Posted by: ayrshirehealth | May 7, 2014

The Memory of Happy Shoes by @janicemcalister

Memory triggers

Have you ever stopped to consider how amazing the human brain actually is? Or how much we take for granted the ability to encode and retrieve precious memories? BrainThe answer is probably not, as human beings we have a tendency to take many things in our life for granted and none more so than the ability to recall specific events in our lives.

As a dementia nurse consultant I am all too aware of the devastating effect on individuals when this process is interrupted, but sometimes a stored memory will come flooding back as a result of certain triggers, that special song, smell, mannerism or pictorial image. Shoes

I would like to share with you the power of such triggers. As many of you will be aware, we have within the bosom of NHSaaa a certain consultant (@sparklystar55) who has an apparent passion for “sparkly, smiley, happy shoes”

Happy shoes

This information and pictorial image triggered personal memories of a wonderful lady with advanced dementia that I had the privilege of caring for many years ago. She also had a passion for “happy shoes” that remained with her throughout her life. When presented with choices of new shoes, the “happy shoes” were the trigger to expressed emotions of joy, the shoes just so happened to be scarlet and the most expensive.Red shoe

Questions were raised not only regarding the cost but also this ladies ability to make personal choices, I am not suggesting that this was wrong, as the interests of the lady were at the forefront. On the other hand given that this was 30 years ago, knowledge and understanding of dementia, capacity, personal choice and person centred care may not have been such influential drivers as they are now. Have we moved on in dementia care? I would like to think so.!

Standards of care #dementia

Improving care for older people and support for those with a diagnosis of dementia is not only a priority for the Scottish Government but also NHSaaa. Many strategic drivers such as The Dementia strategy, Standards of Care for Dementia and Promoting Excellence have been pivotal in practice development. RRRAs a result of which, multiple programmes and frameworks designed to improve clinical outcomes and increase the level of staffs skills, knowledge and understanding of frailty, dementia, delirium and capacity have been introduced.

These initiatives have at their core the vision of Rights, Relationship & Recovery in breaking down traditional organisational/professional boundaries with the aim of driving forward service improvement for patients with dementia that is person centred and strengths based. It has brought about partnership working with a common goal of positive change in practice in dementia care.

Promoting Excellence

Best practice and current innovative strategies

The design of the programmes are built around best practice and current innovative strategies and processes to maximise the learning experience for all individuals regardless of learning style.

  • The programmes have been tailored to meet the learning needs of staff working in the sectors of NHSaaa, at different levels.
  • The programmes are governed by the principles of adult learning
  • Participants are encouraged to adopt a reflective, analytical style of learning and record their development journey.

One of the most striking tangible features within NHSaaa is the current level of passion, commitment, determination and coming together of all sectors to drive forward change and improve the experience and outcomes for older people of Ayrshire.

HatThe question remains did that special lady who taught me so much get her shoes?

ABSOLUTLEY …. And the coat & hat and wore them with pride and joy.

So thank you sparkly happy shoe lover for the memory of a special lady who despite her advanced dementia was both inspirational and influential in shaping my understanding and practice in dementia care.

This week’s blog was by @janicemcalister (Janice McAlister) Alzheimer Scotland Dementia Nurse Consultant, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, and the University of the West of Scotland






  1. This made me smile broadly when reading it! And those ‘happy, sparkly colourful’ shoes are indeed mine.
    Still smiling…. 🙂

  2. Thanks for the memory trigger Claire, never give up on “smiley ” shoes

  3. […] The Memory of Happy Shoes by Janice Mcalister  on the Ayrshire Health blog […]

  4. […] who writes about Dementia. Janice talks about how certain triggers such as a smell, song or even The Memory of Happy Shoes can help to revive precious memories for Dementia suffers. Janice also blogs about the programmes […]

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