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Valuing independence with retirement living

Independence is about choices. A move in retired life should be empowering, a lifestyle change that enables an individual or couple to continue living on their own terms. At MHA, we understand this to mean providing a range of options that cover as many potential preferences as possible.

Our world is changing and with it, older people’s needs and wants. For a long time now, our retirement living apartments have been available for sale, rent or purchase. They are specifically designed for later living too, promoting independence in every element of daily life.

Emergency assistance and discreet, tailored care packages enable people in retirement living communities to carry on with their lives as they wish. Assisted living provides an extra element with a simple, all-inclusive package that can cover meals as well. More recently, we have developed new services to help those affected by the rising numbers of people with dementia. The newly opened Hatherlow House in Southport, like the longer standing Stanton Lodge in Wiltshire, is a supportive, properly-equipped community where people with dementia can continue sharing their lives with their partners. We are also creating more retirement villages to follow on from the well-established Auchlochan in South Lanarkshire. In Pickering, Corsham and Chippenham, we are developing more communities that will offer a range of living and care service options, along with attractive facilities such as landscaped gardens, health and well-being suites, and café bistros.

It’s said that you can tell who a person is by the choices they make. We hope that the choices we offer will enable older people to continue expressing who they are through a fulfilling lifestyle that suits them as individuals.

Jane Barker
Group Director – Retirement Living

Keeping in Touch with people with dementia

One of our Chaplains recently told a story of a resident with dementia who had been a semi-professional singer. Every day, staff played her recordings of her performances, reminding her that she was the vocalist. Some weeks later, during a hymn session, the lady came to stand by the Chaplain and began to hum, sing and gesticulate. “She was back on stage,” the Chaplain recalled, “expressing herself as a singer again.”

When someone develops dementia, it may seem as though they are no longer there as they lose certain powers of communication. But as a pioneer of person-centred dementia care, we at MHA know that the person is very much present, and just needs the right communication channels.

This is why we provide music therapy without charge, offering a non-verbal form of expression and creativity. It is why we are so involved with the Yorkshire Film Archive’s award-winning Memory Bank project, which uses vintage film footage to spark positive reminiscence. It is why we take the time to get to know each resident as an individual, and strive to fill their days with the things they find most fulfilling.

We also know how very hard it can be for their family and friends to feel as though the person they love is slipping away. Our Keeping in Touch booklet helps people to find ways of continuing to communicate with their loved ones who have dementia. Donations are welcome but you can get a copy free of charge – email enquiries@mha.org.uk

Les Sudron
Head of Fundraising

2014 – a year of growth and development

Happy New Year! 2013 was a wonderful year for MHA. We celebrated our Platinum Anniversary and opened a number of new services for older people, including the first phase of our retirement village, The Fairways in Chippenham, Victoria Court in Headingley, Leeds, Adlington House in Stockport and additional apartments at Edina Court, Wisbech.

Throughout 2014, we will continue to expand our services to reach as many older people as we can. We will start work on our next retirement village, Mickle Hill, in Pickering, which got the green light last year. These 90 apartments and 78 bungalows will be served by a restaurant, coffee shop and hairdressing and beauty salons. We also have plans for a new retirement village in Corsham, Wiltshire, where 190 apartments will be served by a range of care options and facilities such as a swimming pool and village centre. In addition, we will begin building 50 new assisted living apartments in Peterborough, and 37 new assisted living apartments in Swindon and complete The Fairways with 75 apartments and a health and fitness spa. Work will be completed on our third partnership development with Gladman providing 60 apartments in Wolstanton whilst building work will begin on the fourth in Portishead.

It’s important to remember that all this work is not being done for profit. MHA is a charity. We create new services to provide quality and choice for as many older people as possible, and all our income is reinvested into providing services now and into the future.

Here’s to 2014!

Jane Barker

Group Director – Retirement Living

Christmas – the power of community at special times

I’ve been hearing a lot about community in our homes and schemes lately. Northampton Live at Home was chosen by Waitrose to receive a grant for the supermarket’s community Christmas Campaign, enabling it to put on two delicious Christmas lunches for members. Norwood in Ipswich and Derham Court in Yatton have been sending shoeboxes full of gifts to impoverished people in Swaziland and Romania. The Homestead in Carterton has held its first Live at Home luncheon, attended by the Mayor.

In the last blog post, Alison Slater noted how lonely Christmas can be for vulnerable older people who have been bereaved, or who do not have family and friends close by. With the incredible support of our volunteers and many local churches, we are able to reach further into communities to help bring festive cheer to as many older people as possible.

If you don’t mind writing an extra Christmas card, perhaps you’ll join in by participating in our Christmas Friendship Appeal, sending good wishes to residents and scheme members across the country. It is especially comforting for older people who find that the number of cards they receive declines as the years go by. You can find out more by contacting Lesley.France@mha.org.uk, or call 0113 272 8466.

And now, to all our readers, friends and supporters – I wish you all a merry Christmas, and a very happy new year.

Roger Davies
Chief Executive

Live at Home – the risk of winter isolation

This time of year can be chilly in more ways than one. As winter closes in, many older people need to find ways of keeping warm, both in their homes and in their lives.

The risks of winter isolation can be purely practical – people may be unable to leave their homes or use public transport in snowy or icy weather. In addition, Christmas is the loneliest time of the year for some people. They may have no friends or family nearby, or any at all, or be recently bereaved. As the world around them rejoices in cards, gifts and family gatherings, the sense of isolation and loss can be overwhelming.

Our Live at Home Schemes know the importance of practical and social support. Dedicated volunteers and staff can pick up prescriptions or groceries if someone cannot get out and about. In addition, befrienders continue to provide company and chats, by phone if necessary. We also hold Christmas lunches of our own to ensure people can have a hot, celebratory meal – Northampton even got a grant from Waitrose that enabled it to put on two fabulous spreads for its members.

If you or a loved one are struggling to cope with winter, give us a call on 01332 296 200 or log on to http://www.mha.org.uk to find out about your nearest Live at Home Scheme. Remember, though, that even when the weather gets warmer, we’ll still be here to offer social and practical support.

Alison Slater

Services Manager – Community Services

Telling Stories

Why is it that in the English language, the phrase ‘telling stories’ has come to be a synonym for telling lies? I really wish I knew the answer!

Last week, around 100 MHA Chaplains gathered for their biennial Conference, and they were joined for some of the time by around 70 others. The title of the Conference was borrowed from Max Bygraves – “I wanna tell you a story”, and through invited speakers and in workshops and seminars, ample evidence of the importance of telling our story and it being heard and understood was forthcoming. The former broadcaster Debbie Thrower spoke of her work as a Community Chaplain among older people living in Hampshire, describing her many notebooks in which she has recorded some of the wisdom that has been shared with her. And we were able to launch our new book, God, Me and Being Very Old: Stories and Spirituality in later life, based on stories which have been shared by MHA residents with our Chaplains, and which is published this month.

In many cultures throughout time and around the world, stories are one of the key vessels by which truths and the things which matter can be shared. And the experience within MHA is that if we are really to know and understand the older people in our care, honouring them by listening to their stories is fundamental. On the final day of our Conference, Grace Jones, Britain’s oldest woman and the last Briton born in the 19th century died. Look up her story on the internet – it is typically remarkably unremarkable!

Keith Albans
Group Director – Chaplaincy and Spirituality