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!


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