Secret Men’s Business…Uncovered

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Men’s Group brings me new challenges each week and I guess that is why I like it so much. I wanted to share another dynamic that comes with Men’s Group and that is ‘interacting new residents into a group’.

This week I had a new resident come and join us, his name is Harry and he is an absolute gentleman. He reminded me of my Dad in the way he dressed, and the way he communicated. I go and collect him from his room and introduce myself, and at this point I am rapidly assessing his capabilities. I shake hands with Harry and ask a few ‘safe’ but searching questions. I only have a few seconds to determine the following:

• Can he communicate ok?
• What is his level of cognition?
• Is he agitated or aggressive at all?
• Can he understand what I am saying to him?
• Does he have insight to where he is at with his dementia?
• Do I need to bring anything he might need or want? Eg a jacket or comfort item.

As I walked Harry over to the group we would talk casually about sports and his business life. Straight away he tells me is a member of a golf club. I then list off other sports and he said he used to play football. Instantly we have common ground and we are reminiscing. He is happy to be with me as the conversation is in ‘his world’.

I offer to play some indoor golf with him. He refuses and makes up an excuse. (This is common behaviour in a new group). I then set up the golf box and clubs and get Harry to help me carry the clubs. I set up balls on the ground and hand him a club, he once again refuses. I then realise that Harry recognises the game but is probably worried he will play it wrong or embarrass himself. I then arranged another resident to putt some balls in front of Harry so he can re-connect with the skills required.

I gently pass the club to Harry again and ask him “you sure you don’t want just one go?”. He refuses again politely and gives me an excuse. I then decide to start putting some balls into the golf box. Harry gets all excited when a ball goes in and he congratulates me. It happens again and he starts cheering and telling others. He is now engaged in the game. I then make an excuse to do something else and I ask Harry if he would mind holding the club while I attend to something else. (I have already laid out the balls on the floor). As I go to walk off I say to Harry “you may as well have a quick hit while you are there holding the club?”. He then putts and the ball goes in the hole. The group erupts and cheers. He putts again with same result. He is now on a ‘hat trick’ and once again he gets the ball in the hole. Everyone cheers , we make a huge fuss of Harry and feels part of the group.

As we were doing painting as well yesterday I tried to get Harry involved with this. Once again more refusals and excuses. We then agreed that he could just observe today so he politely agreed to sit at the table and chat with all of us. The conversations were fantastic and was a ‘huge win’ as even if the man does not do the activity we are interacting with each other and chatting about memories. The group also changes and becomes more interesting. I purposely placed paint and a brush in front of him should I get the chance to get him to try painting. I offered him the brush once again he refused. I have worked out that the key is to be side on to the men and act as casually as possible. My body language is always making the resident feel in charge and I am trying to be ‘one of the lads’. I then ask Harry if he could hold the box for me while I paint . He jumps at the chance to help me and does a great job of steadying the box. He compliments me on my painting skills and he has a smile on his face.

The message I wanted to share today was that in lifestyle activities it is possibly best not to give up when a resident rejects an activity. We need to delve into how they are feeling and determine why they are refusing. The key I have found is to be subtle and allow the resident to be in control. Almost tempt them into participating with strategically placed items and allow then to never fail. We need to set them up for success each and every time. Once again I am blown away with how people interact and engage. What an amazing classroom we have ?:)

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