A Bard’s View on Dementia

April is Poetry Month, at least in the USA. Over here we tend to join in but maintain our British feeling of literary superiority because our lists of poems and famous poets are much longer than those of our American cousins and I’m pretty sure that most of us can quote a line or two from Wordsworth. Poetry is designed to make the beauty of words visible and I had recently come across some poems written by a senior governance nurse, Karen Tidy, that focus not on daffodils or clouds, but dementia care.  A subject that is not the most obvious to write verses about.

Karen is at the centre of Evolve Care Group and supports 6 care and nursing homes, one of which is Edenmore Nursing Home in Ilfracombe and I thought her poems offered a fascinating insight into the world of dementia care.  As a senior governance nurse her work involves supporting everyone within all the homes to maintain their best physical and emotional well-being.

The individuals that Karen supports at Edenmore are always referred to as family members and some happen to live with dementia which is a difficult condition that gradually erodes all the nuances and subtleties that make you who you are. The home uses a “Household Model of Care” which aims to create a true continuation of home life and means that choice and remaining independent for as long as possible is at the forefront of everything they do.

I was interested discovering how such a dark subject could inspire Karen and ask, in this age of watching movies on our phones and being able to get our gas supplied by our electricity company, is there is still a place for writing poetry in the 21st Century?

When I met Karen, I noted that she had kind, smiling eyes and a shy disposition. Within seconds of me asking how she got into caring, she told me how her father had passed away when she was just ten, she immediately embraced the role of caring for her siblings which made the move into professional caring a logical and natural step for her as soon as she was old enough.  She talked passionately about how much she loves what she does and being in the homes, helping people is second nature to her.  She says that knowing that she is making a real difference keeps her going.

Her love of poetry comes purely from her emotions and the words seem to simply pop into her head, prompted by what she sees, feels or hears. She finds it hard to write planned poetry, much preferring to write rhyming lines spontaneously.  I was busy scrawling my notes trying to keep up with her when she said something that struck me as poignant.

She explained that a few years ago, she had been on a specialist course that taught end of life care and said that seeing people confined to their beds who were unable to verbalise got her wondering what they were thinking and feeling. She says it is imperative that the people she cares for are still spoken to and included in discussions. As soon as you stop doing that, she explained, the person becomes part of a conveyer belt system, on their way to their end.

She also became acutely aware of how hard it must be for them to lie in bed and hear laughter from passers-by in the hallways outside.

She concluded by saying that caring is like music. A silent music, and the most important thing for a carer is to have a big heart. I knew at that point that we need more carers like Karen, who give a new meaning to the term nursing care. And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a place for poetry in the 21st Century.

                        An excerpt from Let’s Just Get It Right ©Karen Tidy 2016

The level of care and support that we give,

Dictates the standard of life that they live.

Time and attention, and a listening ear

Will dictate a plan of care that is clear.

Likes and dislikes, one sugar or two,

Walk with a Zimmer, with slippers or shoes.

A bath or a shower, which they like best,

A bra, a T-shirt or old stringy vest.

To eat at the table, with a spoon or a fork,

To sit there in silence or choosing to talk.

“I like rice, not potatoes, crackers not bread

Coffee not tea, I like that instead.”

Oh, please give me choices,

I know I can’t speak

Then show me a picture of what I may eat.

Wearing my night wear on top of my clothes,

Or my makeup all smudgy right over my nose.

Does this really matter? At least I have tried,

And managed to maintain independence and pride.

When I go to the toilet, please give me a chance,

Don’t stand there and hold me, then pull down my pants.

You make me feel frightened, you fill me with fright,

Then I just react with a kick and a fight,

And then I am labelled – it’s not really my fault

It’s a natural response to a downright assault.

Every April is Poetry Month, at least in the USA. Over here we join in but maintain our British feeling of literary superiority because our lists of poems and famous poets are much longer than those of our American cousins and I’m pretty sure that most of us can quote a line or two from Wordsworth. Poetry is designed to make the beauty of words visible and I had recently come across some poems written by a senior governance nurse, Karen Tidy, that focus not on daffodils or clouds, but dementia care.  A subject that is not the most obvious to write verses about.

Karen works with a group of 6 care and nursing homes, one of which is Edenmore Nursing Home and I thought her poems offered a fascinating insight into the world of dementia care.  As a senior governance nurse her work involves supporting everyone within all the homes to maintain their best physical and emotional well-being.

The people Karen supports at Edenmore are always referred to as family members and some happen to live with dementia which is a difficult condition that gradually erodes all the nuances and subtleties that make you who you are. The home uses a “Household Model of Care” which aims to create a true continuation of home life and means that choice and remaining independent for as long as possible is at the forefront of everything they do.

I was interested in discovering how such a dark subject could inspire Karen and ask, in this age of watching movies on our phones and being able to get our gas supplied by our electricity company, is there is still a place for writing poetry in the 21st Century?

When I met Karen, I noted that she had kind, smiling eyes and a shy disposition. Within seconds of me asking how she got into caring, she told me how her father had passed away when she was just ten, so she naturally embraced the role of caring for her siblings which made the move into professional caring a logical step for her as soon as she was old enough.  She talked passionately about how much she loves what she does and being in the home, helping people is second nature to her.  She says that knowing that she is making a real difference keeps her going.

Her love of poetry comes purely from her emotions and the words seem to simply pop into her head, prompted by what she sees, feels or hears. She finds it hard to write planned poetry, much preferring to write rhyming lines spontaneously.  I was busy scrawling my notes trying to keep up with her when she said something that struck me as poignant.

She explained that a few years ago, she had been on a specialist course that taught end of life care and said that seeing people confined to their beds who were unable to verbalise got her wondering what they were thinking and feeling. She says it is imperative that the people she cares for are still spoken to and included in discussions. As soon as you stop doing that, she explained, the person becomes part of a conveyer belt system, on their way to their end.

She also became acutely aware of how hard it must be for them to lie in bed and hear laughter from passers-by in the hallways outside.

She concluded by saying that caring is like music. A silent music, and the most important thing for a carer is to have a big heart. I knew at that point that we need more carers like Karen, who gives a new meaning to the term nursing care. And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a place for poetry in the 21st Century. Written by Care Writer Jerry Short

                        An excerpt from Let’s Just Get It Right ©Karen Tidy 2016

The level of care and support that we give,

Dictates the standard of life that they live.

Time and attention, and a listening ear

Will dictate a plan of care that is clear.

Likes and dislikes, one sugar or two,

Walk with a Zimmer, with slippers or shoes.

A bath or a shower, which they like best,

A bra, a T-shirt or old stringy vest.

To eat at the table, with a spoon or a fork,

To sit there in silence or choosing to talk.

“I like rice, not potatoes, crackers not bread

Coffee not tea, I like that instead.”

Oh, please give me choices,

I know I can’t speak

Then show me a picture of what I may eat.

Wearing my night wear on top of my clothes,

Or my makeup all smudgy right over my nose.

Does this really matter? At least I have tried,

And managed to maintain independence and pride.

When I go to toilet, please give me a chance,

Don’t stand there and hold me, then pull down my pants.

You make me feel frightened, you fill me with fright,

Then I just react with a kick and a fight,

And then I am labelled – it’s not really my fault

It’s a natural response to a downright assault.

Why Doesn’t the UK Have a Women’s Equality Day?

Wendy Mills, in Frome Nursing Home, and, pictured right, about to break the sound barrier.
Wendy Mills, in Frome Nursing Home, and, pictured right, about to break the sound barrier.

60 Years Ago, The RAF Told Wendy Mills, No Female Pilots

Now living in Frome Nursing Home, I asked her if things had changed

The 26th of August was Women’s Equality Day but only in America. In the UK the date is meaningless because we don’t have a day set to celebrate women’s equality, despite British women wining the right to vote over 100 years ago and having had a female Prime Minister for 11 years.

I wanted to speak with someone who had lived through many decades of discrimination and learn what they thought about this, so I started researching Nursing Homes in the South West, to find somebody who was both the right age, and had a powerful story to tell.

I found that person in Frome Nursing Home. One of their residents is 84-year old, Wendy Mills. Frome refer to all their residents as family members, and after I explained the reason for my visit, Wendy was keen to talk with me.

As a child, she had watched the Battle of Britain in the skies over her childhood home in London and grew up determined to become a pilot. As soon as she was old enough, she applied to join the Royal Air Force but when she asked about flying, she was told point blank, that they didn’t accept female pilots. She was angered and disappointed but didn’t let her frustration show. She went on to do her basic training in North Wales before going on to work as a fighter plotter, who are those women you see in war movies, pushing model aircraft around a map, with sticks. This was during the Cold War years when there were regular incursions into British airspace by Russian bombers, usually coming in over Scarpa Flow. Wendy and her team would scramble fighters up to intercept them. Her shifts could last 36 hrs, meaning she slept and ate underground, in a top security bunker in Norfolk. The job was onerous because the aircraft were sometimes carrying nuclear payloads. Before her shifts, she told me she would walk in the fields around the bunker, filling her nostrils with the scent of vegetation, because if a nuclear war did ensue, it may have been her last chance to experience that.

 

She did well in her post and was soon promoted to Flight Sergeant, but she never lost her yearning to fly. One day, she noticed a magazine advert for women to join the RAF as air-crew. Eagerly she took the magazine across the airfield to where the flight crews were based and knocked on the commanding officer’s door. She waited nervously before being invited in. She presented the magazine and explained that she was requesting flight training and had thought of little else since she was a child. The C/O smiled and carefully read the piece before leaning back in his chair and telling her that she’d need to pass a medical exam and get permission to fly, from her own commanding officer.

A few days later she presented him with both. The C/O smiled, stood up and told her to follow him. They walked into a large room, where the aircrews sat around smoking and drinking coffee before their missions. He introduced Wendy as their first female air crew member. The place erupted with cheers and whistles. Wendy’s eyes twinkled as she tells me this, the memory still fresh in her mind.

Although women could be air-crew members in 1958, they were not allowed to be operational pilots for another 34 years. In 1992, long after Wendy had left the RAF, the government finally announced that women would be allowed to fly military jet aircraft. But what had happened to Wendy?

She left the RAF, to get married and start a family. She went on to work as a successful aviation journalist for the Yorkshire Evening Post and spent her first month’s wages on flying lessons.

It turned out that she was a natural and quickly passed her pilot’s licence and then became a flying instructor and then a flight examiner and taught flying instructors how to teach. She continued to write aviation stories, including one memorable piece when she flew faster than the speed of sound, as a co-pilot in a 2-seater Phantom jet fighter.

Impressed by her remarkable story I asked Wendy if she thought the UK needed a Women’s Equality Day. She sighed before turning to me.

“Of course we do, dear. Things have improved, but I think Westminster still needs a good shake up, don’t you?”

I do, Wendy, I do. Suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, said, “Justice and freedom for women are worth securing, not only for their own sakes but for civilisation itself.”  It seems that millions think we should have a Women’s Equality Day. Last February 6th was the centenary of women getting the vote, so surely that would be an ideal date, but it does beg the question, why don’t we have one set already?

Jerry Short, Evolve Care Group

Mothering Sunday

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who recently celebrated Mothering Sunday!

We had a wonderful day here at Edenmore Nursing Home. We had so many beautiful bunches of flowers delivered from friends and family that perhaps live further away or that just wanted to send something extra special – we had enough to open up as a local florist!

Everyone enjoyed a delicious Sunday Roast, and so many relatives and friends visited and celebrated with us. Our whole home was full of love!

Mum’s are so special, and it was a fabulous day celebrating them, together here at Edenmore Nursing Home.

Life is flourishing

Evolve Care Group, who support 12 sites across the South West of England and Wales, have been implementing a brand new model of care over the last 18 months, which has drastically changed the lives of people living in these homes for the better.

Termed, the Household Model of Care, this approach gives ownership of the home back to the individuals living there and puts them at the centre of each and every decision. Staff have been focusing on filling days with meaningful occupation and individualised person-centred care; and the effect it’s having on those living in the homes, is undeniably positive.

One of the six homes, Edenmore Nursing Home, is located in the beautiful town of Ilfracombe in North Devon. Everyone has been involved in a greenhouse challenge in recent months, by growing their own fruit and veg. Whilst the garden is blooming; relationships and quality of life in the home are flourishing as well.

Edenmore’s Home Manger Liz Thompson said: “everybody here at Edenmore has noticed a remarkable difference in the home since implementing this new model of care. We had several individuals who always really enjoyed gardening before moving to Edenmore, so we built a brand new greenhouse and helped them rediscover their green thumbs. We’ve been enjoying garden-fresh strawberries and tomatoes; and our whole Edenmore family feels happy, settled and truly fulfilled.”

If you’re thinking about the possibility of moving into a care home but perhaps nervous about the change, give Evolve Care Group a call today on 0117 938 7768 and see if they can ease your concerns.

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