Book and chic furniture help dementia sufferers
AWOMAN has used a diary she and her sister kept about her father’s experiences of dementia to write a book to help other sufferers
Pam Cuffin’s father died in a nursing home in 2014 and, soon after, her sister also tragically passed away.
But she wrote a book based on her and her sister Joan’s diaries, about her dad’s battle with dementia and her fascination with the disease and those living with it, has continued to grow.
Now she has been shortlisted for a Wales Care Award in the Excellence in Dementia Care category, sponsored by HC One.
This year sees the 15th anniversary of the Wales Care Awards with a ceremony to be staged at City Hall in Cardiff on Friday, October 19.
The awards are organised by Care Forum Wales, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.
Keen photographer Pam, 57, lives in Holyhead with husband Robin, and is an activities co-ordinator at Fairways Newydd Nursing and Dementia Care Centre at Llanfairpwll.
Pam has established Bleak to Chic, a furniture renovation business, with residents living with dementia.
“Local auction houses have been very good and have taken items without charging a fee,” she said.
“We paint our renovated furniture in very bright colours, yellows and reds, never greys or browns which are normally associated with dementia. The colours are like a beacon of hope.
“It’s remarkable to see someone who is otherwise living in a different world, and seemingly unreachable within it, come to life when working with skills that were laid down decades before.”
Pam was nominated for the award by Mark Bailey, managing director of Fairways Newydd Ltd.
Pam, who has two grown up children, Gareth and Laura, with children of their own, said her involvement with dementia began in 2005 when her father Owain Tudur Hughes was diagnosed with the disease.
“I started by reading a book by Thomas Kitwood and read everything and anything I could get my hands on about dementia thereafter,” she said.
In 2010, her father was admitted to hospital. Her mother, Olive Hughes, was dying of renal failure and her dad’s behaviour was impacting on her care.
Pam was trying to look after both parents and says she witnessed for the first time the misunderstandings that often occur in care.
Her father was labelled aggressive because of the way he threatened visitors with his walking stick. The reality was that he was using the stick to point to things as he had always done.
For a time, her father lived in a residential home and Pam says the experience here was again poor.
Staff could not deal with her dad’s mood swings. “On more than one occasion I had to cut him out of his pyjamas because they were so fouled,” she says.
In early 2011 Pam’s father was transferred to a nursing home and the experience was much better, but she very soon became convinced that she could keep the residents better occupied than the staff there could.
After her father died, she took a job as a carer in a residential home and gained her NVQ 2 and 3. Then she gained a full-time job as an activities co-ordinator at Fairways Newydd Nursing and Dementia Centre and, for the first time, could give free reign to her desire to provide ‘meaningful activity and genuine occupation to people living with dementia’.
“People with dementia come alive before your eyes,” says Pam. “Cognitive decline just slips away as soon as you tap into a skill from the past. I call them life chores. And my job is to find them.”
Mark Bailey said: “Pamela has served an apprenticeship that no one would choose, and few would have the fortitude to endure so tirelessly.”
Mario Kreft MBE, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said the Wales Care Awards had gone from strength to strength.
Fairways Newydd Ltd Nursing and Dementia Care Centre resident Pam Williams with Pamela Cuffin, activities co-ordinator who has been nominated for a Wales Care Award in the Excellence in Dementia Care category