This story, which highlights the importance of finding out what really matters to people, was shared by one of the staff attending the second day of an enhanced Talking Mats training course. She works in a NHS facility for people assessed as needing hospital-based continuing care.
I was working with Bill (not his real name) who is a man with severe cognitive impairment resulting from a head injury and stroke. He was very angry and agitated and we couldn’t work out what was wrong. At times he was physically aggressive when we couldn’t understand him.
One day he drew a picture of a rabbit and was very insistent about it but we didn’t know what it meant. We contacted his sister about him being angry about a rabbit. She asked around to other family members and friends but no one could think what it meant.
Bill continued to draw a rabbit and then other pictures including money and TV so I made an improvised Talking Mat using his drawings as the options and began trying to find out what really mattered to him. I gradually connected that the TV was about about programme called Dickinson’s Real Deal (a TV programme about antiques) and that in the past Bill had had an ornament of a rabbit which he thought was worth a lot of money.
We phoned his sister again about a possible rabbit ornament and she then remembered that he had collected figurines in the past. She finally discovered the rabbit in her garage.
Once we were able to reassure Bill that his rabbit was safe his frustration lessened,he was much less angry and became more settled.
This lovely story shows us how important it is to never assume that someone is just ‘being difficult’ but that if we can try to find out what really matters to them we can make a huge difference to their lives and ours.