Person playing pianoAs people, we have our own preferences and experiences of life, such as where we have worked, or the place we call home. Even the little things are important; how burnt we like our toast, where we choose to eat breakfast or how we fill our spare time.

These day-to-day rituals and interests make an imprint on us as people – they become part of our ‘being’. The familiarity we experience when we do something important to us or something we recognise as a central part of ‘I’, bring us comfort, validation, and a sense of purpose.

We must consider this as a person travels along their journey with dementia, as any opportunity to facilitate memories and positive feelings is something that needs to be seized. Even the rituals, methods or individual elements around these interests are important moments for connection. For example, the familiar feel of the keys on the tips of the pianist’s fingers are as much an opportunity to reminisce as the sound of hammers striking the strings audibly filling the air with song.

How do we do this?

Evolve care teams understand a person’s identity through exploring their life history. Where did the person in our care, work? How did they spend their time and what could they not go a day without doing? By getting to know who we care for, talking to family and friends, teams can build their own understanding of a person’s identity – the ‘who they are’. Around this knowledge teams can build a home that both reflects and empowers those who live there.

Below we share the stories of some of the people who live in Evolve communities and how they have been supported to live with fulfilment and belonging on their dementia journeys.

Maureen Marsh: Nurse

Images of Maureen Marsh Maureen Marsh or Mo is a former nurse who used to call Heanton Nursing Home her place of work, now it is a place that she calls home.

Since moving into the home in the autumn of 2016, Mo has not lost her caring nature and passion for nursing. Mo is respectfully known as Matron at Heanton, offering her help and support to team members, as they have been supporting her. Often found note taking or authorising the home manager to sign off payroll, Mo is certainly a charismatic figure within the Heanton family. Despite having been in retirement for many years, Mo is still very much the ruling Matron at Heanton!

Retirement has not quelled Mo’s appetite for taking care of those in need. Now living with a dementia, Heanton Nursing Home’s focus on life history and the importance of incorporating that into the care provided enables Mo to continue to live with purpose, attachment and belonging. Being involved in this meaningful occupation has given Mo a new lease of life.

Isabell Tilney: Model

Modelling photos of Isabell Tilney

Isabell, who is a member of the Frome Nursing Home family, was a fashion model who adorned billboards, magazine covers and inside pages of newspapers. Her works varied from sports clothes and swim wear to bold bikini’s that pushed the norms of the time.

She appeared in the Daily Sketch, Woman’s Own and has shared that she was even the first girl to appear on billboards in the UK advertising Pepsi!

Since beginning her journey with dementia Isabell has been living at Frome Nursing Home from July 2018 and although her modelling career is over, she has lost none of her presence and enticing beauty in front of a camera. She has been loving her previous occupation, in her best pearls, marvellous fashion and natural beauty at the home. The team enable her to remain as glamorous as she ever was, posing for pictures in her best wear and finest jewellery.

Roy Collins: Art Teacher

Roy Collins & his artwork.

Roy Collins, an artist and former art teacher who now lives at Heanton Nursing Home has spent years brushing, sculpting and carving innovation across North Devon.

While his creativity has been a beauty to behold for many, perhaps his greatest contribution to the arts has been those who he has inspired and taught, as an educator.Roy began teaching in 1996 at the innovative, ‘Small School.’ It was a secondary school in Hartland, Devon that had forged a ground-breaking alternative model of education. Teaching pupils aged 11-16, Roy aided his pupil’s artistic development and supported them to achieving GCSE qualifications until his retirement a few years ago.

As Roy now travels on his journey with dementia he has at times found a re-connection with his passion for art and has created colourful and innovative pieces inspired by his surroundings at Heanton. Since beginning his journey with dementia Roy’s art has evolved and has offered a therapeutic outlet for him, his daughter Liberty has observed.

“Throughout Roy’s journey with dementia, art has played an important role. It has acted as a therapeutic release from frustrations he might not be able to verbalise, as a calming activity and as a creative outlet for inspiration.”

“In the last 12 months he has produced abstract watercolour paintings of lines and forms that appear like the cliffs of Hartland Quay, still life drawings of the lounge details at Heanton, colourful graffiti-like text-based work and much more. It is something he returns to again and again; it is a very deeply rooted way of ‘being’ for him and the carers do a wonderful job of supporting him,” Liberty said.

Roy Collins & his artwork.

A Shared Commonality

Maureen, Isabell, and Roy share one thing in common, and you might be surprised to read that it is not their dementia journey’s.

It is that they are all individual people who have lived fascinating lives. They have poured themselves into careers, occupations and hobbies that have brought them challenges, pride, fulfilment, and delight.

Through knowing and understanding their individual passions through life story work, team members connect, and understand what they may be experiencing on their personal journeys with dementia. Being able to recognise moments where they may need a supportive arm or want to be joined in personally significant pastimes are unmissable openings for interaction that are integral to supporting a person’s emotional wellbeing.

After all, it is sharing in the delights of pastimes, careers and rituals throughout their lives that have made Maureen, Isabell and Roy who they are today.
The life history work forms the foundations of the relationships nurtured in Evolve communities. It is with this knowledge of the people who live within the home that teams can build rapport and an emotional connection that goes above and beyond empty small talk.

It means as people living in Evolve homes travel along their dementia journey, and nonverbal cues become a more substantial part of a person’s communication, teams are still able to connect and support emotional wellbeing through pastimes, occupations, and rituals.

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