Lighting up lives

Jane Townson Philpott, Chief Executive Officer, Somerset Care Group wrote on April 17th 2018

The BBC and other media
outlets covered a fantastic story about a resident at Whitby Dene care
home, 85 year old Father Richard Dangerfield, who expressed a wish for a
blessing from Pope Francis:
The care home manager, Saad Baig, was determined to make this happen.
After all, he had already granted wishes for one resident to have
driving lessons and another to fly a plane, so why not an audience with
the pontiff in Rome? Saad forwarded his letter to England’s Cardinal
Vincent Nichols who sent it on to the Vatican. To everyone’s surprise
and delight, the Vatican agreed, so off they went. Even though Father
Dangerfield has dementia, he knew exactly where he was. Saad Baig said:
“Father George has fond memories of Rome so it was a great place for him
to reminisce, which is so important for people living with dementia. It
was incredible to see him light up, he was thrilled to meet the Pope.”

Creating the conditions for those we support and care for to “light
up” is what motivates those of us striving to deliver outstanding
services for older and disabled people.

Last week, I received an email from one of our Activities Leads,
Jaine Thorne, at Burnworthy House, a Somerset Care home in South
Petherton, Somerset. Jaine told me a story about one of their residents,
Bill Ambrose, who lit up after an experience organised by one of their
care workers, Claire Hickey, who really understands what is important to
him. Jaine writes beautifully, so here is the story in her own words.

“Taking a trip down memory lane is something we all like to do now
and again. For most of us, we can, without too much effort do something
which brings back happy memories. A trip to the seaside, cinema or even
listening to an old song can transport us to days gone by filling our
thoughts with people and places which make us smile.

Not so for everyone though and for one resident of Burnworthy House
these memories are firmly locked away in a world which is not easily
accessible nowadays as he cannot communicate as well as he could . This
quiet unassuming gentleman has a love of motorbikes which will never
diminish and although he is no longer able to ride one himself, he still
has his memories and a wonderful photo album full of fabulous photos of
him and his adored wife on their many adventures biking through Europe.

One of our care support team, a keen biker herself, was particularly
touched by his album and the life stories he so cherished, so she
decided to see if there was something she could do.

What she did do was little short of a miracle for Bill Ambrose!

On what he thought was a usual Sunday visit by his family they took
him out to the front of Burnworthy House for what he thought was a
usual trip around the village in his wheelchair. His reaction when he
was faced with the very unusual sight of a motorbike and sidecar waiting
for him at the door left us all reaching for the tissues.

Thanks to Bob Cooper of the Langport Bike Night Club, Bill was once
again able to feel the bumpy, uneven camber of the country lanes as they
flew beneath the two wheels of a sidecar. Taking to the open roads on a
lovely spring morning, all of Bills senses were bombarded at the same
time as he was able to see it, feel it, touch it and even smell and
taste it as the rush of wind filled his nostrils with the special
fragrance that only a vintage motorbike could emit,

The trip lasted for a good half an hour and on his return there was
no need for words, Bills face said it all. He just couldn’t stop
smiling, his eyes were shining and he was more animated than we had ever
seen before, the effect of this journey was abundantly clear to
everyone who was lucky enough to witness it.

Later, when asked by Somerset Care how the day had gone,
his daughter, Rachel, said: “We’re overwhelmed, as was dad. We can’t
thank Burnworthy House, Bob Cooper and the bike club enough for what
they have done for dad. His face lit up; he thoroughly enjoyed it. It
made his day and we are all so incredibly grateful.”

This act of kindness was brought about by one very special lady
who made a very big difference to the life of a very special
man – CLAIRE HICKEY we are very, very proud to say that you are one of
the Burnworthy Team”.

Stories like this make working in the care sector so special and rewarding.

My deepest thanks go to our care teams in Somerset Care, and to those
of other care providers, whose thoughtfulness, attentiveness and love
often go unnoticed amidst all the negative publicity about failures in
the system. And many thanks to Jaine for sharing this story so

My mission is to bring more of these stories to light so that society
can see how incredibly fortunate we are to have so many caring and
compassionate people supporting our older and disabled citizens. My hope
is that, as a society, we will come to value the care profession more

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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