Today I have been to a DEEP meeting – Mates in the Hills – in Church Stretton. A small group this month, but, as ever, perfectly formed. We had tea and coffee and a biscuit. And – even now – a few hugs. (Last for a while perhaps.)
We had two visitors. First a local woman who is leading the engagement for developing of a new local 15 year plan. She is visiting support groups for people affected by long term conditions.
So she asked…
How is it, living in Church Stretton, with dementia, or as carer?
What local services had we used?
What would be find useful in the future?
Naturally, as I don’t live there, I had to keep a little quiet. Not easy. But a few prompts came im handy!
It seems that the only respite care locally for people affected by dementia is either a volunteer to come and sit at home, or perhaps a short walk, or a day care type place.
Church Stretton is an amazing place, with a thriving volunteer and community centre and organisation, Mayfair and the CoCo (compassionate community). They do fab stuff with lots of people and the community generally is great at looking after each other. (It’s also probably the dementia epicentre of Shropshire, since loads of people retire there.)
One carer said that her husband (living with dementia) tended to walk out on his own a lot, but local people and shops always keep an eye on him and let her know where he is.
What a great place!
But it seems that they have not come up with this great idea…
Volunteers to accompany people with dementia to do what they enjoy, like…fishing, long hill walks, a drive out through the hills or to the sea, a picnic somewhere. This, the carer said, would be the saving of Bill (name changed), who used to be a long distance driver and now is stuck at home. And of course a good period of respite for the carer. And when Bill would come home he would be happy again. You know the scenario and evidence!
They have a Good Neighbours organisation whose volunteers drive people to hospitals etc, and stay and bring them back, which is great as travel to the hospital is long and difficult. So that is good.
There is a newish Care and Share activity and support group run by Shropshire Community Council (lottery funded), for couples living with dementia. Four hour sessions, including lunch. People always kept busy. (No comment)
There is our Deep group…great for sharing knowledge, ideas and experiences, but without any organised activities, unless members want to do so of course. And described as a wonderful opportunity to just relax and chat with people who get it.
I asked Bill if he enjoyed gardening…yes…big smile. So…I said a dementia allotment would be fantastic, and Stretton would be a great place to do it. Universal agreement, and a distinct possibility.
Visitor went away with a couple of fantastic ideas. Which we could all do with, everywhere!
Next Christine from ‘Energise’ (an active exercise organisation funded by Shropshire public health’ visited for feedback. She runs exercise groups to keep older people supple and to address balance issues.
“How could she and her colleagues could make these exercise groups dementia friendly? And get more plwds to attend?”
These are held in any available space that they think is suitable but…
Well, the usual environment stuff:
Have windows for orientation and to avoid feeling shut in…
Have good light but not bright or dazzling
Good signage to, out of, and away from the toilet
No echoes or reverberation noise
Walls and doors with contrasting decoration
Toilet seats in contrast
Orientation clock and name of location clearly visible in hall or activity area.
And we discussed the issue of balance and dementia, and tips that people could be given, such as…
A movement activated night light in bedroom and toilet
Installing stairs handrail before you fall!
How to slowly and carefully get out of a chair.
Keeping an elbow or hand touching a surface in the shower…
Three of the group had recently recovered from breaking limbs in falls. For example, tripping over a curb, and just, simply, falling over at home. They said they had lost confidence…and the Energise class could help them get back to normal. You can self refer to these, but few of us have ever been informed they exist.
So, I asked, had they been given falls advice and referred into the falls service, which operates within and out of the local acute hospital (yea that one again)?
No. (Of course.) No.
What the hell is the point of that service then?
(I was told by someone else some months ago, that the falls service do not engage with people with dementia because they cannot remember advice they are given.)
And then, then, we did the Admiral Nurse surveys.
We don’t have Admiral Nurses in Shropshire, though they are next door in Telford.
We want them. We need them. We continue to lobby for them.
To all DEEP groups around the country…
You will have received copies of the survey, with an envelope containing leaflets about Admiral Nurses, and instructions for how to do the Survey. It might take 20 minutes.
Since these have gone out a little later than planned, we are extending the time for the surveys to be completed and returned to the end of April. I know many groups have things planned in advance, and a week or two is short notice.
So good luck with your surveys…
And the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline…available for anyone anywhere in the UK to call.