Saturday, 16 September 2017

it ain't what you do but the way that you do it

15th September 
Four weeks in and I'm knackered, mentally drained, aching shoulders and tired eyes.
Not because the job is tough, but because I'm using all my skill every day...and I wake up in the night with ideas!

The last week has been a lot of work on the pc. All the planning notes on paper and in my head needed to be united in spread sheets. As anyone in the care profession knows, documentation is necessary and with dementia more so to monitor the progression. Fluid intake, bowel movements, sleep patterns, activities to name a few, all combine to give an overview of the residents.  With 40 of them, it takes up considerable time for the carers, support workers, one to ones and nurses. I knew me adding more detailed reviews would not go down well with my colleagues so I had to devise the whole activity process to be as simple as possible. ( I won't bore you with it!) Out went my elaborate plans and in came a more simplified smiley system 😊🙄☹️that came into play to report back on each event. In came clear instructions for activities. Out went complex activities that wouldn't suit the capabilities. In came KISS... keep it simple, stupid! In came spreadsheets and out went my many scribbles as the plan fell into place.
A colour coded weekly activity chart that focuses on covering the residents needs from emotion to physical. Those doing qualifications ( including me) have the evidence in front of them to support their workbook. ( I wonder if they will realise it? ) Everyone has something attractive to look at,  visitors included. Spreadsheets rock. At the end of the day, my shoulders ached but next weeks activities are ready to roll and I'm justifiably satisfied. Let's see if I think so at the end of next week!

But what about the residents? I've not spent much time on the units this week. A daily wander to say hi to both staff and residents but not so long spent chatting and learning about the characters. The activities cupboard ( read bomb site) is no longer a dumping has a padlock. The paperwork done. Birthday banners rescued from one unit and dropped at another ( note to self, give every unit their own banners and balloons), cakes organised for birthdays and talk like a pirate day, ( yes I really get paid for making over 40 cocktail stick sized pirate flags). Reflexology details printed ( national reflexology week) with the addition of the lion massage to the back (puzzled? I'll explain next time) and a new poem written for a leg massage ( Hedgehogs and butterflies made an appearance here) white board and pens ready for national doodle day ( did I say this was working?) then a few hours cutting leaf shapes for a dignity tree for Alzheimer's day....and everything neatly placed in folders for each unit. 

A shout out for offcuts of material brought a lovely surprise of some lavender bags from Pat. Given out today, they have already helped one restless resident have a calm day. Staff were naming who would benefit as they admired the handiwork; half of them quickly disappeared into rooms. More offcuts but of a different sort appeared on my doorstep. I asked a printer for a few sheets of card and paper: I came home to three reams! I'd forgotten how heavy print media was but this will give us so much scope with projects. Thanks Lee, I just need to lump it into the motor to lug into work. It stayed in my tiny porch until I'd taken the dog out, he wasn't impressed at the mountaineering!

And so the residents, and this is just today.
I smiled at the pleasure the lavender bags gave.
I shed a tear as friends said goodbye to their friend as they wouldn't be seeing her till next spring. I wondered what changes would have occurred by then. Hugs were given with ease. 
Larks and laughter singing along with fellow staff.
Shoulder dancing with David as he whistled a tune: his hands on my shoulders moving me in time to his tune.
Lump in my throats when family thanked me for what I did, I passed those thanks to the carers for I had done nothing.
Learning that Bob at 93 got his OBE for rescuing people in Coventry after being a POW in Singapore for 5 years. Another lump when he told someone that things were better since I'd been there.
Sky the Pat dog. A lovely golden retriever who shows unconditional love. I've never seen such a reaction. Sky appeared and unresponsive residents glowed. Any challenging behaviour went out the window. Gnarled fingers curled into soft golden curls. Smiles, giggles and cuddles. It was amazing to see how something so simple can change a person. 

And then ...

The sparky has been in to sort the leccy for the magic table to be fitted ( so excited).
Stay tuned!

Sunday, 3 September 2017


For a Bank Holiday Monday it was unusual to be heading off to work but hey, what else would I be doing on a beautiful hot day? It was to be the start of a mixed week of revelation and determination. I was determined this week to spend more time with the residents and get to know some characteristics and start to understand capabilities. Plus there was the Bingo effect: more about that shortly.

I was developing the routine of starting the day with writing some ideas down, the 30 minute drive into work with its beautiful country views was inspiring for some reason. A chat with cook as I made a cuppa was always enlightening. She was happy to support me in whatever ideas I had that would benefit the residents. After working pretty much solo all my life, this team work was proving to be fruitful. I was talking to anyone who asked what ideas I'd had so far and was judging their reaction. This in turn was teaching me a lot as the conversations developed into them sharing their knowledge with me and me getting to know them as people and them me.

Where is Home?
I was seated in a lounge reading some notes about a resident when one of the guys was getting more and more distressed. 'I wanna go home' was all he could say. No amount of support was making him realise that this was home. I sat quietly and watched as the staff tried to sooth him, taking him back to his room to get him into familiar surroundings, but he didn't settle for a few hours. It was then that I had a chat with a nurse. Where is home? was it here, his last house, his family home as a child? Maybe if he visited any of those, he wouldn't feel at home. Home is a feeling. A feeling of safety and love where you felt comfortable she explained. These words stayed with me and had a profound effect on my understanding of dementia as a whole. 
I also got to see the pride the staff got from doing their job well. A support worker took from his pocket a crumpled card and offered it me. A lovely thank you from a family of a man he cared for thanking him for all the work he did with their relative. It made that young man proud that he had an effect on someone's life for the better.

And along came Bingo
No, not the game but a fluffy orange ball I had bought in.

Bingo was duly named after one of the Banana Splits [you can tell my age remembering them!] everyone who saw him immediately smiled. A good sign I figured but it was about to be tested. One of the gentlemen who sat in the window was feeling very low and I went in to see him for a chat. A local man who was a POW and had an OBE, he was usually chatty but today he wasn't. I took in Bingo, what effect would it have? 'What the heck is that?' he asked. 'This is Bingo my boyfriend' I said as I offered it to him. He chuckled as I offered Bingo to him, 'You daft bugger' he said, but he was happily feeling his fur and bouncing him slightly on his knee. Bingo was a success!
It was agreed that Bingo needed his relatives to visit each off I went in search of them. They were to make an appearance later in the week.

Meanwhile I chatted to residents and staff, spending some quality time with a male nurse discussing the ideas I had and learning from him as he had done my role for a time. His enthusiasm was infectious and he gave me some great information. We were on the same wavelength: it was seeming like I was going in the right direction. Anyone with any length of time in the care roles made no bones about telling me that my job was difficult. I'm glad they are all so honest. I'm also glad of my organisational skills, they will certainly be coming into play in a big way. I was relishing the challenge.

The Bingo Effect take 2
So, it was time to unleash the Bingo family to the residents. What would they think? Infact, what do you think? What would happen when I left them to it, would they create havoc?
I wandered the units, dishing out the balls, leaving the kids: the small Pukey and Chilly in Reception in the care of Admin. [I won't go into the bizarre conversations we had about these guys, you would think I was bonkers.....] I wondered if the staff or residents would take to them, only time would tell.

There are therapy balls I've now found that you can buy that are textured I've now discovered, so I hoped these would be similar in their effect. I found out much sooner than I thought. On my morning meet and greet on Thursday I could hear laughter [for once not mine, the staff always knew where I was], it was coming from the lounge upstairs. I stood watching through the window. Yoric was in action! [Yellow furball]. The support worker was deep into a one to one session with a male resident. Back and forth, back and forth, bouncing in the middle, throwing high high then low. I asked if I could join in and before long the resident was doing dummy shots and spinning Yoric so he was hard to catch! He then decided to put him on the floor, lifting him with his toe and also spinning him on the spot with his hand. The resident was happy and smiling, chatting and enjoying the interaction. These furballs were proving great therapy!

I left eventually with a big smile on my face. I felt proud and happy that I had helped bring smiles to people. Lets hope it continues!

Bingo, Smiler, Pukey, Chilly, Yoric, George and Zippy #dementiaactivities

Sunday, 27 August 2017

A new Voyage of Discovery

What a week it’s been for me and those around me.

Whilst I relaxed in a field last weekend a friend was spending precious hours with her husband who was off sailing a Clipper around the world for nearly 12 months. An epic voyage for him, and an unchartered journey for her. The week also included what would have been my late father’s birthday and the anniversary of my mother’s passing.

I have to say that my relaxed camping break had an undercurrent of nerves due to me starting my new career. Yes, after 12 months kicking back after selling my business I was finally going back to working, but now for only the second time in my life, I would be employed. The first time was last October on a temporary contract with Barclays: a complete change from being a designer and printer all my life! The new career that began on the 22nd August was an even bigger change and far more of a challenge; I am now the Activities Coordinator for a dementia care centre.

I think I have absorbed so much information this week that will all take a while to compute. The last activities coordinator still works at the centre, she’s now a carer and is enjoying it much more. I admit it was daunting on the first day, I’ve never worked with old people before, know very little about dementia and, as there is a brain injury unit too, I am included in that also. Thankfully I had e-learning to complete and at least that gave me a focus each morning. It gave me chance to speak to staff and mingle with some of the residents as I went up and down stairs to each unit.

Thankfully I am very self motivated and I was able to mix my time with learning and chatting; an important part of the job. I need to familiarise myself with daily routines for eating and medication and get used to each residents personalities. Most are in the latter stages of dementia and they will need activities that they can be involved in from their bed. So there will be a mix of 1-1 activities to organise as well as group activities. I came across a sensory room on my wandering around which I’m sure is loved by some. Dog patting is a much loved activity so I will be booking the lady with her dog to come in as well as, in time taking my own dog in to visit. He loves being fussed so I think will make a good pat dog, it will be interesting to see his reaction though at first. He may even be scared so it will be a gentle approach with that idea. Just a short visit so he can get used to the place.

The staff are friendly and informative and the kitchen is the place to retreat to for a break as well as snatch a cuppa. The grounds are vastly underused if this week is anything to go by but I discovered a raised circular bed that I want to make into a sensory garden. Hopefully some of the residents can also help me with the tasks in hand. We will see, but even if I end up doing it myself, I hope it will bring pleasure to residents, staff and families.

Another idea is to have a Hawaiian tikki bar with mocktails on a lovely sunny balcony complete with music and lays. The management love both ideas so far. They have yet to hear some of my other thoughts but as I’ve just bought some maracas and bell shakers along with making some batons with ribbons dangling, I hope they will like the musical afternoon ideas too! As for the light fluffy ball to ‘throw a smile’....I’m not even sure on that one myself yet! So many ideas and a lot of planning to do to sort stimulating activities to cover all elements of dementia.

I was lucky to speak with one lady’s family when they were visiting on Friday. Sadly her husband is also a resident as he has dementia too. Although not in the same room, they do spend time together. Dementia is a sad illness but the home is full of smiling faces. I found it valuable to me to speak with them as much as they seemed to value an independent ear. It was a rewarding chat with the whole family.

 The home is full of characters. On my first day I was walking the units with the deputy manager when I felt a hand take mine. I turned to see a lady smiling at me. I smiled and said hello. She then led me off along the corridor, chatting as she went and led me into a room I knew wasn’t hers. She wanted to show me the flowers.

I’m sure I will blog more in a week or two and I’ll let you into some of the characters when I know them a little more.

Oh, one important thing, Cook makes cake for birthdays! Those stairs are going to take a hammering from me, I want to lose weight not add more on!


Monday, 3 October 2016

finally freedom

A quarter of a year.

3 months, 3 days of everything and nothing: where has that time gone?

I had wanted to sell my business for many years but always wondered what came after. I still don’t know. A few close friends knew the enormous stress I was under for very little reward. For the last 12 months, more money had gone in than come out. Once an offer was accepted I couldn’t wait to hand over the keys and run. Run as fast and as far away as quickly as I could. But two days later I was back in doing the last section of training and I hated it. I haven’t looked back from that point. Never regretted the step that on paper was suicide for my finances: just don’t even think of a pension fund: it doesn’t exist.

Selling a business, unless it’s a very big one is not a money pot. I walked away with a £600 van and money to keep me going for 12 months providing I was frugal. With a mortgage to pay and all the usual bills, it was just a good job that materialism isn’t in my vocabulary!

Month one was my rest month. I never thought I could do it. No work for a month? Would I miss it? Would I be tearing my hair out? No. Not one iota. I went camping and then I went camping some more. I found the pleasure of camping mid week, chatting to a lot of older retired people and how they adjusted: I did a lot of listening and absorbing and wished that this wasn’t a temporary state I was in. July passed in a blissful warm haze in green fields.

Month two was my tidy the house and find places for things month. Some got sorted, a lot still needs sorting. Instead I did a lot of being creative, drawing and painting. But I also did a lot of sleeping. Long blissful nights and lazy rises. The minute the business was sold, the alarm clock was unplugged. I’d still awake at 6.30 but it was a blissfully rested natural awakening and then after Joey had been out the back, back to bed with a cuppa. Jobs were applied for covering a variety of disciplines from car park attendant to head of marketing. Not one interview was forthcoming. I continued to draw and paint, walk and delight in waking up feeling alive.

Friends could see the stress had lifted from my shoulders. Evidently my whole attitude has changed [obviously this is one of those things you can’t actually see in yourself]. My confidence as a person was coming back. This was something that had got lost many years ago. The outgoing carefree person had got lost under the stress of all manner of things. I had become totally introverted, didn’t want to go out, felt inferior, useless, unloved and worst of all I suppose, a failure in all areas. But I was coming to peace with myself. Releasing myself of all the blame for every situation; that I was to a large extent, normal in the burdens I carried. But I still had hated going out as I couldn’t afford to do it!

With a bit more confidence returning a few major things happened. I enjoyed my own company, I always have had to some extent but now I was really enjoying the solitude. It was refreshing and healing. I was also happy to use the word no. I wasn’t actually going to do anything I didn’t want to do. I wasn’t automatically going to agree with someone just to appease them. I would disagree, ask pertinent questions. Not to be argumentative but to understand their point and to challenge my own beliefs. I also refused to waste my time being involved in things that I didn’t feel were valuable to me. My life was getting shorter by the minute and I wasn’t going to do anything that wasn’t for me. Finally after a 24 year marriage and 10 years living alone I was finally starting to put me first. It was liberating. I
would do what I wanted to do and I would do it for me.

Month three was a mish-mash. With almost two weeks booked for Spain it should have been a pleasant break. I had missed my last trip due to the sale and now I had some business to attend to there, and then I was gone. I dropped down to the coast to be a tourist for a few days and what a revealing few days they were.  A drive out here and there visiting places I’d always wanted to go; a meet up with a dear friend and some lovely early morning sunrises really gave me my life back. I felt like I was getting somewhere at last, my life was back in my hands and I was feeling liberated making these massive life choices.

On my return I felt deflated. There was a giddying euphoria when making life changing decisions, but then what’s next? I had no idea. I was to a large extent a zombie. Rattling around the house without much thought of what was coming next other than the need for work. More CV’s sent off and more rejections. I now needed to re-plan the next steps whilst I waited for work. But you can’t wait for work can you? When you have always been self employed that’s just not natural. You have to be creative to put food on your plate, to pay the mortgage and the bills. Failure is not an option to anyone working for themselves and I knew no other way.

A lot of thinking was going on. Sometimes I didn’t know what I was thinking I just knew it was happening. What did I really want to do with my life? That I did know, but how could I achieve it?

And before I could blink, month three was at an end. Two massive decisions had been followed through and strangely enough I was still feeling relaxed. Not once had I looked back and regretted what I had done.

What I did know was that now I was getting itchy feet. I wanted to start regimenting my days, to have some order. I needed to push myself forward as an artist and a designer. I needed to get some money coming in. So in month four of my stress free life, I’m going to be pushing forward. Foisting myself and my services on facebook and hoping my friends spread the word of my services. I have a mental marketing plan, a whole lot of time and it’s now time to kick myself up the ass and be confident. The last bit is the hard bit. I don’t blow my trumpet very well at all. I know I’m good at what I do but..... let’s see what is around month four’s corner.

Monday, 23 May 2016


I have the lurgy.

The lurgy that makes you incapable of doing anything with any alacrity. My eyes feel like I've cried a thousand tears. My nose is in competition with Coco the Clown. My hearing is as blocked as the M25 and my head has 30 hammers hammering their way to France.

Real work is an issue in reality, I ought to be at home in bed.
But no, I have to be a hero. I drive to work, resisting the temptation to stop and barf or just turn around and go home.

On arrival, tea and toast fail to make me feel any better. Neither does an eyeful of the half decent postman in the area who drops my post in with a cheery hello. I just snivel.

I'm feeling like I'm close to having manflu. But no, I can't be can I?

I endevour to set up some embroidery but my natural spirit-level is playing games and the bubble is just coming out my nose and not sitting in the nice middle place it normally is. If I carry on, I'm going to ruin something, if not all of this clients order.

So another cup of tea and conveniently a visit from Micky Muppet the local mechanic with a Penguin. Sadly chocolate and tea doesn't make the grade either, but it was a nice try.

I switch of Milo the embroidery machine and take to the computer. At least I can sit and do something that doesn't require my snotty spirit level to be functioning perfectly.

Social media. That will do it. Time to crank up my on line statuses and see what can be developed from it.

5 hours..yes 5 hours later and I've tailored all of my faces with my twits and pins, stuck a load in the tumblr and telegrammed and intragram wishing happy birthday..oh wait, wrong thing...anyway.. then ive google plused and website linked, pressed my words and crammed most of them into hootsuite.. oh and sorted my Saatchis and print POD's..I think.

I've waded through half a box of tissues that now sit glowing in a darkened corner like kryptonite and have so many tabs open that google is sagging under the strain.

The sun is shining and I'm not.

Time to go home and try to live up to the image of the lady in bed with a delicate tissue...It's not going to happen.