Many people and organisations have stepped up and challenged themselves to diversify their approaches to better support people affected by dementia, Age UK Salford to name but one! I hope you’ll indulge me for turning some attention and praise towards the Empowered team.  This group of wonderful people have collectively and individually broadened their horizons and pushed their comfort levels to offer carers and people living with dementia new opportunities to connect with each other and with engaging activities in response to Covid 19.  None of this would have been possible without the financial commitment and buy in from the Salford Clinical Commissioning Group.

It seems like an age ago now when we made the decision to get some online groups happening as the country moved in to lock down.   The first two groups provided a space for carers to come together to reflect, share, connect and have some fun and the third was a music session hosted by Margaret and Barbara.  Margaret has moved from a wary Zoomer to the Empowered Zoom tech support!  Amanda and Rachel who provide one to one sessions for carers through Empowered Carers have both embraced group working and have been able to offer new approaches to these sessions to keep them fresh and useful for carers.

This week, Clare joined Empowered Online by developing and piloting a movement and stretch session.  The session uses movement to connect the carer and person living with dementia, delivered to 1 couple at a time, Clare guides the carer who in turn supports the person living with dementia.  Thanks for doing the exercise/stretch session, we both enjoyed. Look forward to further sessions moving forward’.

Paul is now half way through a Six Week Empowered Conversation Online course with 6 carers, delivered on a Wednesday night to fit around caring responsibilities.  He mastered break out rooms this week, he’s loving delivering the course online and is looking forward to the next 3 weeks and to getting more courses off the ground.

In our meandering journey to bring a new online offer to Salford we have built new connections with others who have also been exploring how their day to day activities can switch over to online!  Each new offer has started with a toe dip pilot to test out if it works, if people like it and to build confidence on both sides.  Rachel Burnham was an early collaborator, taking a recently found passion in drawing to deliver weekly ‘Pause to Draw’ sessions.

‘This was a real life line for me. Enjoyed it so much and Yesterday was brilliant.  Always promised myself I would have art lessons when I retired but Dementia interfered so it was an absolute joy. My husband has become even more insecure with lockdown so we were both happy yesterday- I had my treat and he did not have to miss me.’

More recently, Small Things Creative Projects have co-funded a weekly themed creative sessions through Storybox.  I attend this group and the connections and engagement I see from people living with dementia is emotional and beautiful.

‘It was a lovely session. Thank you 👍👍👍👍’

The wonderful DJ Ged Reek joined us to deliver an online disco, we’ve had some stalwart regulars to this session and it feels as though we are on the tipping point to bring together family carers with loved ones living in care homes!

My socks are well and truly blown off; I’m sitting at my dining room table on a quiet Friday morning reflecting on all of this work, providing regular meeting points, escapes and peer to peer support time for both carer and person living with dementia.  Our work is not done, it doesn’t feel like we will quickly return to face to face for those affected by dementia and it also feels that a lot of this work will now shape the future of The Empowered Conversations Approach and our colleagues and partners.

I need to mention and thank those researchers and practitioners from around the world (I can say this now thanks to Dr John Zeisel) who have given their time to deliver weekly seminars, under the heading ‘A Conversation with …’ we’ve brought new research, approaches and theory out to a mixed audience.  The wonderful Lydia kicked off these seminars sharing the research findings for Empowered Conversations and our very own Phil pushed his own comfort zone by appearing on two seminars. This would never have been dreamt of prior to lock down, but we have gone from an initial 7 to 11 seminars, we are taking an August break (I can’t deal with the threat of in-house Zoom bombing from Elizabeth and it’s costing us to much in shopping bribes to get her out the house!).  We are already filling slots for September.  I’m so happy that carers who we work with have joined us to both deliver and watch these weekly talks.

I thoroughly enjoyed Damian’s talk yesterday. It was thought-provoking and made me reflect about my relationship now with Derek.  Thank you for organising these talks, they have all been stimulating.

To end, I want to take my hat off to the Empowered team, your commitment, endless enthusiasm and love for what we do is infectious and inspires me every day!