As Glenys Brown guides Linda Cussen out to the garden area of Bupa Parkhaven Care Home in Mangere East, you can tell there is an endearing level of trust between caregiver and resident. Linda is living with dementia and has been in the care home for over a year. As Linda stops to pat the care home cat, she suddenly says between jumbled words the word “Red”, the name of the much loved pet.
Glenys says it’s these moments of clarity with residents that make it all worthwhile.
“Linda is such a beautiful lady who really responds to the music we play in the care home and a love for Red the cat. It’s calming to be around her,” Glenys says.
The bond between Linda and the sprightly 69 year old caregiver of 28 years is strong, with the resident leaning on Glenys for support.
Recently, Glenys took Linda and other residents to a local stud farm to see the animals, knowing Linda’s love of animals. As soon as they arrived Linda’s demeanour changed, taking a keen interest in the horses and immersing herself in the farm surroundings.
After many years of caring, Glenys (affectionately called ‘Miss Glenys’ by residents and their families) has learnt ways of helping those living with dementia and preventing social isolation.
“You have to win their trust and have a lot of patience. You definitely don’t ignore them and you make sure you call them by their name. Don’t try and rush people who live with dementia, you take your time with them and give them lots of reassurance. They’re people like you and me,” Glenys says.
When asked if she’d ever consider retiring, Glenys is quick to respond with a resounding no.
“My residents mean the world to me and they’re like my family. I have a tough time when I go on holiday and need to stop myself from crying, I’m always thinking of them,” Glenys adds.
With a supportive extended family and daily visits from her husband for walks down the street, Linda responds to the sights and sounds around her and warm hugs from Glenys.
Linda’s husband Chris says his wife has resided in a couple of other care homes in the past but says Bupa Parkhaven is just right for her because of the staff.
“Glenys is a fixer of everything and her caring of Linda is the absolute tops. So many people underestimate how much understanding is there with Linda but I can tell you she gets things and can respond in her own way. Glenys understands that and nurtures it,” Chris explains.
September is Dementia Awareness Month, with more than 70,000 Kiwis currently living with dementia. The number is expected to increase to more than 170,000 by 2050.
As Linda and Glenys slowly make their way back into the care home, Glenys begins to hum a tune with Linda suddenly responding, swaying and joining in. A fleeting moment of connection and warmth between a resident living with dementia and her caregiver.