No mom and dad, I’m not referring to you. I’m talking about last week’s CIID course, which was about user research. We spent two half days visiting nursing homes in Copenhagen, which was both a very interesting and scary experience. Not that the nursing homes are bad (at least not as bad as the rumors say) what really scared me was to see how sick and tired everybody is at such a home. Especially the people suffering from dementia. I had never experienced people with dementia before, and I must say that it is an illness that is much worse than I thought. Especially for the relatives to the sick person.
After having visited the homes, we spent the rest of the time analysing and interpreting the data we collected. My group came to an interesting conclusion (among others); that the meaning of friendship changes over time. By that we mean, that when people are young(er) we get friends to socialise with and among other things create and share new experiences with. When you get old enough to move into a nursing home, you know that your life is probably soon to end. You stop looking for new friends in the “traditional” sense and instead you start reflecting over your life and the experiences you had. Instead of having friends to create new experiences and memories with, you need friends to re-live the past with. The carers and families can come listen to the stories from the past while you re-tell them, but it is not the same as talking to someone that actually remembers the past and can help you completing your stories and memories. Fill out the gaps, so to speak.
This was a very quick and superficial description, but essentially the point all my jabbering is that elderly people need empathy instead of only sympathy. They also need sympathy from family and carers, but empathy is even more important. But how do we facilitate that, when up to 85% of the residents in the nursing homes are suffering from dementia? That’s what the next couple of weeks will bring.