This past Remembrance Day, the importance of knowing the person was made dramatically clear to me. I visited a long term care home to help out. I gathered a small group of dementia residents and spent about 45 minutes doing Remembrance Day activities such as reading “In Flanders Field”, coloring poppies, reminiscing about going to the cenotaph and Remembrance Days past. Everyone in the group had a nice time and participated normally.
It was then time to watch the service on television. Shortly into the service one of the residents broke down and became very emotional. She was upset and crying, virtually inconsolable. It turns out that she had siblings who died in the war and was having difficulty dealing with the emotions. An hour later she was still very upset and in tears despite attempts at distraction and validating her feelings.
If the person had bad reactions to Remembrance Day in the past, all of this may have been avoidable if it had been recorded and made available in a personal history such as our dementia specific “My Story” booklet. If this was the first time, it should be recorded for future reference.
One interesting side note is that when I visited the same memory care facility a week later the person apologized to me for being so upset. That’s a good thing because often in a case like this the person would associate her negative emotions with me rather than the service. She bonded with me for helping her, rather than associating me with her negative feelings.