The Outstanding Activities Competition Spring Winners are…[drum roll]…

Josephine Butterfield and Gaby Twentyman – Sotwell Hill House

…for their boldness, creativity and inclusion of the wider staff team in their use of the A Christmas Carol panto box.

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The panel also Highly Commended one other entry – Eulyn McClean’s (Princess Louise of Kensington, Sanctuary Care) for her demonstrable building of anticipation and appreciation in the home’s use of their first activity box, Icons Photo Shoot.

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Great work all those involved and congratulations to both homes. Josephine, Gaby and Sotwell Hill House, enjoy creatively spending your prize!

...and everyone stay reading for the winner’s story which is coming soon!

Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition – Winners story!

Lindsey Salhotra, Activities Coordinator at Milton Ernest Hall (Majesticare) recently won our winter edition of the Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition. This is her home’s story.

The team at Milton Ernest reflected that residents were “withdrawing and not joining in in certain situations”, especially when they felt that they “couldn’t communicate”. This shared awareness was initially prompted via the observation of a resident who “was conscious of her speech and its deterioration and believed that people could not understand her or want to communicate with her”.

Lindsey notes, "Our home was a home which focused greatly on amazing activities [cinema screenings on the big screen, ghost trains, TARDIS paintings to name only a few!]…but sometimes we focused so much on the big events and huge tasks that the small 5 minutes spent all together or chatting one-on-one often wasn’t highlighted or mentioned…we wanted to embrace the small parts of our day as well as the big, and focus on the quiet and valuable times.”

Consequently, the team set their intentionality to design and deliver something new and different that would include and have a positive impact for these ‘at risk’ residents. They were inspired by the contents of the Snug N’ Cosy box and began by making a cosy corner. This was “a communal space but a cosy quiet one…a place where a small group of relatives could visit or when relatives were in the house they could sit. We used a fireplace to create a warm atmosphere; candles and the included rug finished this off…we put signs up so relatives and visitors knew that this space was for everyone and we left out a basket containing books, blankets and easy to do activities.” 


Building on the availability of this cosy space and to embed its use and enjoyment, the team commenced a book club. “We set a date and made posters inviting everyone to a cosy morning by the fire. Residents were consulted about book choices…and we invited a resident’s daughter to read the book to everyone.”


This event was a roaring success. The resident who had been withdrawing "got involved and even made membership cards…it was great to see her out of her room and in the small cosy space [alongside other residents at risk of social isolation], where she seemed more comfortable, less intimidated and chatted one to one with other residents."

The Snug N’ Cosy theme also inspired further activities and events within the home: staff and residents “tried their hand at slipper making, decorating and enjoying the smell of gingerbread men, pampering ourselves with hand massages and also our Hygge day which included adopting a teddy bear!"

But no influence was as great as the one the comprehensive use of the box was to have on the tea round. “We started our very own hot chocolate bar…we ran it like a help yourself café… and we used it as a big conversation starter. It drew people out of their rooms to investigate and it led to residents, staff, relatives and more all sitting and chatting and laughing about the sickly combinations they could come up with! There was not a single drop left by the end of the morning and some individuals who often leave their drinks half-full were found to have drunk 2 full cups.”


Subsequent actions undertaken by Lindsey and the team aim to further embed the positive changes resulting from the book club and the hot chocolate bar to result in ambitious, lasting effects. “We are considering incorporating [the hot chocolate bar] into our regular fortnightly breakfast club and using [it] as a drop in event, also.” And, along with contacting local speakers and authors, to see whether they can host a book signing or a talk about a local book, there is now a “board in the hallway where all those passing can jot down their favourite book for us to discuss at future meet ups.” They have also arranged for a group of local historians to visit the home in February, where they hope to inspire the use of stories from the home’s history within the historians’ next local book.


So well done to Lindsey and the team for their deserved victory; for their inspiring and comprehensive use of the Snug n Cosy box; for the considered and detailed entry, which demonstrated intentionality in design, thoughtful and creative planning, considered delivery of new ideas, impact with residents, family, the home community and a resident at risk of isolation; and your actions taken to embed positive change! 

As Lindsey describes and her competition entry evidences: “The transformation in the home this month has been amazing.”

The Outstanding Activities Competition Winter Winner is…[drum roll]…

Lindsey Salhotra – Milton Ernest Hall Care Home (Majesticare)

…for her inspiring and comprehensive use of the Snug n Cosy box; her considered and detailed entry demonstrating intentionality in design, thoughtful and creative planning, considered delivery of new ideas, impact with residents, family, the home community and a resident at risk of isolation; and her actions undertaken to embed positive change.

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The panel also Highly Commended two entries – Paul Turvey’s (Fernhill House, Majesticare) for his bold design and for building the home community with an impressive large scale event inspired by the Icons Photo Shoot box; and Josephine Butterfield’s (Sotwell Hill House) for demonstrating the new opportunities created for residents in using a box to inspire and build a new relationship with a school, and for embracing the possibilities and embedding the change.

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Great work all and congratulations to Lindsey and all those at Milton Ernest Hall Care Home! Enjoy creatively spending your prize!

...all three of these stories are soon to be expounded upon and published as individual blogs, so stay reading!

Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition – Winners story!

Amy Roberts (Maidstone Care Centre, RCH) recently won the autumn edition of our Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition. Here is her story:

Amy initially observed that in her home’s environment ‘residents and staff become involved in activities in small numbers and often require a great deal of encouragement…[the creative resource] boxes [provided to participants of Ladder’s Outstanding Activities programme] are used by a small number of residents with not a lot of involvement from staff.’

She actively sought to change this dynamic and to increase staff enrolment and engagement. The ‘1960s Fashion Show’ box provides support and materials for participating homes to create their own 60s items and to hold their own fashion show. Amy creatively introduced a competitive element to excite motivation: Maidstone Care Centre’s suite would compete and a trophy awarded to the floor with the best costumes!

Amy provided support, help and ideas and soon attitudes and intentions began to shift: ‘…once staff knew it was a competition, they were soon working on their pieces for the show…secret gatherings [were] taking place between staff and residents…whilst not allowing other floors to ‘pinch ideas’, leading to much good-natured banter.’

Subsequent, knock-on activities were enjoyed, giving further time for staff and residents to interact creatively: “[We also] helped the residents with some tie dying of scarves and t-shirts, with them showing the ‘youngsters’ how it should be done.”

On the day of the fashion show, the opportunity to further extend the impact of the event saw wider community involvement, with residents from Kesson House (another RCH home) invited to attend and act as impartial judges!

“We really took a step back to the 1960s. The lounge underwent a magical transformation: there was a catwalk with a backdrop, lights, music, a judges’ table, a compère and rows of audience seating.

“The models entered wearing a combination of outfits reflecting the chosen era. Margaret donned long boots, headband and wig, whilst Albert was unrecognisable in his long purple wig, flared trousers and sunglasses. Other residents wore mini dresses made from chequered tablecloths and tie-dyed scarves.


“They took to the catwalk accompanied by 1960’s music, loud applause and cheering…the trophy was awarded to the Rochester Suite…food was then served followed by an entertained singing 1960s classics, leading to further singing and dancing.”

Whole community events such as these allow not only for greater feelings of inclusion and connection between staff and residents, but also within families. Margaret and her family had “taken great pleasure in creating their own tie-dyed fabric shopping bags,” and, upon seeing her mother modelling, Linda, Margaret’s daughter, commented, “I would never have thought when choosing a care home for my mum that something like this would happen and my mum would be centre stage.”

Amy’s openness in allowing residents planning, input and consultation into how the show was presented further increased their responsiveness: “The show felt like theirs.” And by creating such a positive and welcoming environment and occasion, she was able, through the fashion show, to reach individuals previously at risk of isolation:

“Vera, who spends most of her time in bed, coming out of her room possible twice a day for half an hour... Her face! She was dancing, singing, delighted.”

“Resident Sylvia was adamant that she didn’t want to take part, but when it came for the judges to retire and make their decision, she called out “What about me?” - put a hat on and began dancing!” Amy, Activities Leader.

“I loved it. I went to sleep smiling. I haven’t done that in ages.” Sylvia, resident.


Events such as these also provide the opportunity for enduring, sustained impact. Amy observes: “Since the Fashion Show we have seen increased interaction between staff and residents with regards to activities. The Fashion Show box and fashion show has created a greater interest in the Ladder to the Moon boxes with more and more residents and staff asking about future Ladder to the Moon boxes.”

There is a skill to recognising where this opportunity lies and how best to capitalise on it. Amy hopes to further excite the memory of those who participated and record and reinforce what the home achieved – and indeed can achieve – with a whole community approach. They are doing this by “creating a montage of the photos to remember the day by.”

Great job Amy and to all those involved; and congratulations to the Albert and Rochester Suite for winning the fashion show trophy!

The Outstanding Activities Competition Autumn Winner is…[drum roll]…

Amy Roberts – Maidstone Care Centre (Ranc Care Homes)

…for her articulation of and drive and support behind the home’s whole hearted community use of the 1960s Fashion box; and for ensuring this impressive engagement and momentum is maintained and lasting impacts sustained. Amy also deserves further credit, as this is the second time she has won this competition!


The panel also Highly Commended another entry – Lindsey Salhotra’s from Milton Ernest Hall Care Home (Majesticare) – for her inspirational building of her home’s community.

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Both of these stories are soon to be expounded upon and published as individual blogs, so stay reading!

Great work guys and congratulations again to Amy and all those at Maidstone Care Centre! Enjoy creatively spending your prize!

Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition – Winners story!

Gemma Smith (The Grange, Forest Healthcare) was recently announced the summer winner of our Evidence of Outstanding Activities competition.

Her entry was detailed and well written and clearly demonstrated the transformative connectivity, inclusion and engagement - both staff and residents - achieved through her skilful actions.

Homes participating in the Outstanding Activities programme receive a creative resource box every month to support innovative approaches to person-centred activity.

This is her story:

On receipt of a new creative resource box, this month "the Marvellous Motoring Map box" Gemma roused interest and curiosity by purposely opening the box in front of residents, who had sleepily gathered in the lounge (‘it was just after dinner and most residents had taken a little nap’). She took the contents to each resident, allowing them the opportunity to ‘handle the contents, ask questions and make suggestions on what to do’; she pinned the large map of the UK to a mobile board, so that everyone could clearly see and had access to it. She moved around the room, prompting conversation by asking residents open questions about their favourite holiday destinations, where they had travelled and worked and lived; and to name and tell stories about places that were emotionally significant for them.

It had a profound effect ......

‘It was absolutely fascinating for us as staff to hear the stories that resulted from the conversation…Mary told the group where she was born and where she had raised her family. She even told us about her honeymoon. Teresa spoke about family holidays. We had a new resident with us that day and she opened up and shared things about her life with the group. She told us about places she had been and day trips out with her children... Residents started to chat about places they knew and places that they had in common.’

For each place mentioned, a pin was placed upon the map. Gemma repeated the same process the following day, visiting residents in their rooms and discussing that places that are meaningful to them. Residents remained interested, engaged and inspired: 

‘Jean suggested that we got another map but this time of the world to show places that they had been abroad and also to highlight where some of our staff originated from. Catherine then suggested that we got some string and linked the points on our world map all centralising on where we are now.’

The home now proudly displays the map on a permanent basis and continues to use it to engage and connect with residents. ‘It has helped new residents feel at home with us and feel relaxed [and] helped us all get to know each other a little better and discover things about each other we didn’t know.’

Gemma’s transformed the home environment from quiet and soporific, to one of vibrancy. Her creativity enabled the community to find value in what they were doing and to make unexpected discoveries. Gemma’s plans on upscaling the activity to include a world map and to link all the points together to show where all the staff and residents at The Grange have come from also demonstrates the commendable ability of continuing to create in response to emerging value; and will likely lead to ongoing transformation, community fostering and engagement for those at risk of isolation. We can’t wait to see it!

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The Outstanding Activities Competition Summer Winner is…[drum roll]…

Gemma Smith – The Grange Care Centre (Forest Healthcare)

…for her use of the Marvellous Motoring Map activity box to enable residents control, to involve everyone at participation levels comfortable and tailored to the individual and for demonstrating creativity in response to emerging value.

The Grange are our first double winners of the competition and clearly demonstrated transformation and connection with this winning entry. Well done to all!

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The summer competition also saw the panel highly commend two entries: Hamble Heights (Encore Care, submitted by Vanessa Duggan and Zoe Morris) and Abberton Manor (Heritage Manor, submitted by Jonathan Walton).

Hamble Heights’ entry demonstrated the home’s inventive approach to bespoking the boxes into additional, exciting and interesting activities for their community, taking everyone on new, creative adventures. Vanessa and Zoe’s inclusive approach to involving all in the home is commended as refreshing and very welcome. This approach has since contributed to the alteration of processes and practices within the home and supported the discovery of new preferences. The panel wish to commend Vanessa and Zoe for noticing, valuing and articulating the benefits of this approach and for highlighting its transformative effects throughout their competition entry.

Abberton Manor’s entry demonstrated their skilled use of the activity boxes to promote and support community building and intergenerational work. Pairing with Langenhoe Primary School, residents and pupils interact and enjoy the box contents together, creating a ‘real buzz of energy’ and a more vibrant care culture. The transformation explored through this entry was warming and deserving of such high commendation.

Great work all! The autumn competition closes on November 1st, so submit your entries and stay tuned for upcoming winners!

101 Year Old Strikes blow for centenarian fitness at The Hollywood Bowl, Teesdale - (and care home brings ambitious dreams to life using ideas matrix)

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment 

Harold lives at the Millings Care Home at Bedale in North Yorkshire. It was his idea to go ten-pin bowling and it was Sandy the Activity Co-ordinator who whacked the idea onto the home’s ideas matrix.

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The ideas matrix at The Millings care home in Bedale, Yorkshire has been in operation for many months and brings a lively commitment to both valuing ideas and getting good ones into action at the home. Anyone can contribute an idea which progresses round the 4 zones of the matrix.

The sections create an ideas pathway from: Any new ideas to What we have planned to What we are doing now ending with What we have done.

The board helps to involve everyone in contributing ideas for engagements and events and to tracking the home’s achievements. This home is particularly good, Outstanding in fact, at providing a diversity of intriguing age appropriate events for residents to choose from. Craft sessions are often done for a grander purpose and outings have high priority. For example, mandala making for the ‘Mandala Walk’ being planned for the garden.

So Harold’s idea had made it to the ‘what we have planned’ section by the end of May. In June Harold, accompanied by 5 other residents, Sandy and Wendy undertook the 45 minute drive to the the Hollywood Bowl in Teesdale.

Everyone held their breath for Harold’s effort on the lane. And imagine their delight when he succeeded in getting a strike on his maiden bowl. This proved to be the first of a total of 4 strikes for Harold on his way to a winning total of 110 points!

Harold enjoying a cuppa in the café after his win…

Creative Cat - Creativity is often really simple

In honour of national cat day this week. I want to share a tiny moment of creativity with you.

When I’m running creativity training, I always talk about creativity as anything that is new that makes a difference (more on that in my TEDx talk - Creating the care we all want), I ask groups to discuss examples of creativity in their own services. The other week when I was with WCS Care, one carer described a women she cared for who loved animals, and was now pretty isolated in her room. The example of creativity was that the carer decided to bring her cat from home in to the womans room, provoking a lot of joy and wellbeing. 

We all know that animals often make a difference to wellbeing. The point of this post though is the simple act of creativity from the carer. That the carer took a moment to use what she knew about the person she was supporting; thought widely about what she had access to that might make a difference, including things in her personal life; and took action.

We are all creative, and it is often as simple as this example. The difficult bit can be doing it, and developing a culture in our work environments and in our teams where we are regularly thinking about what's possible, and making it happen.

What can you do that is new and will make a difference to someone? Happy (belated) cat day.

On the Spectrum - of truth and lie telling in dementia care and support …..

Jude Sweeting - Director of Quality & Enjoyment

A recent story I read from an Outstanding Care Home we work with re-peaked my curiosity about truth telling in dementia care. A subject of huge pertinence to those supporting people living with dementia either as practitioners or family carers and one that has fuelled many a debate over the years by those trying to find a path between ‘therapeutic lie telling’ and the preservation of trust and autonomy for people with dementia.

The story was about an activity coordinator responding to a resident worrying about money by creating her a ‘false pay packet’. A creative response, which worked in that it restored the resident to her more usually enjoyed level of well-being.  A wanted outcome achieved – yet this story is just a slim segment of a bigger practice issue, namely, how far should we go with supporting someone else’s reality (?) - and it made me wonder.

It made me wonder just how many times a day people supporting those living with dementia make, or avoid making, similar decisions across the UK. I would guess its potentially a very big number every day – and some people quite understandably will just not know what to do for the best. After all, it takes a certain amount of confident risk-taking to introduce something that is essentially unreal/false on the basis that a person will find it meaningful and gain well-being benefits – it’s a gamble that not everyone will take. More than that, some people certainly wouldn’t do it, whilst others most certainly would and others whilst trying to be kind will risk being clumsy.

That led me to wonder how we can support care home workers with these daily quandaries. I was reminded of the Mental Health Foundation report published in December 2016 ‘What is Truth?’ which has made a big contribution to pioneering an ethical and practical path through the quagmire of opinions and interests. The report is an interesting read and unravels the many complexities including those posed by a typical, simple, and yet very good question i.e. ‘what should I do/say if a person wants to leave to go home and they no longer have a home to go to?’ Answer – ‘it’s complicated and it depends.’

The report contributes usefully by pulling together and articulating a wide range of stakeholder views and expertise, offering a scale for responses and interventions. It recommends that care staff receive training on this as part of general dementia communication training. More than this I would certainly want care leaders to have the awareness the report provides and for senior care home staff to have this resource when care planning and creative problem solving – it will boost worker confidence and support better outcomes.

Which led me to wonder how many trainers will have integrated this into their courses and more importantly how many people are benefiting as a result…

So to help stop me wondering make sure your care leaders, in house trainers, managers and problem solvers know about this report by forwarding them the link.

Happy Care Home Open Day Friends!

Homes across the country are celebrating Care Home Open Day today. This year’s theme is ‘Friendship’ focusing on “the importance of connecting with local communities, developing lasting relationships and encouraging intergenerational rapport.” Many of the homes Ladder to the Moon work with are participating.

As Head of Creativity and Connection at Ladder to the Moon, I hear stories every week about connecting with local communities, developing connection and intergenerational friendship. As part of our Outstanding Activities programme, participating homes receive a creative resource box every month, with sparks and resources to generate social engagement under a different theme.

 Our Westerns Creative Resource Box (*please note: contents are potentially magic, trained magicians will see better results)

Our Westerns Creative Resource Box (*please note: contents are potentially magic, trained magicians will see better results)

The day one of these boxes was opened in a dementia unit the local preschool were on a tour of the home and they happened to walk in as the box was opened:

“I’ve never seen the children and the residents relax so much in each other’s companies.” Outstanding Activities participant

The children took the lead, ably demonstrating all our Ladder creative behaviours: being open, playful and curious!

“They just dove in; so spontaneous and unplanned.”

It’s incredible how much impact “encouraging intergenerational rapport” can have. One “rather stern gentleman”, softened when the Westerns box was opened and the school children happened to be passing.

“He’s only been with us a couple of months and now we know he can soften, he is playful, has wicked sense of humour; it has really opened up a door. If we’re having difficulty getting him dressed in the morning we’ll pop one of the westerns hats on and that’ll prompt that lightness and he’ll relax.”

One of our participating homes has set up a relationship with a local school where six children visit the home once a month for 3 months; then another 6 from the same class for the next quarter, leading to a party with the whole class at the home at the end of the year. Parties are a great way of acknowledging celebrating and building relationships with local communities. Happy Care Home Open Day everyone!

The Outstanding Activities Competition Spring Winner is…[drum roll]…

Samantha Kalarus – Ash Court Care Centre (Forest Healthcare)

...for generating creativity & growth, demonstrating responsibility & generosity and sparking multi-level leadership with her and her Home’s subsequent use of the Winter Arts box. 

Reflecting on a latent opportunity to introduce and further enhance participants’ use of imagination during art and craft exercises, Samantha led discussions with residents on art and favoured artists. An important change she implemented as an outcome of these discussions had her enabling residents to create their own works, rather than simply colour preselected images.

Inspired by these works, she resourced “good quality frames” and began displaying them in a gallery format. Noticing the capacity for further growth, transformation and extensive impact, she pitched the idea of more widely sharing the residents’ work, putting on a “proper gallery opening. PROPER, with someone from Head Office opening it!”

Head Office were contacted, cheese, wine and crackers were sourced, a photographer was present and the opening made it into the illustrious pages of “The Carer” magazine (to view the article, please visit:! So inspired was one reader that he/she anonymously donated art materials to the home, and others have come forward enquiring about buying some of the works!

“A roaring success,” Sammy unassumingly describes it. “We now have an art gallery of residents’ pictures and this will be an ongoing process.”

This round of competition also saw Vanessa Duggan – Hamble Heights (Encore Care) – Commended for involving colleagues and building the home community

Vanessa entered the competition with painting onto canvas inspired by the winter arts box, and a vibrant fish-n-chips event. Her entry using the Westerns box demonstrates playfulness, wide reaching engagement and a polished end product: 

"The result was fabulous. Many residents, family members and staff got involved, dressing up as cowboys, Indians shooting each other, holding props and having fun. We also asked staff to dress up as cancan dancers, where we showed the residents a dance. We did this on all 4 floors getting as many people involved as much as possible…even our home cat! The home was full of fun and we made our comic A3 size for all to read and look at the pictures."

Great work all; and fabulous demonstrations of the capacity for transformation and connection and growth that can be enjoyed through well-crafted activities!

Elliott Grigg

Dementia Awareness Week – over milking the fear card ......

It’s Dementia Awareness Week and I took a peek at the Alzheimer’s Society website to see what was afoot. I was interested to encounter the public facing platform of this important appeal week. 

The message is simple - we must all unite against what is set to become the biggest killer in the UK to raise funds that will support a better life and better responses for people diagnosed and living with dementia - crystal clear and certainly a fighting campaigning stance in pursuit of crucial and necessary aims.

But it left me a bit puzzled. Whilst understanding the desire to compel us all to exceptional action to raise funds I found it, perhaps perversely, uninspiring to be invited to ‘fight’ or to see dementia personified as ‘a killer’.

This to me over milks the fear card and leans us back into the helplessness of the dominant medical model perspective we tried so hard to escape in the seventies and eighties.

To me the biggest threat to us all from dementia is not being killed by it, that’s not the scary part – it’s about us being socially disabled in ways which have us suffer unnecessarily before we die, whatever the final cause that is declared on our death certificate.

My personal inspiration this week has come from a care worker taking an interesting journey to support a better life for someone living in care - a story that turned life around for someone in care.

Here’s the link:

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment


Building Climate Literacy

Each year, Earth Day — April 22nd — marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. This event is global, having more than 192 participating countries and one billion participants it claims to be the largest civic observance in the world.

This year the Earth Day focus is on building a global citizenry fluent in the concepts of climate change and how to protect our environment.

Those working and living in care services know exactly how important the physical environment and emotional climate is to the enjoyment of daily life.

Both these ‘climates’ are extremely sensitive to small changes. e.g. window open + curtains closed = flat, chilly misery OR window closed + curtains open = sunny warmth and the possibility of noticing the birds building a nest in the tree. This is just one example of a small act making a big difference to the lived experience. Not complicated and easy to do when you choose ‘a living well’ attitude.

Extending our thoughts beyond our immediate world to consider the globe on which we all live, I am powerfully struck by this amazing photograph taken by Cory Richards. Cory is an American climber who takes on very tall mountains in the depths of winter. He also takes photos and in this one he epitomizes the effect of climate change in the Russian Arctic on a polar bear on Rudolph Island.

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If like me this image touches you – this speaks to me to of an almost unbearable isolation, stuckness and deprivation due to circumstances way outside of the bear’s control, circumstances that might be influenced by you and me – then I invite you to choose your ‘living well’ attitude and make one small act in your immediate environment that affects the climate positively for those who are stuck where they are and can not now control the circumstances that put them there. I know you’ll think of something!

If you and others are interested in joining the one billion people on Earth Day by having an event then why not find details and support at:

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment



On moveable feasts…. and dancing with ambiguity

Easter is a moveable feast – meaning that it occurs on a different day each year unlike many other religious feast days that occur on a fixed day every year.

The very idea of a moveable feast on a weekend full of spring conjures the possibility of moving your feast to wherever it will be most enjoyed, be it ‘al fresco’, on a formally decorated table or on your knees in front of the TV the point is to eat something a bit special. Easter has many feasting choices – its not all about chocolate (really???!) – and there are many tasty ways to celebrate the hope and fertility of spring.

My mum’s lemon meringue pie would certainly be on my menu for a springtime feast, indoors or out, come rain or shine. I have nothing but deeply appreciative memories about this fabulous pie as the very special treat after dinner on Easter Sunday – an absolutely scrumptious experience of creamy, lemony zestiness, rich short crust pastry all topped with ‘just right crunchy-chewy ‘ clouds of meringue heaven… my mum always got this just right!

Oddly, embracing correctness – wanting everything to be done the ‘right way’ or perfectly is not helpful in certain stages of the creative process.

Some even say that this kind of fixed mindset at the wrong time provides little room for creative thinking and imagination. Whilst there are times when nothing else will do other than the ‘right way’, as in the production of mum’s lemon meringue pie, or when administering a medical procedure safely, there are many times when the alternative and more creative mindset is one where ambiguity can be embraced in order to find something new and of value.

‘Embracing ambiguity’ means being able to accept two or more seemingly contradictory or odd ideas as being equally valid or able to co-exist.

If you are an explorer of the creative mindset it’s an interesting thing to notice about yourself - where and when you are good at embracing ambiguity and where it deserts you and ‘correctness’ gets the upper hand.

Here’s a small test – can you embrace the ambiguity of when Easter falls in 2018 – see below?  Try scoring yourself on a scale of 0-10 where 10 is ‘yes, I’m completely comfortable with this idea’ and 0 is ‘no, it just cannot be!’

It returns us to the notion of moveable feasts and the changing dates of Easter – did you know that Easter in 2018 is set to happen on April 1st or April Fool’s Day (ref Church of England web-site)?

How did you do?  I scored quite low on the embracing ambiguity test (for me) 5/10 - try it guys!

Happy ambiguities!

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment

How do you encourage creative thinking in your organisation?

Hmmmmmm… There’s no doubt that truly new and useful solutions to problems come from bumping ideas around together. And there are so many things that can stop this happening in care homes - or indeed anywhere else! Some of the critical aspects we notice are:

  • Lack of trust and openness 
  • Expressing ideas is given low value – little time is made and there are problems with collection and processing
  • Insufficient ideas generated – we don’t go far enough and stop too soon 
  • The belief that ‘my idea is not big enough or good enough to make things better’

Pondering on the key leadership messages to these seemingly insurmountable blocks – we suggest any of the following, if well landed, have the power to start unlocking everything at once:

  • We are all creative and together are able to think creatively
  • There is no such thing as a rubbish idea here – sharing always leads to something better, if you don’t have an idea ask a question
  • Are we asking the right question about this problem?

It is worth remembering that ideas require action or a response to have any power and that the creative process practically always transforms the first idea(s) to something else along the way. So small ideas, half-baked ideas and crazy ideas are the very, very welcome essence of change.

That’s how new and useful happens.

Nancy Brown, a woman concerned with keeping hearts alive in her role as CEO of the American Heart Foundation says it well:

‘One hundred percent of the ideas that we don’t share with others will lead to nothing.’

So if you do nothing else today other than lend a generous ear to someone else’s offered idea, then you will be encouraging creative thinking, creative confidence and the heart of creativity.

Here’s wishing you a world full of “wow – I’m amazed we came up with that!"

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment

Highly Commended Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition Entry Acknowledgment

Each quarter, we receive many detailed and considered entries to our Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition. Whilst the cold realities of the competition allow for only one ‘winner’, in instances where another Home or Activities Coordinator has demonstrated exceptional transformation, connection or inspiration, we like to further acknowledge this by awarding certificates of High Commendation. For our winter round, we awarded one of these acknowledgments and certificates to…

…Gemma Smith (The Grange, Forest Healthcare). Her entry was Highly Commended for involving colleagues and building the home community. Her submission wonderfully demonstrated her skilful ability to build curiosity and anticipation, to inspire and enable participation - both planned and spontaneous - and her foresight and capacity for considered follow-up.

She used specific Rebel box dress-items to pique interest: the tattoo sleeves being used and worn by resident Teresa causing such joyful laughter that ‘everyone who happened to be in the area at the time was dragged into the action.’ Staff dressed up and posed for pictures with residents, which really ‘helped them to see the value of the boxes,’ with residents taking on ‘new personalities’ and feeling ‘young, vibrant and involved.’ Following this successful interaction, the home developed their own mobile photo booth and created a photo album, which now welcomingly greets visitors at reception. Family members can also use the album to request copies of photos of their loved ones.  

A great outcome and a clear demonstration of how materials can be adapted to evolve and extend an activity and interaction.

Great work guys!

Elliott Grigg - Administrator & Project Officer