After 8 years (shy 1 month) I am stepping down from co-leading Bright Shadow and so I thought I’d take a moment and share some thoughts for the sector past present and future.
Firstly I wanted to say thank you to every single, dedicated and passionate person that I have met along the way. In the past 2 years alone we’ve trained nearly 500 people and the people that I have come into contact have been just inspirational!
There has been a story in the news recently of an American gentleman with dementia who was ‘dumped’ by his son in the UK to access ‘free’ care. When the gentleman’s family were eventually traced he was returned to the States where his reported state makes for a very unhappy ending to what was turning into an almost Hollywood worthy tale. The UK home this man ended up in, according to the reporter, really took him under their wing and made him part of the family resulting in a visible improvement in his wellbeing. His lack of money and family had no impact on the quality of care he received.
This is why the care sector in the UK should be proud, because this gentleman’s story is not an isolated incident. I know of so many stories (including my own Grandad) where the care received has made a marked difference to a person’s life and the lives of their families right when they needed it the most. Obviously we all know of the negative tales but I still maintain that these are the exception rather than the rule.
What has amazed me is the environment in which these successes come about. Both paid and family carers show love, compassion and humanity in circumstances which are not always conducive to those behaviours. Although I take my hat off to the people who push through day in and day out, it is my fervent wish that things change.
This is the reason that Katy and I set up Bright Shadow 8 years ago and why we decided to make dementia and older people its sole focus 3 years ago, despite of the difficulties and hurdles that stood in our way.
We as individuals believe that every person living with dementia or in residential care should have access to excellent activity provision that stimulates self-expression and celebrates the present moment, looking towards the future as often as we look to the past.
Which brings me to my hopes for the future of the sector. When I am older and whiter (I’ve heard red heads don’t go grey) I want to be supported by people who are well supported. People who have the knowledge, skills and resources to understand my needs and support every part of me, from my arthritic fingers to my alternative states of reality.
I am proud of the services and resources that Katy and I have created so far that form parts of the overall solution. I am proud of our workshops that provide direct high quality engagement for people with dementia and carers and the training and resources that give specific specialised skills and knowledge for people who deliver activities.
I am also proud that we have always been an organisation that evolves and tries new things. We have never been satisfied with where we are, we know there is always more to be done. That is why with our resource kits we have recently introduced ‘book only’ options to make them as accessible as possible. It is why we’re always developing new training and it is why we developed our Zest Communities model to meet the needs of people living in their own homes.
It is why I know that going forward Bright Shadow won’t stand still for long. Even the move into my new role as Care Services Manager is evidence of some very exciting ideas and opportunities that will keep Bright Shadow at the cutting edge of dementia care. You see the thing about Bright Shadow is, we’re all about light, making things brighter. So where others see shadows we see the evidence of light, there just might be other things getting in the way. Bright Shadow exists to find out what those things are and then find ways and means to clear them.
I step down as Director with sadness because I’m not sure if I will ever have another job where I get to laugh and celebrate life with people like I do now, but it is also with joy because what Katy and I have achieved so far has set a course for even greater things in the future.
Thank you to everyone who has made these 8 years an absolute pleasure as well as an absolute adventure and thank you to each one of you for your continued support of Bright Shadow. Now over to Katy and our fabulous Trustees! I’m sure you’ll be hearing from them soon!