Something Old, Something New

By Scott Tyler and Ahttarha Naori

For our project we created a therapy room in a care centre for people who have dementia.

It was scary meeting the residents for the first time as we didn’t know what to expect. But the residents were just so happy to meet us and just kept talking to us. There was one resident called Mary and whenever I’ve gone in she’s asked me to sit down and told me a story. We ordered her a cake for her birthday cos she was the first person to come and talk to us.

We were volunteering there every weekend for the first couple of months of the project.  We were only supposed to be volunteering for a couple of hours but we just wanted to spend the time with the residents.

The more encouragement we got and the more that people believed in us, the more we believed in ourselves. Someone believing in you – it gives you a lot of confidence and independence.

We started talking to Yvonne, the care home manager, who told us that she wanted to have a room where residents could go relax and play with different objects. She showed us a room that wasn’t being used. She said ‘this is the room I want you to do and you can do whatever you want’. She was so supportive and just trusted us to get on with the project.

I think she trusted us because from the moment we walked into the care home because we were all excited and I think we just gave her the confidence in us. She believed in us and she saw past the stereotypes that young people don’t care and are irresponsible.

I found the responsibility scary at first. We were expecting someone to be there to say do this and don’t do that but it wasn’t like that at all. But I began to see that this project was about being given responsibility and the experience as well so we don’t have to rely on someone to tell us what we can and can’t do.

After that there was no stopping us. We had so many ideas and we never looked back. The room we finally created was a combination of ‘something old and something new’ and could be used by the staff and residents for different types of therapy. The old section of the room was full of vintage furniture and pictures and could be used for reminiscent therapy which helps calm people with dementia. And the other side of the room we put in lights, music and textured objects that could be used for Sensory Therapy.

From working at the care home I’ve learned that each resident has a different way of communicating. There was one resident – she was really lively and you can’t just sit there and talk to her, you have to kind of walk around with her and dance with her. She’s constantly singing and moving about and so you have to communicate to her in a way that she relates to. And then there’s Mary who you have to be very quiet and gentle with. Each person has their own way of communicating.

I would think twice about how I ask a question now, even something as simple as your body language can communicate how you feel or what you’re thinking.

If you sit there looking nervous you can make someone else uncomfortable and you could give someone the impression that you don’t want to be there. And that’s not how you actually wanna come across, it’s just how you’re feeling.

I think we’ve made a difference cos we’ve given the residents something they can enjoy, somewhere they can actually go themselves and relax. They can go in a room that they know is theirs. I’m most proud of building those relationships with the residents – relationships that you’d never think you’d make.

The independence that Envision has given us has really boosted our confidence. If they just told us what to do and do all the work, you just seem to disappear and you don’t learn anything. But this has been a totally new experience which has really pushes you out of your comfort zone and it makes you do a lot more that you would do in your every day-to-day life.

Since starting this project Scott successfully applied for a full-time position as a Care Assistant and Ahttarha has also decided to follow a career in the care industry when she finishes her course next summer.