Living with Dementia

David Platt, a resident at Stretton Hall nursing home, in South Shropshire, has just marked his first anniversary of moving to Morris Care’s beautifully appointed nursing home.  The gracious building, nestled in the heart of the quintessential English village of All Stretton provides perfect restful surroundings, but the care provided here is anything but antiquated.

This is a meaningful time, not simply for David, but for his wife, Christine, as she can finally  confidently say her husband is the most settled, calm and contented person that he has been since he began living with dementia  six years ago.  This has resulted in the most coveted of outcomes in caring for those living with dementia – a reduction in his medication and a demonstrably calmer and happier resident.  

Christine recalls: “When David arrived at Stretton Hall a year ago we were at such a difficult place in our lives. David was displaying such distressing symptoms of his dementia and was highly agitated.  He was not in a good place.  He had left another nursing home where they were unable to manage his behaviour.

“It was here at Stretton Hall that we were welcomed as the team here felt their own particular style of caring for those with dementia would help David.  I now know this as the Morris Care Cedar Philosophy and can only say that I have seen for myself the dramatic improvements it has brought to David’s and my life.”

The home is one of the six family–owned and run nursing homes across Shropshire and Cheshire which has developed its own bespoke specialist care for those living with dementia which is helping residents and rippling outwards to provide hope and support for their loved ones, wider family and friends.

Alison Hearle, Dementia and Social Life Lead at Morris Care said: “Our Cedar Philosophy is based around a social psychology and positive person-centred approach to life.  Of course, our clinical and medical care remains excellent and part of this holistic care, but it is often the non-medical interventions that have resulted in the most ground breaking responses.”  

The Cedar Philosophy was developed with Morris Care taking learnings from the University of Stirling and Professor Thomas Kitwood’s approach to ‘personhood’ (Bradford University) and combining these advanced strategies with its own caring philosophy of matching human need with care provision. All the elements of the philosophy work in synergy to allow genuinely personalised nursing care with freedoms, empowerment and total flexibility.  It is this that is changing lives. And importantly, is changing the quality of David’s life.

Christine explains “After the first month here I was still concerned as David remained so difficult to calm and often displayed such distressing behaviour to the staff.  He did not even recognise his own daughter.  After one distressing incident I was so anxious that I thought Morris Care may not want to carry on looking after David but they reassured me straight away this was not the case at all and slowly it became evident that a breakthrough was on the horizon.”

Gradually, David became calmer and more settled and there have been emotional moments of clarity where for example David recently recognised his daughter on a visit.

“It’s important to remember that when people develop dementia all their natural traits and personalities are not completely lost. They are however overpowered by other behaviours and problems.” Alison adds.

An important element of the Morris Care approach is to recognise that everyone has a personality, a history inside and unlocking those positive elements can help.  David worked at managerial level within the lighting industry latterly as a consultant at the energy Saving Trust and today he is interested in the intricacies of lighting – an indication that he is recalling that part of his life. 

Another resident had been a managing director and recognised he missed that sense of pride in his career and place of work.  Morris Care provided a desk, typewriter, phone and papers so every day he could walk along the corridor and visit ‘his office’ and feel this part of his life was not completely lost.  This simple act brought with it wonderful memories he could enjoy.

“David has never been particularly sociable so being forced into lots of group activity is never going to be his choice” Christine explains. “I so appreciate that despite some wonderful social activities organised here, David makes his own choices and is never coerced into anything he doesn’t naturally want to do.  Be that a group social activity or even eating at a certain mealtime.  If he wants to eat later, he can.  If he wants to get up later, he can.” Christine added.

Small considerations carry great impact. 

“And it is not just David who is benefitting from this approach to care.  I am welcomed by everyone, often stop for coffee and a chat with the nurses and carers and Jonathan of course, and sometimes join David for a meal.  I feel as if this is my home too and I am so grateful for the patience and understanding of all the staff. It is such a relief to have found such compassionate care that has genuinely made a difference.” Christine adds.

Jonathan Breese, Home Manager at Stretton Hall summed up the situation: “David’s quality of life and contentment since he joined us has improved so much and this in turn has led to a significant reduction in his medication.  Importantly, less sedation means that residents can enjoy more interaction with others.”

Jonathan concludes: “Everyone wants to lead the most dignified and enriching life they are able. It is our mission and privilege to do what we can to help them achieve just that.”