Curiosity and Openness enable a shift from 'Challenging' to ‘Contributing’

I was told a wonderful tale about a ‘challenging’ resident recently.

He would lash out at fellow residents, appear beside people’s beds at night, harass, shout, struggle and object. He was quickly labeled ‘challenging’ and given medication to calm him.

Enter one of the participants from our Outstanding Activities programme, let’s call her Anne-Marie. One of the aims of the programme is to create leaders who involve colleagues and foster a culture of enjoyment of life in care settings. How could this ‘challenging’ individual enjoy life? The answer of course depends on the individual. Anne-Marie embraced two of Ladder to the Moon’s core values: openness and curiosity.

The gentleman in question – call him Robert - had been taken into hospital for a routine operation. Whilst in hospital, his wife (and primary carer) became ill. Shortly after he arrived at the care home for respite, she died. So he stayed.

Due to the nature of this admission process, very little was known about the new arrival. Including his very poor eyesight. So when Robert didn’t recognise individuals around him, he would get very close to try and find out who they were. If Robert saw a woman lying in bed he would assume it was his wife, and approach her. If Robert was man-handled away from someone he hoped was his wife, he would become upset.

With a little open-mindedness, it was clear to see that this gentleman was in a horribly stressful and confusing place. Anne-Marie communicated with staff about Robert’s eyesight. She encouraged regular, repeated and patient assistance to support Robert understand his new environment. And continued to discover more about Robert.

Although he required a carer, Robert had looked after many of his own needs, including preparing breakfast. A team leader accompanied Robert on a few occasions to the kitchen to prepare his own breakfast. Now he helps every morning, preparing tables.

Robert wasn’t ‘challenging’, he was ‘having a challenging time’. Thanks to an open-minded and curious mindset and some creative actions, he doesn’t require medication to alter his behaviour now (did he ever?) He is socially engaged and contributing to his new community.