported by your Kommune
  • residents move in because they need 24hour care
  • you move your own stuff into your apartments, and can decorate it the way you want.
  • There is a big emphasis in the residents personal space, rather than the communal area, there is a very big contrast between them. The communal areas are very institutional.
  • One resident said “this is not a very good hospital, I’ve been here six months and i haven’t seen a doctor!” this shows her association with the home is a hospital.

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Communical corridor looking like a hospital

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In a personal Apartment

  • There 12 staff working during the day for 43 residents, only 2 at night
  • The staff never give up hope,they try to give the residents their individuality back.
  • They focus on their needs, gain their trust, and make sure they know its their home
  • Everyone’s rooms are very different, it is very important for people with dementia that they recognize it to be their own ‘home’
  • They have an old computer in the home at the moment that a few of the elderly use to play solitaire on it, they like it because it is similar to them but just in a new context. they know what to expect.
  • A lot of the residents have a heard of a computer, but they don’t know what it can do, but they are intrigued.

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One of the residents looking at her photo’s on an iphone

  • Some of them are scared of using technology in case they do something wrong or embarrass themselves
  • The word media put a barrier between them, they don’t understand the ‘jargon’
  • The residents communicate with friends and family through the phone but are often limited because they need help from the staff
  • the residents are not all friends but they do take care of each other and know of each others needs, they build up their own social structures
  • When talking about bonds between the staff and residents,and when people die:

“sometime i want to cry, sometimes it’s a relief because i know the pain they have been through”

“some people do get a bigger part of your heart, its supposed to be professional, but you do get attached to people’

“It’s a professional job, they are not your family, but you still want to keep a family vibe”

After completing our insights we went on to analyze them to come up with need statements-see next post.

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One Response to “Insights from elderly homes….”

  1. Bob Tell Says:

    Thank you for this excellent anecdotal article about “elderly homes.” There are so many variations on institutional care for elders that it’s hard to pick a single perfect model. At this point, I believe there is merit in developing many different formats and seeing which if any, work best. The thing is, dementia is a disease that knows no boundaries. It is blind to the categories in which we usually place our fellow human beings. It can occur at the age of 55 or 85. It can happen to Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Jews, Christians, Muslims, males and females, rich and poor. It will not spare ex-presidents or ex-prime ministers. It did not spare my mother. Tears are shed by husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters—in fact anyone responsible for the care of a loved one with dementia. Thank you again for this helpful article,

    Bob Tell, Author
    http://www.dementia-diary.com
    http://caregiverchronicle.blogspot.com/

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