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: http://thecareruk.com/residents-open-their-own-art-gallery-at-ash-court/)! 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.

Photos Library.jpg

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: www.earthday.com

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

A Game is not just for Christmas ……

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment

‘The room was filled with laughter and everybody embraced the project so now we’re going to do something like this every month!’

It’s great this month to hear the new possibilities emerging from the senior team at Halliwell, in Tunbridge Wells.  They had a go at exploring playfulness by playing a game together. At Ladder to the Moon games are not just for Christmas and not just for children either. A game is something where people invest their time fully together in a process of ‘doing’ without – for once – being concerned about the outcome.

They allow for some ‘messing about’ by creating false purpose. Messing about is not just a great pastime it allows people to ‘re-create’ themselves as individuals and we strongly recommend it.

So why might all this be particularly important in a care? Well we notice, and people tell us, that actions and conversations in homes tend very often to focus on the achievement of specific outcomes.

While these conversations can still be creative in nature the outcome focus can constrain the thinking to doing the things that we know will work. Nothing wrong with that but often there is no newness, inspiration is missing and there is no space for discovery.

As part of the support we give to companies developing their culture of creativity, we ask leaders in homes to try out new approaches with their teams that open up playfulness. We ask people to try out some ‘games’ together because ‘games’ provide fresh opportunity to build openness, acceptance and relationships.

Games allow a world where the outcome doesn’t really matter – even though we may feel the edge of competitiveness in the playing.  We have found that to improve relationships and trust the most productive games are often those that have the most impossible outcomes to achieve. And they usually cause the most laughter, which allows for openness and connection.

Such was the case at Halliwell when the Heads of Department, who meet every month, were split in to 3 groups and asked to build the tallest tower in 30 minutes, out of sellotape, marshmallows, string and spaghetti (uncooked!).

Each team member was assigned a role e.g. time-keeper. They discovered their ingenuity more as the materials ran out, in the case of the sellotape, or simply didn’t comply as when spaghetti snapped and marshmallows melted.

I am told that the results rival the famous towers of Blackpool and Paris – and the leaning tower in Pisa and the team were talking about their efforts for days afterwards.

Congratulations Halliwell for bold creative leadership and encouraging the heart of the senior team!


How watching TV ‘soaps’ can encourage the heart of care ....

It’s always worth noticing what kindles the seed of an idea to flourish into a vision worth pursuing ….

‘Holby City’ was the inspiration for a Home Manager I spoke to recently. She had watched an episode in which a dying man had expressed a wish to feel the sun on his face. She easily made the creative connection between this heartfelt request and the situation that people at the end of their life in her home might find themselves in.

Her home is deep in the Gloucestershire countryside and has great outdoor space with many mature trees. Residents already have great social times and relaxation in the garden but often these do not include those who are the most frail. But thanks to Holby City two thoughts combined afresh (the feel of the sun and the thought of her home’s beautiful garden) to produce a new and compassionate possibility.

The manager has set a goal for next year, which is to have a summerhouse – ‘a place where many things can happen and where people at the end of life, if they wish it, can come out in a protected chair to “feel the sun on their face”.

3 tips on Inspiration:

·      It often comes from unexpected places

·      It makes you want to act to change something

·      It will wear off so best get started!


Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment 

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

Amy Roberts – Maidstone Care Centre (Ranc Care)

Amy’s entry impressed the selection panel, specifically for:

  • Leadership and openness – showing a responsive approach to the icons Photo Shoot box
  • Noticing further potential and her ability to deliver impact - personalising her approach in responding to residents
  • Transforming crises into opportunities 
  • Embedding her practice

The Evidence:

During the home’s first session using the evocative Icons Photo Shoot activities box, a resident began to discuss his time in the army and the different uniforms worn. Seeing the opportunity present in this engagement, Amy and the activities team decided to extend the ‘dressing up’ aspect of the box. They sourced additional armed forces uniforms – both Navy and Army – from the local theatre’s wardrobe department and gave residents another opportunity to not only ‘dress up and have their pictures taken’, but also, invaluably, another opportunity to connect.

Amy elicited interest and aroused curiosity in the uniforms and event by donning first the Red Cap uniform and then the Wren’s uniform and enjoyed her own multiple ‘tours of duty’ around the home.

Residents were both surprised and amazed, with some commenting that the event was ‘better than Christmas’, with the original resident whose memories sparked this new opportunity thoroughly enjoying dressing up as an army officer. He had his picture taken and has it framed and proudly on show in his bedroom.

To further broaden the impact of the activity, Amy wrote a report, replete with photos, and disseminated it amongst interested parties: staff, relatives and visitors. And perfectly summarised the moving impact the occasion had on the activities staff with the heart-warming quote: ‘None of us were quite prepared for the reaction of some of our residents…and the emotion in their eyes that left us all with a lump in our throats.’

Congratulations Amy and well done to all the staff and residents of Maidstone Care Centre!

Elliott Grigg, Project Officer



The home that moved Christmas .......

What a joy to be on a Centre for Creativity & Innovation in Care webinar recently with a home manager from Harrogate.  2016 had not been the greatest of years for this manager, who had experienced a CQC inspection just a few months after coming into post and before the home had fully realised the benefits of all her work for change.

The inspection report had been hard to embrace and had left the home team low.  Further bad news arrived with the cold December winds when nasty infectious viruses forced the home to close to visitors right across the Christmas period. So Christmas became a moderate affair unshared by residents with their loved ones.

The manager chose her attitude. Having dealt with the ‘crisis’ she looked for the ‘breakthrough opportunity’ hidden in the ‘breakdown’. She and the team decided to ‘redo’ Christmas. So on January 11th the home was doing all its rituals for Christmas eve. January 12th, Christmas Day, saw the post man come in especially to wish the residents a happy Christmas, the staff wore their Christmas jumpers and Christmas dinner and games were enjoyed by families and staff in great spirits.

Finally, January 13th was confidently declared Boxing Day by one and all and the buzz has lived on well into February.

Crisis? What crisis?


Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment


Post inspection blues – and outstanding habits ....

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment 

It is disheartening for homes to hear post inspection that they are at the upper end of Good when they have spent months of personal investment to achieve Outstanding. And of course it is joyful to achieve an Outstanding rating where, in the exposure of an inspection, nothing seems guaranteed. In both cases however there is the aftermath of the inspection and some kind of rallying and refocusing.

Two weeks ago I had my first coaching call of the year with a home which achieved a CQC rating of Outstanding late last year. I left the call even more convinced that Outstanding is a leadership mindset, which produces behaviours that once ‘turned on’ become as natural as breathing.

The CQC rating is an important validation with powerful business consequences and we all need to understand what is needed to achieve this. There is much learning to be done as we seek to share an understanding of creativity and innovation in care services.

Arguably, authentically outstanding homes won’t need to ‘bounce back’ post inspection. They won’t need to spend lots of time ‘managing’ being unsuccessful or successful (after the final result and even if it seems unfair) as they already have a higher investment in the process of innovation and creativity than the outcomes these produce.  They just will continue to be innovative in their behaviors because they have lots of evidence that pleasing outcomes will follow in abundance. Stretching is not just for inspections (or even Christmas) it is a habit of success.

Where there is a post inspection sense of‘returning to business as usual’ or even ‘its now time to refocus’ it is important to get back to ‘clean slate’ thinking.

So what was it about the post inspection Outstanding home on this call with their home manager and activity leader that gladdened my heart? It was a sense of unstoppable creative confidence with tangible indications that innovative behaviours are routinely automatic:

  • Natural future focus: ‘yes we had the (CQC) celebration party before Xmas, it was lovely, but that was ages ago’


  • Noticing impact and feedback:  ‘our new electronic care records mean that I had 4 staff attending an afternoon social event last week – that is unheard of!’


  • Willingness to learn, exploit, hoan, combine and build: ‘I’m seeing that if we do more work matching staff with residents we can use the ‘new’ time for more outings and ‘in home special times’.”


  • Commitment to relationship building using the whole team: ‘we used the tool you sent us and 20 of the staff have done their relationship circles – I’ve been really amazed that some of the residents who I had on my outer circle (less energizing relationships) were in the centre circle for a number of staff – there’s a lot we can use here’


  • Inclusion and curiosity underpin investment in enquiring: ‘I will complete the tool with all the staff so we can see it all’


  • Risk–taking and working to be leader proof: ‘we had to resuscitate a resident recently and I stood back to allow other staff to put their learning into practice. Often the home manager is expected to do the CPR. I’m doing this to encourage staff problem solving too by saying‘I haven’t got time – come back and tell me what you have done’


  • Playfulness that encourages the heart of positive relationships: ‘I asked staff to share a proud achievement in their lives and created a game for the residents to guess which member of staff had done this thing. They loved it – when the residents weren’t sure who we were talking about I re-introduced the member of staff to them’


To the Moon!!

An Outstanding Year of Outstanding Activities!

The Evidence of Outstanding Activities competition has continued to provide a great insight into the wonderfully engaging, inclusive and transformative work that programme participants are creating in their services.

Winners of the competition this year have been:

  • Winter – Vanessa Duggan (Hamble Heights, Chorus Care) for her influence, clear vision and support in the whole home approach to the Coat of Arms box
  • Spring – Lyn Andrews (Thornbank, Greensleeves) for her creativity, leadership and innovation in the production of the home’s Mega Music Video
  • Summer – Naomi Mead (The Grange, Forest Healthcare) for her leadership, success and stretch in the use of the Birdbox Bonanza box, involving those at risk of isolation and personalising and responding to residents
  • Autumn – Lynne Lovell (Ashley Gardens, Healthcare Homes) for her abundant and playful use of The Great Exhibition box to support an successful, existing event.

This year has also seen many entries Highly Commended , from Marie Dasylva (Torkington House, Greensleeves) and Beverley Hillier (Roseacres, Advinia Healthcare) for their ability to enrol others: volunteers, family members and colleagues; to Gareth Harding (Harleston House, Greensleeves) for his leadership and playful approach to the Panto box, creating opportunities for staff to make connections in a new way with residents, relatives and each other.

In the Autumn, we were thrilled to Highly Commend three notable entries:

  • Victoria Pembroke (Pinehurst, Forest Healthcare) for her belief, openness, responsiveness and spontaneity, demonstrable in her breakthrough and thoughtful follow through with a person at risk of social isolation. Carers were amazed at how her simple introduction of a tennis racket to the hand of a man who often slept in his chair and refused to participate in any group activity led to him playing tennis with a young visitor and bursting into tears of joy as he mumbled, “I remember!”
  • Richard Lever (Forest Care Village, Forest Healthcare) for his creation of opportunities for acknowledgement and pride and involving residents across multiple floors and throughout the whole care village. Richard’s leadership in the creation of the home’s music video encouraged people to involve themselves in activities and participate in ways never previously seen before; yet he also stretched beyond the creation of this video to hosting a Premier Event Showing – complete with refreshments – to residents, staff, management, relatives and visitors, which remains an on-going source of engaging conversation.
  • Rebecca Lee (Healthlands, Canford Healthcare) for her impressive reach, resilience, playful and creative impact in the face of difficult circumstances.  Having initially struggled to engage the support of her colleagues and articulate the beneficial effects of her shared vision, through being bold and spontaneous, and encouraging two of her colleagues to join her in dressing in items from the Rebel and Icons boxes, Rebecca experienced a successful, home-wide transformation in attitude.  Traveling through the home, she and her colleagues received many comments from staff, residents and visitors, sharing items and inspiring curiosity; which lifted the spirits of the whole home and has since made it much easier for her to solicit on-going peer support.

Every submission we receive to the Competition is a wonderful testament to the invaluable work and inspiring, creative transformations that all who contributed are making to the environments and lives of those whom they connect and communicate with.

Thank you for a wonderful year and we look forward to seeing what you all get up to in 2017!!

Ladder to the Moon's - No. 1 Tip for Christmas and beyond - settle back and find some Hygge ....

December 20th 2016

For those of you well on the path to Christmas you may have noticed that books about ‘Hygge’ (pronounced hue – gah) the Danish word for a feeling that most of us know but find hard to define, have been ‘the thing’ this year. If you work in a care home its still worth putting them on your Xmas wish list to Santa, or spending your Christmas present book vouchers on as they have many hints and tips applicable to boosting well-being for those living in care homes. And they will be thought provoking about the meaning of home, chores and the mundane in your own life too.

Hygge is variously defined as a quality of presence, an experience of togetherness and it’s a feeling of being warm safe comforted and sheltered. It’s about feelings of relatedness and contentment, that the self and belonging to the moment matters – and that these things are worth our regular attention in every day life.

The Danes as a nation score very highly for national well-being and so a book on Hygge will likely give you plenty of ideas of how to create inclusion and comfort for individuals and for groups of people. At its heart Hygge is usually about savouring a very simple sensual experience of ordinary life, often shared with others, and where something is enjoyed for the comfort and/or connection it brings.

The winter season abounds with such opportunities. Real fires and candlelight feature very strongly for Danes throughout the long months winter and although these are usually not do-able things in nursing homes there are plenty of other simple offers where Hygge moments can be created and shared e.g. a warming hot chocolate served in a favourite mug and in a peaceful corner, a special cosy blanket, a plate of mince pies specially presented in subdued lighting to share with a friend or in a small group, perhaps with a glass of sherry.

Combining these small ideas with another aspect of Hygge which is to enjoy contrasts, like hot and cold, dark and light means that small chunks of time can be quickly upgraded from mundane to special. None of this is rocket science but the important rule of Hygge is that people are mindful about creating enjoying simple moments together and everyone in the group works hard to have others be accepted, included and supported to be themselves. And that a ‘comforting home’ is an act of creation wherever you are.

Seasons greetings one and all!

Jude Sweeting, Director of Quality & Enjoyment

Maidstone Care Centre tell us what it was like to "Think outside the box!"

There was much excitement on the day Maidstone Care Centre received their very first ‘Ladder to the Moon’ box. Although the activities team were aware of its contents, the residents had no idea what was inside or how it might be used to entertain, stimulate or lead to anything that might be of any particular interest to them. For them it was black box containing… well, they had no idea.

"On opening the box we revealed a selection of photo props directly related to film stars from yesteryear. It didn’t take long for residents to begin recognising actors and actresses, searching their brains for film roles and swapping anecdotes relating to trips to the cinema or ‘pictures’.

(Please scroll down to see photos of the magical happenings!)

Many residents were keen to try on the hats and accessories and more than happy to have their photo taken.

It was a positive experience for Daphne, who had not been involved in activities until this stage, relishing the idea of taking on the role of Audrey Hepburn and Ernest beaming at the camera in his Charlie Chaplin hat.

Our first box had clearly been a success and we thought that by the end of the session we had utilised it effectively. However, it was then that Colin started to speak about his time in the army and the subject of uniforms was mentioned by a member of the activities team.

It was then suggested that we might take the ‘dressing up’ a stage further by bringing in some armed forces uniforms in order to allow the residents the opportunity to reminisce.

A week later we were fortunate enough to acquire army and navy uniforms from a local theatre’s wardrobe department and brought them in for any interested residents to see, touch and possibly try on.

Colin was keen to dress up in the army officer’s uniform and appeared to enjoy having his photo taken, a copy of which was printed and framed for him. This now has pride of place on his window sill.

Due to the small sizing of the uniforms it was not possible for all residents to try them on, therefore, Amy, our Activities Co-ordinator donned first the Army red cap uniform and then the Wrens uniform and did her own tour of duty around the home.          

None of us were quite prepared for the reaction of some of our residents or the looks of surprise, amazement and recognition on their faces.  

Barbara said it ‘was better than Christmas’, Cyril said ‘Oh wow, very good, you look the part’ and Vera kept repeating that she had worn that uniform and tried hard to convince Amy to go off and join the army. But it was the looks on their faces, the sharp intakes of breath and the emotion in their eyes that left us all with a lump in our throats.