Caption: “Please Vanessa! I need your help!”

Vanessa is a beautiful person. She is loving, caring, chatty and welcoming of everybody. She likes being with people and having a chat and she likes doing work and helping out. One of her volunteer jobs has been at a local nursing home where she had been volunteering for over 7 years. When she is there she is she has various roles- shredding documents in the office, gardening, setting up for lunches, pouring drinks, folding and delivering laundry and much more. These all make the staff’s work day much easier and happier, but even more important is the impact she has on the residents, who are always so happy to see and chat with Vanessa each week. Last week we saw a fantastic event that reminded us of why developing roles around who people are and one person at a time, is still a great way to work. Vanessa has great personality and many skills but she still needs one of our staff with her when she is at the nursing home. This example also shows us the beauty that happens when staff do what they are supposed to do in these cases, fade into the background and let people develop their own relationships.

On Thursday a nurse came rushing up to Vanessa saying “please Vanessa! I need your help!”. A resident with dementia needed some personal care done but did not understand the situation and was getting very upset, even trying to kick the nurses. As soon as she saw Vanessa entered the room, and her upset friend saw Vanessa, a huge smile broke over the residents face and she began dancing and singing. After just a couple of minutes spending time with Vanessa she was happy to let the nurse do her job!

Yes there is no doubt that Vanessa’s bubbly personality and enthusiasm is often just what the residents need to make ordinary activities something special and exciting but this incident, and the many other moments Vanessa has had at the home tell us a lot more than that. It tells us about the value people place on the relationships Vanessa has developed with people, it is one of trust, value, and friendship with the staff and it tells us about friendly and loving relationships that have developed with the patients because she was in a place that made sense in terms of who she is and what she wants to do.

What it also tells us is that that day Vanessa had a better story to tell when she got home than most, if not all, of the people who will read this email. She would tell the story of how her friend was upset, and the paid and qualified nurses, who work with her every day couldn’t calm her day. They came running for Vanessa and she went in and her friend relaxed, simply because a friend was there. Boy, if I did that, I would think it was a great day to.

A note…

Helping people to have better stories to tell, isn’t always easy. It takes time to know people, to find the places and people who match who, and what, our participants want to be, sometimes it needs stopping something and starting again, it takes staff who know how to help someone build skills and relationship while becoming less visible themselves… But what it also is, is it’s NEVER IMPOSSIBLE. It doesn’t matter if you can’t talk, cross a road, make a sandwich, need help to go to the toilet, walk, it doesn’t matter if you wear continence aids or are peg fed; if you do things one person at a time and surround yourself by people who imagine better and expect more, then you will have better stories to tell.