The Goldfish has been offered a place at the day centre in the next town two days a week. It’s a pilot project designed for people in the later stages of dementia who are no longer able to benefit from the traditional day care service. We’ve known for some time the Man at the day centre isn’t happy at how little the Goldfish can participate so, despite having to spend a couple of hours driving him there and back each time, we were pleased.
It’s a pilot project designed – they tell me – to focus on sensory stimulation as a means of communication, including touch, smell, hearing, taste and sight. Tailored to each person’s individual needs and abilities attention will be given to nutrition and the programme will also help with elements of personal care which families may find difficult to do.
It does sound wonderful – but why must it be only when a person reaches the last stages of dementia they are considered eligible? Well, of course, we know the answer – money. Why is it that despite knowing the importance of mental stimulation, physical activities, socialising for people with dementia funding is not made available for those in the earlier stages? Answers on a postcard – directed to Government, not to me.
I take the Goldfish along for a session to see how it goes. It’s all very wonderful with lots of books, games, soft toys – including a cat which breathes (or would if it wasn’t broken. I’m quite glad of this as it seems a bit creepy to me) and a baby doll, the same weight as a real baby. It was like the staff had been let loose in a sweet shop. No sooner was the Goldfish engrossed in a picture book than someone brought him something else. He was enjoying a game batting a balloon backwards and forwards with the husband of another service user when a member of staff shoved another book at him. I fear sensory overload if it doesn’t calm down a bit.
I had to sign lots of permission forms (we will be given photos of the Goldfish enjoying himself and they might be used in research material made public) and go along for an interview with the researchers. I think the idea is to get a baseline picture of the Goldfish before he attends and then compare it after another interview later in the project.
Unfortunately, I alienate the researchers from the beginning by querying the first question on the form as I felt it was ambiguous. I also questioned what they meant when they asked how often the Goldfish smiles without any outside stimulus. I mean, he doesn’t sit and smile to himself. He smiles if people come in and speak to him; he smiles when someone jokes with him or he sees something funny on television – but he doesn’t sit smiling inanely to himself.
I’d been given a copy of the questionnaire while we were doing the interview but when I asked if I could take it to let Wee-sis see it they refused saying it was “our research tool”. Humph!