On Wednesday evening, we held the first of our community-based Whose Shoes?® sessions in West Kent. You may remember that a short time ago we held an oversubscribed ‘launch event’, aimed at firing up some interest in the project. Well it certainly worked.
The session was full – a BIG achievement for a ‘free to attend’ event on one of the first sunny evenings of the year when it is oh-so-easy for people at the last minute to decide to walk the dog / wash the car / sit in the garden (substitute your favourite after-work activity) rather than go along to a “dementia friendly communities” session! We have heard about events with similar aims run by much ‘bigger people’ than us where no-one has attended. We are hoping that our rather unique blend of an innovative tool that triggers crucial conversations, passionate local Age UK team and skilled, enabling facilitators will be a winning formula! 🙂
It was quite a big deal for me. Whose Shoes?® is growing and I am wanting to build teams who can deliver great sessions in different parts of the country. I felt confident and excited as we have a fab team in place – and the ‘A’ team were out last night. I love the work Sarah Reed does around reminiscence and ‘REAL communications’ (take a look). Sarah set up her business after looking after her own mother who lived with dementia, like so many passion-led people in this sector. We also had Sandra Springett, CEO of Age UK, Tunbridge Wells, who was the instigator of the project and who shines with passion for positive change, as do so many of her colleagues from the local Age UK branches. And, proving to be a star at the launch event – challenging and real – we recruited Zoe Harris who similarly developed the brilliant Care Charts after finding them a life-line for her own husband in the later stages of living with dementia, when he lost the ability to communicate his own choices and preferences. Yes, I do work with the most amazing people. 🙂
The team had risen to the challenge of involving people living with dementia. This feels like a sine qua non for Whose Shoes?® sessions and is at the heart of our NHS Change Day campaign. We want to involve people in the most natural and inclusive way and Whose Shoes?® lends itself to this as we do not set out to put ‘roles’ and organisations’ on name badges, just a first name.
We need to find people who want to be involved and who will themselves benefit from sharing their experience as we know participants will all learn so much from their lived experience. Today I am looking forward enormously to co-presenting a session in Warwickshire with Ken Howard who is an amazing advocate for living well with dementia and who recently wrote an ‘in my shoes’ guest blog. Ken and I are working together nationally but I feel that it is important to involve local people as this builds sustainability and spreads the important message that people living with dementia can get involved. They can have a voice, rather than just the occasional regional or national spokesperson.
I feel even more passionately about this after my wonderful recent experiences at the World Alzheimers’ conference in Puerto Rico, where Kate Swaffer and I spoke at the Opening Reception – I will blog further shortly about this conference and the wonderful new Dementia Alliance International, and how they have invited me to be an adviser.
The West Kent project has been put together over the last few months since representatives from Age UK branches came to our Skills for Health ‘Commissioning for Dementia – Getting it Right” workshop in Birmingham at the end of January.
We have trained a new group of Whose Shoes?® facilitators and held a successful launch event, challenging influential people locally to add energy to the project through their networks and help us fill the places at our 16 community-based local sessions. Ideally we would like the general public, businesses and others who are able to improve the quality of life of people living with dementia in West Kent to attend. We need to attract these people – people who would not necessarily even think about dementia – through a powerful network of local champions. We are delighted to link in with the excellent work that is happening, triggered by the Kent Digital Care event held last summer, the Integrated Care Pioneers project, the Dementia Friendly Communities work and many other initiatives.
As tends to be the pattern, there was an exciting build-up
Soon the session was underway
And we are keen to discover what makes these community-based sessions tick
And we are keen to receive feedback from participants (we need more on Twitter!)
And it is not often that a health and care workshop causes such a buzz that a gang of people are tweeting until after mid-night!
A bonus – graphic recording!
You may remember that talented Carrie Lewis produced a wonderful graphic record of the key issues raised by all the participants at the launch event. We knew this would be a wonderful resource to display and explore at each workshop but we had not thought it would be possible to have graphic recording at our other sessions. A wonderful added bonus has been that we have been able to send Sandra Springett and others from the local Age UK team onto graphic recording training with Carrie. Sandra’s fabulous ‘can do’ attitude meant that her new skills were put into action at the earliest opportunity!
But do not underestimate the skill required!
Watch the experts… 😉 The fabulous Anna Geyer from New Possibilities – Carrie is just as good ( Note to team: we need a photo of a Carrie with the pens please – and indeed Sandra!!)
An unexpected outcome – compiling book lists!
This is an evolving project. We are sharing the news as it happens rather than waiting for a 200-page end of project report that will destroy many trees and sit on distant shelves. We want you to help us get it right – to co-produce the solutions that really make a difference and help communities support people to live well with dementia.
So, how do we collect evidence, maximise what we are doing and grow?
We asked University researcher Neil Chadborn, who has been very supportive and interested in the Whose Shoes?® concept and tools. The power of Twitter – within minutes, we had some very helpful suggestions, some of which we are already doing and others we can explore further. Thank you, Neil 🙂
Please ignore the numbering – Life is too short 😉
So, if you live in West Kent (or know people in this area) and this has fired your imagination, please help us spread the word.
Perhaps you know people living with dementia or carers who would like to be involved. There are 15 more sessions. One or two are already full but most have places. Take a look at the dates and help us spread the word!
And we are succeeding in getting new people on Twitter – social media is a very important part of this project…
And, who knows, the idea might just spread… 😉
Together we can build communities where people with dementia are included as people carrying on with their lives the best they can… the same as the rest of us.
Please post comments and ideas and help us build something special here.