Sweet Taste of Success for Porthmadog Dementia Carer

CA mum of four who drifted into care work “by accident” is in the running for a top award after completely changing the lives of dementia sufferers.

The key to Ann Lane’s  success has been to give dementia sufferers their lives back by discovering their interests and stimulating memories.

Like setting up a shop in Plas Maesincla home in Caernarfon where clients can buy sweets from big jars like they would have done as in the old days, or sit and watch an old musical film while eating popcorn – or even giving a former charge hand his hard hat back.

Ann, who lives with her partner at East Avenue, Porthmadog, is residential manager at Plas Maesincla, Gwynedd County Council’s residential home for 23 people living with dementia.

Her outstanding achievements at the home have been recognised by the most prestigious care awards competition in Wales.

Ann has been shortlisted for the Excellence in Dementia Care award, sponsored by Fisk Healthcare, at the 11th Wales Care Awards, an “Oscar-style” awards night for the care sector in Wales, run in conjunction with Care Forum Wales.

The glittering presentation night will be a black tie event at Cardiff City Hall on October 18, when the 21 awards ranging from excellence in leadership and management, to nurse of the year and excellence in catering, will be presented.

“I went from school to work in a bank for six months, but I couldn’t hack it, it was so boring, so I went to work in a residential home as a relief worker, by accident really.

“Then I became a care assistant and went on nights when the kids were small, then I became a senior care assistant under manager and then manager in a residential home in Dolgellau.”

Area manager Gwen Hughes, who nominated Ann, said: “As manager at Bryn Blodau (in Blaenau Ffestiniog) Ann assisted in the development of a purpose built dementia unit.”

Ann trained and really enjoyed working in the dementia unit which had eight beds. Gwen added: “Ann’s assistance was requested to run the (Plas Maesincla) dementia home due to her success at Bryn Blodau both in the development stage but more importantly in the lives of the service users.”

Ann found one lady who had been a resident at Plas Maesincla for 20 years and had behavioural problems, completely changed when she was able to get her a part-time job – supervised of course  – in a local Red Cross charity shop where a member of staff already helped out. Unfortunately, the shop is now closed – but she continues in her helpful capacity by help around the home.

We also set up a shop in the home and that gives residents a purpose, when they go shopping. It started as a sweet shop with old fashioned sweets in the big jars you used to get years ago. It brings back memories and starts them talking.

“We find out other things that people like and try to stock them in the shop. Then we have a movie room where we put on some old musicals and clients can sit with staff and eat popcorn and watch the film.

“We also encourage the residents to cook under supervision. One lady particularly likes to cook say ‘Lobscouse’ so we get her the meat and she will cook for about six of the other residents and the smell of the food will bring back memories and start conversations.”

One 80-year-old resident who had spent most of his life in care had retreated to living in his room and showed little interest in anything. Ann supplied him with a fridge so that he could keep cold drinks in his room and got him a goldfish and now he grows tomatoes and cucumbers in his room to supply the home.

“He also goes to chapel and he likes football so he goes to watch the local football team with a friend every Saturday.

“I try and find what everyone’s interests are. When there is always something going on the incidents of challenging behaviour diminish.

“We have an indoor garden in one corridor. One gentleman used to pace up and down the corridor all day but now he stops at the garden and names all the flowers. In another corridor we have a piano and guitar.

“One man likes to think he is still the charge hand so we give him a file and a hard hat and he goes around “checking” equipment.. He used to be bored but now he has a purpose when he gets up in the morning.

“It’s about finding out as much as you can about a person so you can give them back the life they used to enjoy,” said Ann.

Gwen Hughes said: “Ann works hard in ensuring the service users’ rights are protected, that they do have choices and opportunities to live their lives as they would want to.”

Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.

He said: “The event is now firmly established as one of the highlights in the Welsh social care calendar.

“The aim is to recognise the unstinting and often remarkable dedication of our unsung heroes and heroines across Wales.

“The care sector is full of wonderful people because it’s not just a job it’s a vocation – these are the people who really do have the X Factor.

“If you don’t recognise the people who do the caring you will never provide the standards that people need and never recognise the value of the people who need the care in society.

“We need to do all we can to raise the profile of the care sector workforce – they deserve to be lauded and applauded.

“It is a pleasure to honour the contribution of all the finalists. Each and every one of them should be very proud of their achievement.”