Quote from dmrnurse
I just started volunteering at a nursing home and have been assigned to an Alzheimer's floor. I will be starting Nursing School this September. I have not had any training or certification in any type of patient care so I realize that I am limited in what I can do for the nurses or patients. I helped nursing assistants distribute meals in the dining room then I staffed the phones at the nursing station while the nurses helped feed patients and took their breaks. Other than that the nurses told me to mingle with the patients.
I am a little bit nervous about what I should say or do with the patients. Many patients lapse into and out of lucid conversations. What can I do for these folks other than try to talk with them? When they go off on less than lucid tangents, should I just "go along with" their tangents. For example, one woman would have a seemingly reasonable conversation with me then randomly start talking about her son picking her up that night and taking her home (which I knew was not the case). Should I try to ask her about her son, his name, age, whatever? Or am I risking taking her to a sad place and would do her a better service by trying to get her on a different topic. I sincerely want to help the patients and nurses, but in retrospect I am a little afraid that I might say something that would upset the patients. Any advice would be appreciated. Also, I regret that I am not the best mingler/small talker. I was thinking of taking magazines with a lot of photographs with me the next time I work and trying to strike up conversations about the pictures with the patients (who have good enough vision).
Any advice would be appreciated! I am so afraid of doing more harm than good. Thank you!
With Alzheimers/dementia patients, it's pretty much useless to try to re-orient. Sometimes just going along with their "conversation" works. This type of resident is totally different from the normally oriented resident who is experiencing some type hallucination caused by drugs, illness or whatever. with those type of situations, re-orienting can be successful and should be attempted, but with the alzheimer's resident, especially the later stages, you will not re-orient them, and can anger them if you argue with them.
Safe toys such as plush dolls with buttons, zippers, laces will occupy them for a few minutes at a time. Most facilities with alzheimers units usually have some type of busy box with appropriate safe toys. So, you could just play with the residents. Just remember that their attention span can be quite short.
I don't work on a lock down unit, and I admire those who can do it day in and day out. It's just too draining for me. I'm much more suited for the skilled nursing area. But, it takes all kinds to be able to meet the needs of the LTC population. It is wonderful to have volunteers. Bless you. I'm sure that if you go in with a caring and willing heart, you will meet many, many needs and will be very appreciated by the facility staff.