Carers Group: 8/02/21

The snow was deep and crisp and icy. Fortunately, we were on Zoom. We were able to have a full meeting, in the warmth of our own homes.

Teepa Snow: the GEMS model

Peter revisited this model. Teepa Snow’s fascinating video introduction to the model is here.

To quote the web site: “The only constant with dementia, or brains in general, is that they are ever-changing. All humans experience brain change every day. This GEMS Model, developed by Teepa Snow and based on the Allen Cognitive Scale, recognizes the shifts in our skills and abilities in any given moment. With dementia, while the progression, pattern, and changes may look very different for each type of dementia, the movement through the GEMS is somewhat predictable. Your understanding of the remaining abilities at each step of this journey can make a world of difference.” – “Just like gems, each person is precious, valuable, and unique, and given the right setting and care, can shine.” – Teepa Snow

Covid vaccine

We were told that vaccinations were progressing well. One issue raised was about where someone has had an allergic reaction to vaccinations in the past. The questions asked before someone has the covid jab include ones about reactions and anaphylactic shock. The guidance is very clear that anyone who is vulnerable should raise the potential issue and only be vaccinated in a hospital.

Some vaccination centres are ahead of others. Guys hospital, for example, is able to vaccinate carers (the call handlers vet those claiming to be carers). Having had rather a lot of visits to Guys recently, I recommend their efficient and very clean centres.

Guys is where I had my jab. For me it was quick, painless and came with a cup of coffee and a biscuit. Thank you NHS.

Scam phone calls

Sadly a carer reported her mum had been receiving lots of scam calls on her land-line. The callers claimed to be from a variety of organisations, including HMRC and BT. They asked for personal details. Stopping these calls is very difficult, as the callers use a variety of numbers and block tracing. The police were involved in this case. They advised the mum to hang up if she didn’t know the caller – she replied “but that would be very rude”.

The group suggested her mum get a mobile phone. This had been tried and she had mislaid three of them!

Easy use Telephones

The group liked the idea of phones with big keys, showing photos of the people who had been pre-programmed into the phone,

Here is an example [we have not tested this model – it is included just for information].

Keep warm

Another story was about a mum turning the heating down, she didn’t want a big bill. There had been several discussions about the need to keep warm, particularly as the mum doesn’t move about very much. This hadn’t been as successful as hoped for. The mum, somewhat frustrated with the radiator controls, had smashed them with a broom handle.

Janet suggested putting notes around the house reminding mum, and any visitors, not to turn the heating off.

The mum and daughter came to our Friendship group the following day. Janet asked the mum, in passing, if she was warm enough. She said “yes” and that she would never turn the heating off and be cold…

Melting away

Being isolated in a care home is having negative effects on those staying there. A carer said her mum’s home had not had any covid cases and they wanted to keep it that way. This was good news from a physical health perspective, but was having a big impact on mental health. The carer felt her mum was melting away. The lack of in-person contact is leading to difficulties in communicating by phone, as mum is unsure about who she is talking to and is easily distracted.

Emotional rollercoaster

A carer, who has been at home with his wife for many months, said that she doesn’t recognise him and her emotions were in turmoil. She had lost her language. He tries a variety of methods to distract and calm her, sometimes succeeding. Like other group members the strain is clear when he speaks, but he puts a brave face on and is as positive as possible.

Dementia and learning difficulties

People often don’t just have one issue to deal with. In this case, the challenges of being in a care home continue to cause the person, her carer, and the home problems and stress. Here is another home that has no cases of covid and is very protective of its people – especially as it is in an area of very high infection rates. The person wants to see her carer, wants to go home and can not understand what is happening to her. Her frustration means she is considered a “disruptive” person.

Carer mental well-being

How would you cope if you were looking after three old ladies each with different ailments and a son? What if, in addition, your husband and father had died in the recent past. And then covid and lockdown arrives? How much counselling and support would be needed?


Some people with dementia develop their own ideas on health remedies, often based on memories from the past. A carer mentioned again that his sister had decided that charcoal would help fend off covid. The group seem to think it odd that anyone would want to take charcoal. A quick look at Amazon shows that charcoal is a popular remedy (but not for covid), see here.

On a positive note, the sister has a covid jab booked.

Let’s see some real people!

Our final story was from a carer who’s dad was doing well. He often spoke to family and friends on the telephone. This went well, but then he was keen to go and meet them. He had difficulty in understanding why he couldn’t.


We were ready to say goodbye, when the subject of disappearing pens came up. Two carers said that pens had found their ways into mysterious areas of trousers or leggings. How they got there and how to get them out had been proving a challenge.

Next meeting the 8th March.

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