Herne Bay March 2017

Time outside may not be easy to arrange but it’s vital because enjoying time outside helps the elderly and everyone living with dementia. Apart from the exercise, we know that the senses of sight, smell and hearing support happiness long after memories and other skills diminish through age, illness and dementia related issues.

Linda of ReminiScent SmellandConnect came in to see us last week to talk about the impact of  smell and other senses on well-being. We asked her to share her account of taking her mother out when she visited her in residential care.  We are sharing some of our own photos of our clients enjoying the spring flowers this week in Kent but the following words are Linda’s and we would love your comments on DoLs

“Spring has arrived and I am reminded of last year, when I took my mother for a short walk in a woodland close to the care home in which she was resident.  She loved the colours of Spring.

It was wonderful to see her reaction to the blooming carpet of bluebells and revelling in the freedom and fresh air – though I was on high alert for her tripping over something on the uneven track on which we were walking.

Even though she had lost the ability to speak, her smile let me know that she enjoyed the expedition in every sense.  My perfumer friends would describe the air as smelling faintly floral with a hint of fresh green and woody undertones – to Mum and me it just smelled great, and, yes, bluebells do smell – when there are that many of them they smell quite a lot!

Happiness comes in a whole range of colours and scents. Our senses make a great contribution to our well being. Tune into them to enjoy a sense of springtime and see the impact the experience has; the sight of bright green grass and new leaves, the sound of birds busily nest-building, the feel of warm sunshine or a breeze and, the smell of fresh air, of hyacinths and bluebells and of course the distinctive scent of the first lawn cutting!

There have been press articles about many people with dementia being detained unlawfully due to delays in completing the formal Deprivation of Liberty (DoL) processes.

DoLs are required for anyone who is not free to leave their accommodation and subject to continuous supervision.  The whole process sits very uncomfortably with me. During the end stages of my mother’s dementia, she definitely needed continuous care, but she loved fresh air and greenery.

It brought her much happiness. Her reaction to a simple walk in the garden convinces me that the balance between safeguarding and freedom is completely wrong in most care models.  The contribution of freedom of movement to quality of life is indisputable – but people living with dementia are denied it. The argument given is that there are too many hazards outside; my answer to that is – please design the outside of care facilities so that people can go in them without constant supervision! Or enable excursions through the support of carers.

If you are visiting a relative with dementia – help them to go outside, even if only for a few minutes.  If you cannot go yourself, organise someone who knows your relative to help.  If mobility is an issue, use a wheel chair.  And talk because the effects of smiles, kind banter and laughter linger on.

Actions have a lasting effect upon quality of life and well-being.  Even if the facts are forgotten the happiness, contentment and the feeling of being loved remain long after you have departed.  The effects of the Spring flowers will remain long after the trip is over.”

As a care service provider, we often visit clients in residential care as well as their own homes and time outside is  prioritised. We may take  a “spin around the grounds” or  down the street. We may go to a local event or visit favourite haunts (including cafés, pubs, shops, hairdressers, garden centers)  We’ll go for a drive or we’ll walk.   We take care matching carer and client with the same interests so things like summer time cricket matches are an all time favourite.

If people are or have been outdoors people,  getting outside again can literally give them their lives back.  It takes time and maybe some planning, but getting out matters a lot to people and it needs prioritising.

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