It’s been such a long time since I last blogged, I wanted to pull together the many ideas and inspirations and anything else which has caught my attention or fed into my practice over the last few months and place them together in one post.
The first thing is to comment on the recent surge of interest in older peoples’ issues, for example the recent edition of Wonderland showing how the lives of those living with dementia can be improved through group singing. I have to confess to being frustrated by this programme as I felt they could have shown more of the singing – but could have used fewer clips of people singing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’. On an occassion when I was volunteering at an Alzheimer’s home we sang this song and a woman commented after the last line (‘and my heart’s right there’) “no it’s not, it’s here” whilst pointing to her chest. Always amazed at the humour found within people with this debilitating disease.
Another, two-part programme which has been on the telly (or iplayer in my case) is the Can Gerry Robinson Fix Dementia Care Homes? I really relished watching this programme. I see the inside of residential care homes at least weekly, and I work with older people daily. It was wonderful to see my world on the screen because the media in general doesn’t have much space for older people. It was also inspiring to see examples of good practice that show affordable, excellent dementia care is possible.
Yawn-Length Reports (which have lots of useful things in them)
There has been a report published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation called Older People’s Vision for Long-Term Care. There has also been a large-scale consultation taking place called The Big Care Debate. This has now come to a close, but the goverment published a green paper – and you can listen to Andy Burnham talking about it here. Hopefully the systemic change the Joseph Rowntree Foundation is calling for will be matched in the green paper. But we’ll have to wait and see…
There have been a number of books which have helped me think and reflect on my practice. One is Contented Dementia by Oliver James. I found it an overwhelmingly positive read and it helped me to see beyond the disease when working with people with dementia. Perhaps one criticism might be that it painted a picture that was a little too rosy. But I guess the important point is that just because someone has dementia, doesn’t mean they or their family will never have fun again. People have a right to fulfilling lives.
A few others are The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, Well-Tuned Women: Growing Strong Through Voicework by Frankie Armstrong et al and Community Music Therapy by Gary Ansdell et al.
I have found the music of Chris Wood to be particularly inspirational this year. He has such integrity as an artist, telling stories without sentimentality. He has made me think about connection to place, tradition, nationality and community.