Friday, 29 November 2013

Kindness...a Friday inspiration.

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.
~ Dalai Lama

Kindness is the theme of my Friday inspiration. I have experienced it from others this week and how that has lifted my life. When I attended my follow up clinic for breast cancer this week I was really a bit scared. For once I admitted that. Rather than wear my "I'm fine" face I said I'm feeling anxious. The change that gave me concern was nothing to worry about but may benefit from further surgery. I'm thinking about that meantime. But not only did I witness, the warmth, kindness and humour of those who attended me, I saw it towards others too. It was wonderful to watch.
And finally I want to acknowledge the kindness I see too in the 9 o'clock club we go to with the dog. It's not formal. It's a regular gathering of a wide mixture of people who bring their dogs together. Cara generally causes a bit of mayhem as she runs in and does a fly past at about 40 miles an hour but the all welcome her warmly (mostly!). But this week Shandy aged 18 years died. Leaving her owner alone. The genuine support, kindness and concern has moved all of us. Everyone's been so kind she said.
Now in a week where the White paper on Scotland's Future ( it's in my kindle, I'm getting round to it ,honest) I want to live in a nation where kindness is a core value. Whoever prioritizes that has my vote.
Have a good weekend and a great St Andrews day to my fellow Scots and Happy Thanksgiving to all of you for whom this is a special holiday.


Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Food glorious food?

Week two of the WEL course has a focus on food which was strangely relevant to me just now. After a nasty virus and subsequent chest infection, I have been left with still very brittle asthma and I'm often triggered by food. Pretty much anything can do it. I already have some known triggers like wheat, chocolate, apples and spices but just now it's even more. I'm taking my blue inhaler constantly and approach food with both hunger and alarm. Frankly it's so tiring and not a little embarrassing. And I feel a bit deprived somehow.

Our relationship with food is so complex isn't it? I find myself feeling quite distressed by approaching each meal with concern. Food isn't just a fuel after all, we use it to reward ourselves, we celebrate the sensual pleasure of eating and especially for me it's the social occasion I value...but I'm not someone you want to share a meal with at the moment-nae  pals Audrey, that's me!

But what a bizarre relationship we have now with food in our modern world. Research in rats showed when one group were fed with breakfast cereal and compared to the other group fed with the boxes the cereals came in; the healthier rats were the ones who were eating the boxes. What has gone wrong? As a child we ate local almost always and we grew our own vegetables too. In fact the angriest I ever saw my father was when the sheep from the field got through the fence and decimated his vegetable garden. We got the fish caught locally in Fife when the fish van came around, local stores sold local fruit and veg in season. Soup was a winter constant, made from all that was available. We even dabbled with our own chickens until my father found himself unable to kill one for Christmas dinner. His attempt became something of family fable.

But now we expect strawberries in December in Scotland, we transport food across the world just to freeze it and send it back again, we factory farm animals in grim circumstances in order to have cheap food in such quantities that we get fatter year on year.

We process food beyond recognition, we supersize so much that large quantities are becoming the norm. We watch food programmes constantly on TV and yet cook less and less at home. The food industry seduces us with sugar loaded foods and packaging that creates landfill nightmares. The media bombards us with quasi research that convinces us of one food myth then explodes it again at a later stage. We no longer can make sense of much of it all. How can we-when honestly it makes no sense at all. The simple message from the WEL is life feeds life so we need to eat as much of our food closest to its freshest state and close to home the better. Now that makes sense.

How do we turn back the tide  of our relationship with food, how do we make fresh food a reality for all not just the lucky few who can access local food at an affordable level? This is a job for governments local and national but each of us can make our own changes to rekindle our relationship with food, making it a more loving and less abusive relationship than it currently is. Read the chapter in the WEL, it's a compelling case for change.

Reasons to be cheerful.

Dr Reilly spoke at the person centred care collaborative last week and over five hundred people listened to his message. He was both compelling and challenging. Reminding us that transformational change won't come from minor shuffling of the cards......we need to commit to real change in our work and lives and honestly the time has to be now. I do hope we keep our courage and don't look back. It's not easy but do we really have a choice?

.... And I have just had my annual review and all was well. I'm considering whether undergo a little more surgery but I cant decide yet and there is no rush. Ridding myself of the cough seems most important just now.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The L word...Friday inspiration

Tommy and his Mum
I have had a thought provoking and inspiring two days, with more than 500 others in Scotland travelling along the path towards person centred care and support. People at the centre of care and support, the strap line and how it's all about relationship. We are learning, oh how we are learning, and what inspired me was the well of enthusiasm for this work. At all levels. I witnessed real compassion and huge enthusiasm to make person centred care the norm for all. We even mentioned the L word. Love. Now I have joked many times its my middle name-that's because it is. Audrey Love Birt, it was my fathers middle name too. I'm proud of  that. And all through my childhood I was teased remorselessly about it. I rarely disclosed it but today I'm wanting to come clean. I like that we are talking openly about love and today at least I'm going to embrace that middle name!

And yes it's unconditional love that will move this agenda forward too. We heard that in spades from Tommy Whitelaw. Tommy told us his story. And the story of his Mum, Joan. Losing her to dementia, losing his life as it had been through the long lonely years as a carer and yet never losing his belief in all of our better selves nor his deep love for his Mum. Here is his blog to help you learn from his powerful story too. Thanks for your courage and gift to us Tommy. It will help so many others. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sewing the head back on the body?

The Orchid
"The greatest mistake physicians make is that they attempt to cure the body without attempting to cure the mind" Plato

It's been an inspiring week in so many ways. Although my own wellbeing has been stretched-I want to share some of my experience with you. I was invited to attend TheWEL course by the very special Dr David Reilly. David is a friend and colleague and through the years he has often inspired me and kept me focused on what I felt to be right. TheWEL in many ways is the culmination of his life's work, his learning as a doctor, a researcher and very importantly as a human being. His teaching is integrating all he has learned about wellbeing, it's helping too to put the head back on the body, understanding that they of course are connected. But importantly he is sharing this with us all on the course, without judgement so his learning will be ours to venture forward with.

The course is held at the NHS Centre for Integrative Care in Glasgow. It's a welcoming, light filled place. I approached with trepidation , wondering who else would be there, what would happen. I was very clear my purpose for taking part was multi layered. As a new trustee with the charity I was keen to see its work in action, I know already that any time with David is always a gift, I wanted to learn new information and skills for my work BUT I also knew that my own wellbeing remains shaky at times and so I was very keen to take a personal journey too.

Like the others in the group of over 20 I was drawn into the case for change smoothly and convincingly. The information was research based, a powerful story of how, through the stages of public health we have got to our current situation where we all knew what the modern epidemics were. They are not the cholera of the 1900's ; no they are obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, depression, stress, fatigue. You know it too. And rather than being made to feel guilty about this during the afternoon we were invited to learn how we might personally be able to affect the change we need to enable our wellbeing, whatever our health challenges. Enabled not disabled, what a different concept that is.

We learned too that we can awaken the positive mood parts of brain through compassion. Yes, compassion for others but perhaps most importantly for ourselves. Through a technique called Heartmath  we learned how easy that could be. I already use mindfulness in my life and work but found this additionally helpful. The impact of the practice shifted the emotions in the room in a way you could almost touch.

 We were invited to visualise ourselves as a plant and how we might help the plant flourish. Any visualisation always reveals insights that our logical brains can miss. But I wasn't prepared for mine. I kept telling myself that the way I was feeling I should be the spider plant that lurked on top of a bookcase of mine some years ago. A sad looking beast with lots of tendrils in need of attention ( I couldn't reach it you see). But the image that came instead was my recently purchased orchid. It has brightened the autumn and winter room and its so lovely. Only two flowers are in full bloom just now, but many buds to bloom still. Ok, ok I know! That's not me, I thought, but also tried to make sense of it. Now it's always a risky thing to be a plant in my house but an orchid, well need I say more? I watch its fragile flourishing with awe and I'm so aware I need to take care of it. And so the analogy finally made sense. Indeed its fragility scares me at times. But I'm googling care of orchids as we speak!

Reasons to be grateful.

Something we were asked to do as part of the course. Five reasons to be grateful each try it. Here are mine. My family who are my most treasured gifts, my friends who have supported me through this years -and others-ups and downs, my pets ( the cat joined me as I write this in bed), my colleagues and clients who enrich my life and the life I am fortunate to live in all its light and shade. Thank you.

 This is a mere glimpse in to the work of TheWELL, find out more here and over the next few weeks travel with me too if you wish.You can even download the manual for the website. I promise you won't regret it. Im quite sure this is a journey for us all to benefit from-this is the way we all flourish.


Friday, 15 November 2013

One place with the true meaning of person centred care-todays Friday inspiration...

I have lots to blog about this week but I want to do a little Friday inspiration...who knows it might become a regular spot!
This morning I visited Leuchie House in East Lothian. It offers respite care to younger adults with need of complex care and support and also re-ablement to empower the guests in thier lives as best they can going forward.Its certainly meeting a need but more than that its doing it with care and compassion. They trained their nurses in CBAS and one of the trainers of this model wrote this poem after a recent visit.

In One Place
In one evening I understood as much about care and compassion as I had learned in 40 years as a qualified  nurse.
In one place I saw the true courage of leadership facing huge challenges because the thing was worth doing.
In one personal choice I saw a human being self-actualise-he chose this time to go to be rather than be there at 6pm because  that was when hard-pressed social services would normally do this at home.
In one breath I saw a woman cross a threshold and become a whole person, valued, respected and dignified and not a disease in a wheelchair. 
In one question asked, I saw empowerment grow: " would you like broccoli as well as chicken on your next forkful?"
In one place a pressure sore ( brought from home) healed in 10 days and everyone celebrated. 
In one smile I saw real joy as a glass of wine was sipped through a straw.
In one place I saw how human beings ( who happen to have longterm conditions) could and should be treated, cared for and cared about.
In one place I was humbled and awestruck by the teamwork, commitment and dedication of staff and volunteers.
In one place I saw the true meaning of person centred care.
The Place is Leuchie House.
Janina Sweetenham,CBAS Trainer.

I too saw that care, compassion, commitment and innovation too in its approach. Its a charity and although the guests pay to stay that in no way covers the cost to provide care and support of this standard.They are constantly seeking funding like to many third sector organisations I meet on  daily basis. They are often the testers of the new, the innovators, the risk takers, the ones who eventually make the shift that happens...our challenge is to ensure funding streams empower those people to go on and use their success to inspire and help others do the same and not spend all their energies in finding the next £1. Are you listening and watching and most importantly- supporting them-all the public services out there? If you truly want to see change you really cant afford not to......

Reasons to be cheerful:
In spite of a week of bad asthma sustained with steroids and awful antibiotics( they are so large I had to check on the box for which end to put it it;-() ,I have been truly inspired. I will share the rest of my week with you soon. But right now I just need to put my feet up!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

the lonely planet are right...

And this was the big plane!

It's one of those weeks when I am reminded of the beautiful country I live in. And let's be honest the beauty of the people too. I set off at the beginning of the week to fly to one of the Scottish islands. The flight was from Oban airport which has to have one of the best views from any airport lounge. There was a variety of planes on the Tarmac but I was relived to know mine was the slightly larger yellow one! Now I was already a little nervous but paradoxically that anxiety increased as the pilot explained the safety procedures and peaked as she said to me, tighten that seat-belt there isn't much headroom as we fly over the high mountains. Now in case you think I'm of Amazonian proportions I'm actually 5ft 2 ish. So I guess the back of the plane is for wee folk! But frankly it was the only moment my stomach lurched.

The flight was spectacular. On the drive there I had passed snow capped mountains ( first proper snows of the year) and the colours of autumn spectacular around every bend. But the flight was the final icing on the cake. Blue and green sea was spread out below us with so many islands scattered through it. I spotted the Paps of Jura in the south and the Isle of Skye to the north. We flew over the mountains of Mull too. Recently Lonely Planet described Scotland as the 3rd best place to visit in the world. I have long believed this but after my recent travels I defy anyone to disagree. I had left the beauty of Edinburgh sparkling in the frost and arrived in the spectacular Inner Hebrides within 4 hours.

Having worked in Argyll before I know it's beauty and the challenge too of providing equitable services for its citizens. The island communities do accept that they have to be flexible in their lives, they don't ask for the undeliverable, they acknowledge their situations but nonetheless they pay a price at times for that. Illness knows no geographical boundaries and so the diagnosis of a serious illness or disability can have a huge impact. If you have a diagnosis of cancer , factoring in extensive travel for treatments like radiotherapy and chemotherapy can take their toll on not only the individual but their families too. And the likelihood of support groups, access to specialist nurses and so on may be very limited. But often they do have communities who step up and support. Something thats not available to mainland communities and organised services are no substitute for that, let's face it. But there is also an important need to have access to the right information so connecting these rural communities digitally is hugely important.

As I climbed into the plane I wondered how easy that is for the vulnerable of all ages. There are over 25 inhabited islands in Argyll alone and these communities have adapted over many centuries. One retired district nurse once told us the story of the first medical evacuation from one of the small islands. The plane ( a rare sight in the 1930s) was attempting to land to pick up the young person with appendicitis who had been brought to the airstrip ( or beach as we call it) but kept coming low and then flying off. On the third attempt a piece of paper was floated down to them. It said "move the car"!  A mistake they didn't repeat...
an island traffic jam....

Reasons to be cheerful. I had a great trip to the inner Hebrides. And managed to avoid the bad weather this week for my flights. When you are on an island that wonderfully British habit of talking about the weather is a vital discussion. Ferries and flights cancelled make huge differences to these communities in a way us mainlanders can't imagine. Oh and the stars are simply amazing!Visit Scotland, you wont regret it.