In Switzerland there was a new male resident who had just moved into a nursing home. Staff members were concerned about two things. First, he refused to wear pajamas to bed – he insisted on remaining fully clothed. Second, he would get up at night and check in on persons. This meant looking in at them while they were sleeping. Of course, if a resident awakened at this time, they were frightened to see a man looking into their room. Staff members wanted to know what to do.
The first question we asked was, of course, “Why is this happening?” To get to the answer to that question we asked for information about this man’s history. Someone related that a family member had recently said that the resident had been a fireman for many, many years. This explained why he did not want to wear pajamas – he did not want to waste a minute in case he was needed for a fire alarm. Seconds could mean life or death. Explaining that a pair of pajamas would be nice to wear made no sense to this man. Instead, we suggested that staff members offer him the choice of wearing a new set of clothing when he went to bed so that the clothes he had been wearing that day could be washed.
We also asked about what he did during the day. Often, when a person is awake at night they are sleeping during the day. Therefore, we suggested that it was very important that attention should be paid to keeping him engaged in meaningful activity so that he would be more likely to sleep at night.
Know the person when you want to understand their behavior.