I am delighted to include a guest blog by Susannah Spencer, a keen supporter of my Whose Shoes? concept and blog, which focuses on key issues in health and social care from different perspectives. Susannah kindly invited me ‘and a friend’ (as you do) to the West Midlands ‘Great British Care Awards’. I was delighted to take along Anna Geyer, who does wonderful graphic recording and co-facilitates many of my Whose Shoes? workshops. We were entertained by Keith Chegwin. Wa-hey!
It was the first time we had been to the awards and we were impressed by the friendly, supportive atmosphere – less “tribal” than some awards ceremonies I have been to!
There was a lovely summary of each person short-listed – and a spirit of celebrating “runners-up’ as well as actual winners, recognising some fantastic achievements in person-cented care. We all had a very enjoyable evening.
I am currently working in partnership with ‘Think Local, Act Personal’ (TLAP) . We are producing an electronic version of Whose Shoes? to help organisations and the people they support work together to deliver the challenge of ‘Making It Real’. Susannah is one of the many contributors in this “in my shoes” series who are indeed ‘Making It Real’…
My journey with Dementia
I was asked a question recently: “Do you live in fear of getting dementia?” I didn’t hesitate with my reply: “I certainly don’t.”
I then spoke about prevalence rates and preventable measures but emphasised: “I’m determined that, through my work, I will help to educate people about dementia and be part of improving the quality of dementia services.
I have ensured that my children are sensitive to the needs of people with dementia and have a level of understanding. I’m hopeful that if I do get dementia they will see to it that I contine to live a meaningful life”
I started my journey with dementia when my grandmother, Dorothy Milan, was diagnosed with mixed dementia (vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease) during 2005, at the age of 92. I have enormous admiration for my grandmother. She’s always been a fiercely independent, witty person, with a feisty temper to match. She has taken her dementia on the chin, gone with it and kept her identity, having managed to remain living at home until the age of 96.
Having worked in social care since the age of 19, naturally my work over the years has involved caring for and managing services for people who have dementia. But when a loved one gets dementia, you take on a very different perspective. I began to become very passionate, seeing how important it is to give a voice to people with dementia.
I went on to work with the renouned Bradford Dementia Group, based within the University of Bradford, leading on the groundbreaking project ‘Dementia Care Mapping in Supported Living’ (DCM-SL).
Based on the group’s widely used Dementia Care Mapping tool (DCM), we developed a version for use in people’s own homes. The tool’s aim is to improve the
skills of care workers and enable organisations to measure, monitor and improve their care.
I found DCM-SL an excellent tool for identifying the quality of care as it impacts on the quality of life of those receiving care at home; it provides an opportunity to try and capture the experience of care from the perspective of the person with dementia.
I was so honoured to work with the group and be able to lead on such an innovative piece of work, allowing people with dementia to communicate their preferences and feelings.
Now as the Chief Operating Officer at C2L Care to Learn, a provider of learning and development programmes and support to the social care sector, once again my work has given me an amazing opportunity to be able to share my passion for improving services for people with dementia. As well as creating our dementia-learning programme, I have started a campaign called “Precious Moments”. The aim of the campaign is to raise the importance of meaningful moments: by this I mean those precious little encounters that are often wasted with people with dementia.
So the challenge, is for people to learn about the importance of meaningful moments, create and use them and see what a difference this approach can make.
Another opportunity I get it is to be a judge at the Great British Care Awards. The nine regional awards aim to celebrate excellence across the social care sector. One of the categories is “The dementia carer award” – given to an individual who can reflect on specific skills needed to manage and deliver services sensitive to the needs of older people with dementia. In judging this award, I met some wonderful people who are really making a difference to the lives of people living with dementia.
I also recently chaired the Nottinghamshire Dementia Action Alliance (DAA) Group. I’m looking to set up a carers’ group in my home town and, through my work as a Town Councillor, work towards making our town a dementia friendly one…….
My husband bought me a wall plaque for Christmas. It says, “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen”
My Grandmother has lived with dementia for seven years and has just celebrated her 99th Birthday. She has, and always will, drive my passion to support excellent dementia care… to make it real.