I’m sure many people reading this will have seen or heard about our recent experiences at UK Dementia Congress which culminated in the MacIntyre Dementia Project Team picking up the Award for “Outstanding Dementia Care Innovation”. What has been less under the spotlight are the wonderful interactions that I observed over the course of Congress which ran over 3 days and this year was taking place at the Racecourse in Doncaster.
From the outset the Dementia Project has sought to find creative ways to involve people with a learning disability in both the planning and delivery of their work. There have been side by side learning events and accessible information devised by the “Keep Going ……. Don’t Stop!” Group and signed off by “The MacIntyre Checkers”. We have made films and compiled case studies in order to capture the stories of those who cannot tell their own stories as we have tried to find ways to be “the guardians of someone’s personhood” (a wonderful phrase I heard used at Congress) as their dementia progresses.
But perhaps the most public demonstration of this inclusive approach has been the growing role and reputation of two key team members Rosie and Rachel who are now bordering on attaining something akin to celebrity status in some parts of the sector! I will never forget walking back across the main area at Congress after lunch and hearing voices shouting “Rachel! Rachel”. I turned around to see three ladies running towards us because they were so excited to see Rachel after her talk and wanted to speak to her – what followed was all hugs and kisses and very showbiz! I was rather bemused but of course Rachel took it all in her stride.
I have known both ladies for many years and seeing how they have both flourished through their involvement in the project has astounded me. From needing the security of holding onto or even standing behind staff and struggling to speak to camera Rachel will now stand in front of large audiences and her honesty in talking about the personal impact of losing a close friend to dementia is so powerful. Rosie on the other hand was not only an amazing Co-chair for me at Congress but as I watched her at our Information Stand confidently walk up to people, leaflets in hand, to talk to them about dementia and MacIntyre’s work I thought to myself that you could not get a more professional, passionate ambassador to carry the message.
While both ladies absolutely deserve huge credit for how far they have come on, for the courage they have found to take new steps and try new things I know that this has been made possible by the way in which they have been supported and enabled by those around them. The Dementia Project team of Sarah, Nicola and Sandra of course have been instrumental – taking time to think through how to include and involve, what information to share, when and how, second guessing what the barriers may be and finding ways to overcome them while remembering that we all get anxious about different things. Beyond the immediate team the ladies have also been supported by the staff that spend time with them at home going over plans, listening as they share their adventures and often accompanying them to events or even as Sadie and Sarah did at Congress sharing in the big steps by presenting themselves on their own stories and experiences.
Great Interactions isn’t about the big stuff, we all know that it’s about the little things, those 10 facilitation skills but what Rosie and Rachel’s’ continuing journey has shown me is that the cumulative effect of the consistent use of those facilitation skills combined with a sense of purpose and direction can enable people to achieve the most amazing things. Really good support, it is invisible unless you go looking for it but what it can achieve is there for all to see.
Director (Adult Services)