“Staff saw how it is to be me"

As I travel the UK visiting care homes, I frequently meet Activities Coordinators who tell me they run events without the support of their colleagues and feel like a lone worker rather than a member of a powerful dynamic team.

I recently met June, one such Activity Coordinator, on the first day of a Vibrant Communities programme. Newly appointed, she was buzzing with fantastic bold ideas and enthusiasm, but frustrated by how things were going in practice due to the lack of support from her colleagues.  She shared this challenge with the group who formed the homes Vibrant Communities Project Team. We discussed ways to support residents to attend the event being held that afternoon and tried a few out .........

The result - the event was well attended and staff were overjoyed to see residents, who don’t usually come to events, chatting with others and getting stuck in! Staff on the Vibrant Communities Project Team saw the positive impact attending the event had on residents.

At the end of the day, Harriet, the Domestic Manager reflected, “Activities are the most important thing here – otherwise they are staring at the walls, that would make me depressed”.

Harriet agreed with the June that she would assign domestic assistants to support residents to get to events so that people didn’t miss out. June told her manager, “Staff saw how it is to be me – Harriet has offered to get her staff to help me. She can see how important it is for people to get involved". 

I returned two weeks later and was pleased to hear that domestic staff had indeed been supporting people to attend events, impacting positively on the number of people attending overall. The support of colleagues had allowed June be present to greet people as they arrived as opposed to having to run around the building in an effort (single handedly) to get as many people to the event as possible.

The Vibrant Communities Programme provides opportunities for staff from all over the home to get involved in activities: to see the impact they have on residents happiness and to better understand the barriers to resident participation. It's an incredible prompt for staff to create their own solutions to these challenges.




Creative Leadership Workshop at National Dementia Congress

I'm running a workshop next Wednesday (4th Dec) at the National Dementia Congress along with  Neil Maiden and Alise Kirtley from The Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at City University London and our own Shula Hawes.

Creativity is not a gift of a chosen few, but a skill that can be developed with the use of evidence-based techniques. In dementia care, creative thinking plays a pivotal role in being able to offer services of highest quality; from leadership and workforce development through to person-centred practice and positive risk taking. In fact, the Care Quality Commission states that creativity and innovation are key differentiators between Good and Outstanding adult social care services.

Creative Leaders at a recent conference for the orders of St. John Care Trust

Creative Leaders at a recent conference for the orders of St. John Care Trust

In this workshop, Ladder to the Moon and City University London will explain and contextualise creativity in care, in the light of CQC guidance. They will demonstrate how creativity and innovation can be put into practice, with reference to their own tools and the impact these have caused.  

In small groups, participants will then use different creativity techniques (from Ladder to the Moon and City University London, including the digital tools Care’n’ Share and BeCreative in Care) to develop new ideas for providing person-centred care. Groups will consider real-life scenarios and discuss case studies of creative and innovative practice, to fuel their own ideas and self-reflection.

A short closing presentation will emphasise key factors in successful use of creative and innovative approaches, as well as the challenges. Participants will also be signposted to the resources that are available to support creative and innovative practice.

Who should attend:

This workshop will be of interest to care service owners, care commissioners, care practitioners, carers and people living with dementia.

Participants will gain:

  • Understanding of the role creativity and innovation in care, including how it can look in practice, the outcomes it can deliver and how it corresponds to CQC guidance.
  • A number of creative approaches to care challenges, as explored by the attendees together in the session, guided by an expert in creative thinking techniques.

Hope to see you there!


Dementia enhances creativity, so provide services that are just as creative.

I love this buzzfeed (4 words I hadn't expected to say together).


Particularly John's story:

'John Williams was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in January 2014, at the age of 70. Having dabbled in painting since his 50s, he was surprised to notice his natural technique changing. By the autumn his finely detailed brushstrokes had begun to give way to more abstract portraits; an “altered” style he found he really liked.'

“Alzheimer’s has changed my style of painting; it hasn’t changed my passion for art,”

For me this is one of the gifts and challenges of Dementia, the opportunity to look at the world in new ways. And it is the same challenge as for all of us wether we are living with Dementia or not, to stay true to ourselves and to also allow ourselves to grow. The reduced inhibition that Dementia can cause, often makes people more creative. Our challenge is to provide services that are as creative as they are!

Thanks to Des Kelly at NCF for sending this link my way www.nationalcareforum.org.uk/news.asp?sector_ID=14

For more info about Ladder to the Moon's creative leadership visit www.laddertothemoon.co.uk

CQC Links and our surge towards Outstanding Services

I had a surprise phone call last week. For the first time that I can remember a home owner called me up out of the blue. It’s usually me going out to them - talking, presenting, calling and care show’s. But this time I was called, and the reason the for the call was that the home just down the street had their CQC report published.

The home in question - Rush Court, operated by one of our Clients Elizabeth Finn, were Outstanding in two area’s and a hairs breath from Outstanding overall. The reason he called Ladder to the Moon was that there were three big paragraphs on the work that they had been doing with us.

the registered manager told us of the positive effects on staff engagement [Ladder to the Moon] had. 

This was how CQC described us 

The purpose of the scheme is to motivate and inspire staff to provide individualised care that was kind and compassionate. The scheme is recognised as a good practice scheme that involves people, staff and the wider community in developing personalised care. 

So what did we do? Our approach is to work on multiple levels with a service (and often Head Office). We work with senior teams on leading for creativity and innovation in line with CQC Outstanding. We focus on developing projects owned by the team in the service to motivate and inspire a creative culture of care.

One of the key places we work is with activity staff to involve and engage colleagues, relatives, friends family and the wider community in a way that makes a meaningful difference to quality of life. Often this involves using events in a slightly different way:

Staff spoke passionately about [Ladder to the Moon] and showed us photographs of monthly themed evenings where people and staff enjoyed time together. All staff were invited to the evenings, this included housekeeping, catering, maintenance and office staff. One member of staff told us, "I come in on my day off for them. Last night we had a cheese and wine party". We heard a person chatting to a care worker about the evening and both had obviously enjoyed the shared experience

We have a strong emphasis on working with the most isolated individuals in a service and transforming their experience.

A small example from the team last week was Mary a resident in a nursing home who normally was ‘brought’ to the breakfast room at the start of the day to eat, and then fell asleep in her chair in the dinning room until it was time to for lunch, at which point she was woken up and fed. Supported by out Outstanding Activities programme, Karen, the activity coordinator used a creative activity box, and the savouring skills she developed during training to engage Mary in a photo shoot. Much to everyones surprise Mary was alert and enjoying herself.

This is important, not only for the improvement in Mary’s quality of life, but also because of the message that it send to everyone who see’s Mary smiling, and everyone who’s then talking about that moment, about what is possible with the right engagement.

As the manager at Rush Court is quoted in the CQC report our programme is about

”Making sure everything we do is about the people who live here"

You can read the full report here CQC report from Rush court

I’m looking forward to more phone calls from operators who want their services to be Outstanding.

Ladder to the Moon in Journal of Dementia Care

Chris Gage's article discusses the future of care

The July/August 2014 issue of Journal of Dementia care included a full-length feature on Ladder to the Moon’s vision for a vibrant future in care settings.

The article reviews current trends in activities provision, with a focus on participative arts. The article then considers challenges to change, and the role of creative leadership in overcoming these.

It’s an inspiring read with lots of examples from our own work and across the sector- do take a look and share. You download it directly by clicking here