My interest in dementia care all started back in 1999 when my mum’s health started to deteriorate with anxiety and depression.
I could always tell when my mum was down even though she hid it well, mum went in and out of hospital that year, she was always worrying about the little things she did years ago as a child, I always tried to reassure her, at times a felt I couldn’t reach her and I wondered if this was the start of early onset dementia.
Later that year very sadly my mum ended her life while in hospital, as she was unable to cope!
My mum was a lovely caring lady who had always put others needs before her own, I think this made me think more about dementia care and how I could make a difference to people facing the same difficulties.
My experiences have taught me to pick up on the feelings of others through facial expressions and I felt I could communicate in a light hearted manner which seems to have a positive effect.
Following this difficult time I decided to leave nursing in the NHS to manage a music shop in Manchester, but I didn’t want to lose touch with the care profession completely so I also looked after an elderly gentleman.
It wasn’t until 2010 when I came across an article in the local paper about a new care home which was opening in Burnley. This article piqued my interest and I remember getting in the car and driving up there to see it for myself even though it was 9 o’clock at night.
It was a beautiful home where I could just see myself working, so the next day I contacted the home manager regarding the position of senior carer and within two weeks I started work with ‘Silk Healthcare’.
I spent 4 months in this position but my goal was always to run the activities in the home. Luckily the Managing Director Angela Swift saw the potential in me and supported and championed all my decisions therefore quickly promoting me to Area Activities Manager.
This area was where I really felt like I could make a difference, I felt I could help residents settle in and take away all the fears of coming into a care home. I quickly engaged with Fun, Music and Friendship which seem to take away the anxieties and made residents and their relatives feel happy, relaxed and at ease.
Since my appointment I have picked up many Awards along the way including ‘Care Activities Provider’ ‘Carer of the Year’ and `local Hero`.
The daily activities soon became a big part of residents’ and relatives’ lives and had a huge impact both in and out of the home, which resulted in me running many different dementia and care support groups.
Working with residents living with dementia has spurred me on in thinking about ways to stir memories and promote reminiscence, something that includes music, pictures, lighting and FUN.
So I designed a cart! Traditional in style, but with ‘props’ to enable over 16 different themes for triggering happy memories along with the music, sensory lights and pictures to match. The cart was a great success, I used it for activities and events all over the home, including end of life.
Wanting to develop it further and with lots of other ideas in my head, I invited a local company called ‘Little Islands’, who specialise in themed interactive areas for people living with dementia, to come to one of my activity sessions. They loved the concept of the Cart and together we have come up with the brand new ‘Smart Cart’!
We worked so well together and they have the same vision as me, so I did a ‘Victor Kiam’, well almost, and joined the ‘Little Islands’ team as their Product Manager. Here I feel I can carry on promoting activities throughout the UK, providing support and new concepts to enhance the lives of people living with dementia. We launched the Smart Cart at the Health+Care Show, and will soon be followed our ‘Jolly Trolley’. I can’t wait!