Measure Happiness – Magical Meaningful Moments

In Part 1, I shared my thoughts about the power of observation and being SILENT to truly listen.

Over many years of training and consultancy work, particularly as a Dementia Care Mapper (DCM), I have witnessed many, what I call, Magical Meaningful Moments.

It’s a privilege to observe dementia care because, looking on, I often see hard-working care-workers create a significant change in a person’s happiness, quality-of-life and well-being. Sometimes, they are not even aware of the transformation they have created because they may be busy and moving onto their next task.

Once I was undertaking DCM in a very busy care home. I had been observing a small group of people with dementia for approximately three hours when something wonderous happened.

One lady living with dementia had been totally disengaged – she just stared at the ground, not interacting with the environment around her at all. Then the actions of one care-worker created a Magical Meaningful Moment, without him knowing.

As in all care-settings, approaching lunchtime can be busy, yet Satinder took a moment to fetch the lady some photographs of cats, before heading to his next task.

In the next few moments, this lady looked through the photos and started to smile, her body language relaxed and she started to look around the room.

In less than 2 minutes, Satinder had greatly improved this lady’s well-being – in fact, her mood changed completely for the next twenty minutes! Satinder wasn’t aware of it; however, he’d created a Magical Meaningful Moment.

A few years ago, I was in another home. Lunch was over and the first-floor dining room almost empty (no staff were present to see the Magical Meaningful Moment). I was sat near the window when a gentleman with dementia came to look at the building work that was taking place below.

He could no longer communicate through words; however, he certainly had a lot to communicate.

Watching the workmen below, he started making various sounds, laughing etc. – some people might have dismissed it as ‘gibberish.’

As he made various sounds, I tried to reflect them back too him – ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ along with him, trying to match his vocal tone.

I must admit thougt I may look silly or worried that he may think I was making fun of him – nevertheless, I persevered. We continued for at least five minutes having a conversation through sounds, with the gentleman appearing to be quite happy. He was obviously very thrilled and delighted by the building work.

I returned to the care home two weeks later. The gentleman enthusiastically waved at me from a distance, almost as if he remembered me. I like to think that he did, because we shared a few moments of connection and happiness whilst observing the building work.

Magical Meaningful Moments can be fleeting, yet precious – having the potential to increase quality-of-life, well-being and happiness. I believe that through observation (focussing on the right things), dementia care-workers can create and witness what a positive impact they can and do have on others’ happiness.

Some questions for learning and practice development

  • What parts of this article rang bells for you, what are the main insights, how did you feel whilst reading?
  • As a manager/leader do you mainly focus on what staff are doing right or wrong? Why?
  • What Magical Meaningful Moments have you observed in your care-setting? How can you celebrate/encourage them?
  • How can you, as a manager/leader use observation of Magical Meaningful Moments as a tool to motivate, encourage and praise colleagues or between colleagues?

Associate Trainer
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