For those who can no longer look after themselves in old age, a nursing home offers care around the clock. What are the daily routines for carers and inhabitants? A visit to the Lanzeln Nursing Care Centre in Stäfa shows that the the central focus is always on the individual and their personal life story.
Care around the clock
A care team of approximately 10 people are responsible for each of the four residential areas of the Lanzeln Nursing Care Centre. They assist with getting up, with nursing care, with meal times, wherever support is needed. Care assistant Adrian Costa helps an inhabitant with multiple sclerosis from her chair to the recliner. "I find working with old people very interesting – I am so impressed by their so very individual life stories," Costa says. A total of 122 elderly men and women live in the Lanzeln Nursing Care Centre, about half of them suffering with dementia. "Wherever possible, individuals with different clinical pictures live next door to each other. This activates resources on both sides," explains Marie-Louise Sarraj, director of the nursing home.
The morning care programme is part of the daily routine: personal hygiene, getting dressed, making the bed, medical care and check-up. Inhabitants are supported and assisted in their independence and according to how they feel on that particular day. This morning, Mr B. has shaved himself, and Nurse Christina Gräf helps with the final touches. Her credo: emphasise the skills that are still there rather than drawing attention to the deficits.
Dementia sufferers often are barely able to participate in a conversation. They live in their very own world of thoughts. However, the language of music still works surprisingly well in most of them. Some clients really come out of themselves while they are singing. Names, places and times are forgotten, as Nurse Monika Töpperwien explains, but not lyrics. Some floors boast a piano. Mrs F. does not need to be asked twice: her fingers touch the keys swiftly and purposefully, and lively dance music emanates. Only her repertoire gets ever smaller.
Mealtimes as meeting and focus points
Mrs Raggenbrass, one of the inhabitants, is often the first to arrive in the restaurant and helps herself to salad at the buffet. And as always, she prepares the plate for her "protégé" who does not like to do it himself. According to Chef de Service Yvonne Berti, meal times are central. A time to meet, to chat or to enjoy the food in silence. Each as he or she likes it. The same goes for the choice of menu: traditional or vegetarian or, if needed, special diets or light foods. The absolute top favourite is Züri-Geschnetzeltes [Zurich ragout], as cook Julia Hohenstein points out. "And if it is your birthday, you have a free choice. Anything but Chateaubriand, as requested recently."
People with dementia need to be treated with sensitivity. How is the person feeling today? What would be good for them. Are they tired and in need of rest rather than activity? Like so many dementia sufferers, Mrs B. walks several kilometres each day; for that reason, care assistant Nicole Keller offers her a camomile foot bath. Mrs B. seems to like it: she giggles and wiggles her feet like a little girl. A day without laughter is a bad day in Nicole Keller's view. "Laughing together is often more beneficial to the people in our care than a conversation."
The weekly religious services are well attended. "At the end of their lives, people ask themselves as to the meaning of it all," says Christian Frei, Pastor of the Reformed Church. Once a month, he conducts a special service for dementia sufferers. They can no longer be reached on a spiritual level, only an emotional one. With hymns, physical touch, smells, images - anything that stimulates the senses. Today, there are fresh tulips providing a small "gift of memory". But farewells are also part of life. A memorial candle is lit in the home for every inhabitant who has passed away.
Text: Daniela Schori