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!
Join them in their world. If you try to correct them a lot of times it will only cause agitation which can be very unpleasant. Once you become comfortable with the residents, you will get to know some really amazing people. Those with alzheimers really do need a friend. As much as us aides try to do that, a lot of times we just don't have the time too. The residents will truely love any type of conversation you can bring them. Ask about what kind of activities they may have on the unit and try to engage some of the residents in those. There are some great reminising games or prompts that could help you get a good conversation going. Another really good activity that all of my residents love is bring a bottle or two of cheap nail polish with you and a bottle of lotion. You can do hand massages and paint fingernails.
Really don't be afraid to interact. Yes, some residents are easily aggetated, but just change the subject and see if that helps. Also the aides and nurses should be able to help you find ways to redirect, and once you know the residents you'll also know what are good subjects for them. You may see some frightening behaviors and some very sad things, but you can't let that get to you in a negative way.
One of the best things that has stuck with me from Alzheimers training is that someone with Alzheimers may not know your name, or who you are in relation to them, but they will reconize you as a friendly face and someone who cares about them.
Good luck and enjoy!
Last edit by casi on Jul 11, '05