I covered an awards ceremony last night for a large care home company who were celebrating their 50th anniversary. The event was stunning; 1920’s theme, gorgeous, glamorous dresses, smart gangster-types roaming around, tiny, perfectly formed bowls of chilli and rice handed out by very pleasant and polite catering staff. It was all perfectly lovely.
I was asked to work at the event, the aim being to cover the staff recognition awards on social media and so I spent hours taking pictures and uploading personal achievements to several platforms on-line, all the while trying to keep up with the fast pace of the ceremony.
It was fantastic.
The ceremony was lively and fun and the nominees and winners had a fabulous time. The wine and beer flowed and the heroes in this particular care community were celebrated fittingly.
It was fantastic for a number of other reasons too though.
The event was held in what is a newly transformed chocolate factory. It has been re-developed into a Care Village – due to open next week with its first residents – which felt more like a fabulous holiday resort than a care home. There are apartments so couples can move in together. There’s a pub, several cafes, a hairdresser, a gym. There’s an enormous tree (real) that grows in the central atrium, surrounded by space and sumptuous seating with pretty cafes for residents and their families to spend time with each other.
It was care like I’ve never seen it before.
It gave me hope.
The man who was compering, who introduced himself as “Big Ian”, was also fantastic. He has written a small (literally) book on dementia, called “Dear Dementia” and is a bit of an expert on the whole subject. Oh, and he also sings in a band called ‘Huge’, was very funny and engaging on stage and could belt out a fabulous Olly Murs tune.
As he was presenting the awards – to care home workers, night shift workers, home-care workers, team leaders, support workers and silent heroes – he was passionate and his words were hugely powerful as he told them all that they ‘matter’.
That helping Mary, who has lost all her memories of being a nurse for 50 years, matters.
That taking the time to chat to a Fred, who can’t remember he has a son, never mind what the son looks like, matters.
That walking the floor all night with Jane, because she’s distressed and is asking to “go home”, matters.
That helping Edward keep his dignity, by helping him with his personal care, matters.
That listening to Maisie repeat the same thing, over and over and over and over again without getting irritated or frustrated, matters.
That understanding the fear and distress in David’s eyes because he has forgotten where the bathroom is, matters.
That understanding the shouts and screams from Susan are because she is disorientated and that a calming touch and a small distraction with an activity she loves will help and it really bloody matters.
That these people with dementia – people like you and me, people with histories and families, achievements and goals, people with futures they once dreamed about, futures they once envisioned, vastly different to the reality they are now living – matter.
It was an inspirational night and I was so privileged to be there to witness some real heroes in our community receive the recognition they deserve. It gave me a glimmer of hope for the inevitable next stage in my mother’s journey. And, despite the pain and the angry, violent grief that occasionally strikes and floors me when I least expect it…..that tiny amount of hope; that glimmer of optimism, well…… it matters.