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  • A Dementia Friendly Pantomime Experience? Oh Yes You can!

    Ever since I was a little girl, I remember that my Mum loved everything about the pantomime.

    And frankly, why not?  According to the Oxford dictionary ‘a panto is funny and has something for the girls – a love story, and something for the boys – a duel fight with swords.’  Add in a measure of slapstick comedy, some music and dancing and you have the perfect recipe for some good old fashioned entertainment which can be enjoyed by all generations.

    Mum always fancied herself in the traditional role of the principle boy, where a lady would don a short jacket,  long over the thigh length boots and engage in plenty of  thigh slapping – and she definitely had the legs for it!

    So there was always an annual seasonal trip to the panto clearly marked in our family social calendar, and was eagerly anticipated by us all. From an early age, like my Mum, I absolutely adored the brightly coloured sparkly costumes, the singing and dance routines, joining in with all of the audience participation, (oh yes I did!), not forgetting, of course, the good old pantomime dame, “cos there ain’t nothing like a dame"!

    I can even remember one year being one of the ‘boys and girls’ invited to go up on stage and singing Rupert the Bear along with the cast!

    Fast forward to my teenage years and Dad was in the local rotary club and once a year, my Mum and I would help him and his fellow Rotarians to take  a coach party of elderly pensioners to the pantomime.

    When Ashleigh and Joseph came along, (my children) Mum couldn’t wait to introduce her grandchildren to her beloved panto and would treat us all to tickets to see the latest show at the Nottingham Playhouse. We chose there over the bigger and grander Theatre Royal in Nottingham which attracted the celebrity cast, preferring the lower key locally written performance by Kenneth Alan Taylor, who generally also starred in the production as Widow Twankey or another such pantomime dame.

    These trips created a special bond between the three generations of our family and the kids would insist on taking Granny to Macdonald’s afterwards for a happy meal of chicken nuggets and fries, a whole new experience for her!

    Sadly the day came when, due to Mum’s failing mobility, coupled with her fear of heights and steps, she resigned herself to the fact that she would no longer be able to join us on our annual outing. However not wanting to deprive us of our annual treat, Mum insisted on continuing to pay for me to take the children without her. So we hit on a happy compromise and would call at Macdonald’s after the performance and take a happy meal for us all back to her house with a programme of the play. Mum would love to hear from the children all about the performance.

    One of the saddest things about growing old, I believe, is facing the realization that you are no longer able to manage to do the things you used to love to do, and the prospect that you have done something for the last time. I can only imagine how that would have affected Mum, to know that she would probably never get to see another live pantomime during her lifetime.

    Mum is now 97 and three quarters, (and will be 98 on March 8th) and is currently being supported at home with Vascular Dementia.

    Now my kids are grown up too and so it was a particular treat to be invited to visit the panto this Christmas with Ashleigh, along with my step daughter Anna and her two children Harlow and Austin, to see Robin Hood and The Babes in the Wood. To see their little faces light up and how much they enjoyed it really brought home to me how much pleasure my Mum must have got from watching us all. Another 3 generations enjoying the panto together, the family tradition lives on, happily.

    The stage is set!

    During the interval, Ashleigh pointed out to me a leaflet which was in her programme, advertising a dementia friendly performance of the pantomime.

    This idea really sparked my interest and it got me thinking about the possibilities. What if this adapted performance enabled me to take Mum to enjoy just one more pantomime show?

    The following morning I rang the theatre to find out more about what was special about a dementia friendly performance. The young girl on the phone was extremely helpful and explained:

    • they reduce the music volume when dialogue is taking place,
    • they have a relaxed attitude to people changing seats during the performance
    • and even to people leaving and reentering whilst the performance is on
    • as it isn’t a schools performance, the audience is quieter
    • there is additional signage with pictures in the foyer
    • there is a quiet room for those who need it, before, during and after the performance
    • there are additional support staff to help

    Overall they describe it as a much more relaxed attitude towards noise and movement during the performance.

    I was quite nervous about the prospect of this big  trip out, so I decided to ask Mum if she would like  to go, and when I did, her face told me everything I needed to know. She broke out in the biggest, beaming smile I’d seen from her in a long time.  So, from then on it just has to be done, there was no turning back and the tickets were booked that same day. Although Mum can’t remember what time of day it is or which meal she’s recently eaten, she remembered and KNEW that we were going to the pantomime on Thursday January 17th 2019 for a matinee performance. She kept referring back to it, and telling everyone, ‘I'm going to the pantomime you know’ so I knew how much it meant it to her to be going.

    The day dawned, and Mum was dressed up and ready to go in her Sunday, complete with new hair do, lipstick and her pearls. On arrival, we were welcomed by a smiling male member of the Playhouse team who took complete care of us from that moment, organising programmes, (including a specially adapted programme), and the obligatory bag of Maltesers and who then personally escorted us to our seats. The auditorium was roughly three quarters full with many ladies and gents, some of whom had come with their spouses and others in parties from care homes and local societies. It was such a pleasure to see a great turn out and to know that so many were going to be able to enjoy this experience.

    Mamma Whitty and some of the cast of the pantomime

    There was a good ratio of staff around to be of assistance throughout the performance, all dressed in yellow T shirts for instant visibility,  and Mum soon got into the spirit of the performance - joining in, singing along to ‘Underneath the Spreading Chestnut Tree’  together with the actions, and booing the baddie, ‘Oh no! Not the Sheriff of Nottingham!' when prompted. I could see how it took her right back and was a great experience for her.

    At the end of the show, the performers all came out into the audience, chatting and posing for photos. They were fantastic and couldn’t have been kinder and more patient. Robin Hood himself came over to talk to Mum. She was fascinated by his costume asking if she could feel the sequins on his jacket. I asked if Mum would like her photo taken with Robin and before I knew it, he had gathered several other cast members around him and we were able to snap an amazing pictorial memento of the occasion, with Mum surrounded by a mass of colorful and sparkling and beaming smiles. A fantastic experience overall. Mum did take Robin into her confidence and told him that she had actually starred in the previous year’s performance, (wishful thinking I believe!) and that she was there on that day in her official capacity escorting 70 elderly people to watch the performance!  Being there had obviously evoked some powerful memories for her!

    I have given Nottingham Playhouse a 5 star rating for doing a fantastic job to enable so many ladies and gents to enjoy the panto that day. Since then, I have learnt that they offer relaxed and dementia friendly performances of all the plays they stage. We have already talked about the fact that we may well return. As Mum’s carer, I get to go for free, what’s not to love about that?! I will happily continue to be Mum’s theatre buddy.

    Bookings are already being taken for Sleeping Beauty for Christmas 2019, and God willing, we will definitely be going back!

    For more information on dementia friendly performances and familiarisation visits plus any questions - you can email [email protected]  or you can call the box office  on 01159 419419 at the Nottingham Playhouse.
     

  • UPDATE!! The Health Care Extreme Makeover - Home Edition!

    We know you've all been keenly waiting to hear the news from Red Rose about their brilliant refurbishment project and here's the latest update. As you can see, there is a lot of work going into this project and we know it will help to make a huge difference in end of life care for many people and their loved ones.

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  • Why you need to know about Dignified Dining for All

    We have been banging on about dignified dining for over 18 months now, since the launch of our Dignified Dining Solutions Guide in fact, back in June 2017. In case you missed that launch, you can catch Jo talking about here - go ahead and watch it now, we'll wait.

    We know that the tools, tips and guidance included in the Dignified Dining Solutions Guide can make a marked difference to those in your care, from individuals in the home to those in care homes. We’re offering you the chance to get this 34 page guide, worth over £5.99 for FREE!

    Order my guide!

    Here’s what a few other people think about it -

    "My daughter is 12 years old she has a diagnosis of down's syndrome, oral dysphagia, autism, sensory processing disorder and food intolerances. I have only been able to give her pureed or mashed food which she was not particularly interested in.  She is assisted at meal times. The first time she say saw her food moulded dinner, she shouted, "Carrots!". The next time, she wants to know what every bit of food was on her plate. This time I had used parsnips in the carrot mould, "What's that? What's that?!" she said as SHE used a fork to scoop up pieces of dinner onto her fork and into her mouth with glee. But what's most important to me is that my daughter is beginning to enjoy meal times and showing greater independent all because her food is now moulded."

    Mrs Dewey, Private Customer

    "We have been auditing noise levels at mealtimes and have noticed that by making simple changes to the way we manage the mealtime experience. Our residents are much less distracted, and are clearing their plates rather than picking at their meals. So we are delighted to be seeing improved levels of nutrition and less wastage" 

    Donna Butcher, Woodleigh Care group

    Airedale NHS Foundation Trust has been working to improve the acute care environment for people with dementia in hospital. "We have introduced the coloured crockery range and had some excellent feedback on how this has made a difference"

    Fiona Throp - Senior Nurse for Older People - Airedale NHS Foundation Trust

    Order my guide!

    Learn how one simple change, can help someone to smile like this -

    See the difference one simple thing can make to someone's life. A smile can speak volumes. This is Jackie, with her yellow plate.

    Order my guide!

     

  • The Healthcare Extreme Makeover - Home Edition!

    We are delighted to bring you a project we're very proud to be helping on, the refurbishment of 18 rooms at Red Rose Care Home in Newark.

    Red Rose Care have a history of achieving excellence and the newly refurbished rooms are adding to these high standards by offering end of life care facilities.

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  • So long, farewell, auf wiedersen, goodbye!

    Today sees the end of an era for Health Care Services, as we say good bye and ‘bon voyage’ to the founder of our business, Michael Bonser as Michael is retiring after 29 years of being associated with and working in the Company.

    He first started the business in 1989, quite by chance, when he saw an opportunity. At the time he was running a company offering a baby nappy delivery service to local new mums, and one day a nursing home rang and asked him if he could supply them with adult style incontinence products.

    Michael instinctively said, “Yes, of course we can”; he saw a customer with a need and he wanted to help them fulfil it. At this stage he hadn’t any experience of working with adult incontinence products, but he made sure that he went out and found out and was able to fulfil the order and then thought who else might need these products? So, he started to contact other local nursing homes and care homes and that is how the business began as he started to supply more care homes in and around the area.

    Michael, who retires today from Hcsuk.

    As Michael continued to visit his care home customers, they would to ask him, “Can you also supply me with other products, gloves, pressure relieving mattresses, (known as ‘spencos’ at that time!) and beds?” And each time Michael would say yes, and he would go away, do his research, find suppliers and come back equipped and able to give his customer the solution that they were looking for.

    That was nearly 30 years ago, and the business has gone from strength to strength, adding on a retail division, Health Care Mobility, to help people remain living at home independently with aids for daily living. Michael was also instrumental in the launch of our Health Care Servicing division where field service engineers go out to service, repair and maintain essential equipment in care homes to help residents stay safe and care home providers complying with all of the relevant legislation including LOLER and PUWER. And we still maintain the same values which Michael instilled in the business all those years ago.

    Due to the wide experience he has gained working in various departments of the business, Michael has been a great asset to the team because of his ability and flexibility to switch between different roles as and when needed, including sales, distribution, warehouse and servicing.

    Michael set the standards of high levels of customer care from the outset, which have remained throughout, are now embedded throughout the team to this day. His attention to detail, coupled with his cheeky style and unfailing sense of humour, has enabled him to build some great long and lasting relationships with many customers over the years. Some of which we are fortunate to still provide services to, nearly 30 years on.

    We are extremely grateful to him, for giving life to Hcsuk so many years ago and we all wish him well as he and his wife Debbie, embark on new adventures. Please do share your memories of Michael with us.

  • National Dementia Carers’ Day

     

    Today we want to help celebrate and support all those very important people who care from someone with a dementia.

    Dementia is an incredibly cruel affliction for both those who have a dementia, and those who care for them, making that care work very difficult and draining. Through our work with care home managers, individuals who care for their nearest and dearest and our personal experience,  we know how taxing this can be.

    In this email we've selected a few of the resources we think can help you as a carer and we want to say a very heartfelt "Thank You" for all that you do.

    Our recent blog on activity groups for carers will point in the right direction for a breather and a chat with people in the same position.

    And here's a personal story from our MD, Jo Bonser, talking about her experiences with her own mum who has vascular dementia.

    For more practical advice to help those in your care, you can view all our dementia care blogs(including product tips and lots of advice).

     

    Thank you for all that you do for those in your care. We know how hard it is and how much it means.

  • How activity groups can help you when you care for a loved one with a dementia

    Caring for a loved one with a dementia can be challenging, tiring and lonely for relatives and carers, and so often we forget that we need to look after ourselves too.

    Jo Bonser, MD of Hcsuk, speaks from her own personal experience, having taken 4 months away from work to care for her own Mum, aged 97, living at home with vascular dementia.

    ‘My Mum would get extremely anxious if I was to leave the room,  just to make a cup of tea, and would even follow me and shout at me for nipping out for a much needed loo break! So my days were spent sitting beside her in the same room from the time she got up until going to bed, with her repeatedly asking me the same questions – it was exhausting. Luckily I had my Border Collie, Hollie,  living with us and my daily sanctuary came when a carer would relieve me for an hour and so I could get out in the fresh air and walk in nature, one of my favourite things to do.’

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  • What Memories Are Made Of

    Engaging in reminiscence can powerfully impact the wellbeing of a person living with dementia, as it stimulates communication and helps to trigger their existing memories. Reminiscing can also assist in the creation of new memories, as discussing life history inspires new conversations that can be shared with caregivers and loved ones.

    People living with dementia cope with high levels of stress every day. This, understandably, often makes them defensive, guarded and difficult for others to approach. Reminiscent activities help a person coping with memory loss to build confidence as they recognise their belongings. This allows them to feel less stress, making them less aggressive and able to live happier lives.

     

    The information gathered though reminiscence also provides caregivers, family members and loved ones with valuable insight into an individuals history. This information can be used to start conversations or to help a person with dementia feel more at ease when they feel distressed.

    This is incredibly useful as people living with dementia struggle to create or retain new memories and might still remember themselves to be of a younger age. Startling themselves when they look into a mirror and see an elderly face staring back at them.

    Memories and stories of the past can help loved ones deal with a dementia.

    It is for these reasons that it is extremely beneficial for a person living with dementia, in addition to those around them, to engage in reminiscence. It prevents the discomfort that accompanies confusion, making life more enjoyable for everyone.

    Not sure where to start? One way to partake in reminiscent activities is through the use of a Memory Box. A Memory Box is a secure, personal display cabinet for the safe-keeping of personal memorabilia.

    From family photos, to holiday souvenirs to favourite recipes, a Memory Box holds recognisable keepsakes that help trigger the existing memories of those coping with memory loss. They also assist in the creation of new memories as the boxes contents inspires conversations with caregivers, family members and loved ones.

    Memory Boxes are used extensively in care homes, typically placed outside a resident’s room. These extraordinary products are a practical and attractive tool that provide numerous benefits including:

    1. Excellent aids to orientation.

    2. Stimulating conversational interaction.

    3. Providing care givers with valuable insight into an individual’s life history.

    4. Reinforcing the confidence of the user, as they are able to recognise their items.

    5. Creating an attractive point of interest.

    A nurse from Sandridge House speaks about her experience with Memory Boxes stating, “We have had great response from the Service User's themselves as well as their relatives. I am in the Activities Department and often use the boxes as a reminiscing aid as well as the Service User's often looking at them of their own accord when they enter or leave their bedrooms. They are a great way to display pictures from the past or present and have enough room in them to place any special nik-naks or treasured possessions.”

    Another nurse speaks about her patient’s experience with Memory Boxes stating, “Joan’s Memory Box empowered her to become independent again. Now she can find her own room she smiles again and is no longer angry, frightened or anxious. It’s been a huge boost to her confidence, dignity and well-being.” How amazing is that?

    Memory Care also offer an internally illuminated Memory Box option which ensures the boxes contents can always be seen, even at night time!

    More information on the Memory Boxes can be found on our website.

    A seaside memory box

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  • Living with Dementia, where does love end and duty begin? Or does it?

    There was not a dry eye in the house when I saw a recent staging of Brian Daniels play Don’t Leave Me Now, which explores the impact of early onset Dementia and family life.

    Brian’s inspiration for writing this came from two families he met, both of whom were caring for and supporting loved ones living with a Dementia in their own homes, and he tells the stories of their journeys with both insight and humour.

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  • Rummage and Reconnect

    Are you looking for a way to connect with a loved one? Our Themed Memory Baskets or Boxes are ideal to help people reminisce, prompt memory, encourage activity for well-being and share special moments with the person you care for. There are several themes to chose from ranging from the seaside and baking to gardening and the 1950s which we've chosen to show here, plus more.

     

    People with dementia can often remember the distant past more easily than recent events. The rummage box is a means of tapping into memories from the past and helps people with dementia feel empowered and secure in familiarity. It is about reminiscence.
    When a person has dementia they begin to lose their short term memory and memories. They can forget about things that have happened in the last few days, months or years. They may even have forgotten what occurred earlier in the day.

    However, people with dementia can retain their long term memories and find comfort in discussing things from their past. Particularly things they enjoyed like past interests, hobbies or even their past employment. The rummage box can be used as an activity, as a distraction, and therapeutically as a reminiscence tool.

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