My day in a New Forest care home

Taking pride in caring for the elderly.

“Poisonous scorpion anyone?”

forestoaks33As I arrived at our local care home this week I was greeted by Mrs B announcing “Anyone fancy a poisonous scorpion?” No, not the latest “I’m a celebrity….bush tucker trial”, but a particularly harmless M&S so called cheese puff! Not something I’ve been offered before I have to admit, but I was struck by her sense of humour and desire to make everyone around her smile and share the joke.  I later found her feeding them to her beloved dog, who is brought in a few times every week to spend the morning with her, by a lovely friend and neighbour. Not the only dog on site that day, ‘Merlin the Pat Dog’ was also doing the rounds, greeting everyone and enjoying the strokes and attention, shaking hands (well paws) with friends and residents.


After a very informative chat with ex hairdressing salon manager Mrs P about the latest in hair styles and trends, I joined Mrs B and her friends for their Friday morning yoga class. I was the youngest by about 40 years but was thrilled to find a renewed sense of calm and well-being. I hadn’t done yoga for years and despite the fact that some of my fellow yoga practitioners were wheelchair bound or had restricted movement due to age and frailty (rather than illness), I was pleasantly surprised by the vast array of moves/exercises we could jointly participate in, coupled with a keen sense of humour throughout. I had the feeling that anyone could say anything at any point, a freedom of thought and speech which either comes from that generation or from the fact that they’ve lived through and seen so much in their lives that they’ve earned the right to say what they think.

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If someone didn’t want to do something they would politely but firmly say so and I respected them that honesty and candour. An attribute severely lacking amongst many circles of younger individuals, desperate to say the right thing or what they think people want to hear, rather than what they genuinely think.

 

Yoga was followed by the daily sherry party. Well I say sherry, the drinks cabinet offered far more than simply sherry and most residents appeared in the lounge for their daily tipple, with visitors and relatives coming and going, there was a real buzz with residents catching up on gossip and news with friends and staff.

 

A nutritious and tasty lunch was accompanied by the gentle hum of chatter in the spacious dining room with the majority of residents opting to have their lunch with friends rather than in their rooms. Lunch was followed for some by a stroll round the beautiful grounds and for others a snooze before the daily teatime tradition of tea and a selection of cakes.homemadecakes

 

However for Mrs M a leisurely manicure was the order of the day in the in-house, fully equipped salon.  I thoroughly enjoyed my day in the care home, away from the pressures of work deadlines and children nagging. Tomorrow it’s a big favourite with the residents ‘Bingo’. Peggy told me before I left that she was planning on having her hair done in the morning then off to Bingo in the afternoon, sounds like a great day.

 

A pride in caring for the elderly

I recently listened to a show on BBC Radio 4’s women’s hour about what it’s like to be really old (80+) in the UK in 2014. You may be surprised to learn that statistics show that the most common age for women to die is 89 and in 2013 half a million people living in the UK were over 90! So if you think old age isn’t something you’ll have to deal with, you’re very much mistaken. But as my ‘day in the care home’ narrative demonstrates, it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

True getting older can be an immense struggle either, for those living alone, with family or for those caring for an ageing partner or relative.   As one lady (aged 89) relates, “I woke up the other morning, felt fine and thought I’ll just jump out of bed now, and found I couldn’t. Just for a moment I completely forgot my age.” Just because the elderly change on the outside it doesn’t mean that they change on the inside and in lots of cases individuals still have a very active, enquiring mind, a mind very much in need of mental stimulation and humour.
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Independence is also vital. Being able to carry out everyday tasks, like taking a bath, getting dressed, doing the washing, cleaning and shopping. To come and go as you please, make a cup of tea, meet up with friends, do the gardening. It must be terribly frustrating and upsetting to lose the ability to carry out these everyday tasks, when you’ve been self-sufficient your whole life. Granted, it must get harder and harder to carry on, friends you’ve had around you your whole life sadly die and isolation can become onerous and debilitating. But there is support out there, and if we could only change our mind-set about the elderly and normalise looking after the older generation, including them in the everyday, helping neighbours, looking out for one another, then perhaps we can create a pride in caring rather than feeling they’re a burden and expecting others to take on the mantle.


If we treat each other as friends then perhaps our society would be more inclusive, with generations living together, making it work for the family rather than allowing the elderly to live alone. There are bound to be difficulties with generations living together, for example; having teenagers living in the same house as octogenarian grandparents, but if families could only work together to iron out their difficulties, scenarios like these could work and benefit each other accordingly.

 

I work with a local care home who take enormous pride in caring and I see, day to day, not only the excellent care residents receive but how elderly individuals benefit from making friends, joining in with activities and actually taking part, making the most of living not just surviving.

 

Author:  Vicks Ward (on behalf of: The Wilverley Association New Forest Care Homes)

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