I had come to Edenmore Nursing Home to visit, 72-year-old Jenny Melland, who lives with early stage Parkinson’s, to find out how her life had changed since moving here over two years ago. She was busy painting when I arrived at the home.
“Art is my whole way of doing things” she explained when I met her. When I asked if moving to Edenmore had made her life any easier, she said yes, life was much easier now. She found she was not just being supported to do the things she enjoyed but she was actually being encouraged to continue with them. One of the things she loves about the home is that she now has time to paint when she wants to because she is supported. She only has to ask for a cup of tea and someone will bring one and be happy to sit with her and chat. She agrees when I jokingly suggest that it is like having her cake, drawing it and eating it!
When she was younger, she enjoyed her art classes at school and grew up greatly admiring the work of classical artists such as Rembrandt, but now she is in her 73rd year her tastes have matured to include contemporary artists such as David Hockney and the renowned, Bristol artist, Banksy.
Unfortunately, Jenny’s Parkinson’s, now affects her ability to hold pens and brushes so easily, but she has not given up her love of drawing. She continues to sketch whilst talking to me. She prefers to work with a soft 6B pencil since they are good for light and shade. Whilst I was sat with her, two different care team members came to check on her to see if there was anything they could do. The first wanted to know if she’d like a juice and the second sat next to her and said quietly “I can steady your hand if that would help”, she declined both offers but their continual discreet observation as to who may need care impressed me.
I ask her if the condition has stopped her doing things.
“Yes, it has affected my mobility” she tells me, “so I miss my trips up to the National Portrait Gallery, but I do love living here at Edenmore. They really look after me, and being able draw, helps me to relax”.
The care team at Edenmore are able to provide residential and nursing care, as well as dementia support. They employ a “Household Model of Care” which aims to create a true continuation of home. Their “Household Model” of care means that choice is at the forefront of everything they do. Their family members can choose exactly when they want to go to bed, what they would like to fill their days with, and what they would like to eat.
The team also knows that art is very therapeutic and improves family members’ well-being. It can also be used to address specific symptoms of conditions such as Parkinson’s. With art there is no such thing as a “wrong” mark, every mark is valid.
According to the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s, art therapy is a popular and effective way of increasing activity in the brain. They say- “When drawing or painting, you are using both the right and the left hemispheres of your brain and is an excellent form of therapy”.
So, with a sea view, comfortable and safe surroundings and a care team that encourages painting and creativity to flow, living with a heightened sense of well-being is all part of life at Edenmore.