Friday, 29 May 2015

It's in our DNA...Caring Connections


A poem by Wendy a Caring Connections Coach


What is it like to be a caring connections coach?
It’s about caring and sharing a new approach
Learning from others in a creative way
Drawing and poetry brightened my day
Skills and techniques
To enable us to care
About ourselves and others
Laying our souls bare
We connect in a human way
What matters to me? What keeps me well?
Family nature and love,
Having purpose and goals
Flying free like a dove
We check in, we laugh
Sometimes we cry.
We show compassion
We’re human and authentic that’s why

We listen, we practice
We listen louder
We notice, we feel
Audrey's getting prouder
We're mindful, we’re compassionate
It’s nothing new
But its powerful, it’s transforming
Both me and you
It's only the beginning
As we start to grow
Where will this journey take us?
What seeds will we sow?
Compassion and kindness are in our DNA
Like blue eyes, freckles or even a quiff
Through conversation and coaching 
What worked well and even better IF 
The possibilities are endless
We simply have to share
This privileged approach
The essence of person centred care


Wendy O’Ryan    June 2015.
Thank you ♥ Carol, Jennifer, Alison, Anne, Comfort, Duncan, Victoria, Carol-Anne, Cath, Yennie, Anne, Anna, Kathryn, Karen, Audrey, Viv, Maggie


Transforming care

I started to work independently just over two years ago now. It was a big step but fuelled by my intention to focus my work on the potential for transformational change. Witnessing those transformations in both individuals and organisations is deeply satisfying work. 
One such experience has been working with Argyll and Bute supporting the development of an integrated and person centred network called Caring Connections. A key success factor in the network is developing a group of person centred coaches aimed at supporting change and transformation of care. I have been commissioned to shape the eight week course based on learning from the Esther network in Sweden and other relevant work but also make it appropriate to the Scottish context. In particular the course is shaped to develop the conditions and skills which enable the right conditions for person centred care and the integration of health and social care services.
Consequently we recruit future coaches from across health and social care and third sector. Their backgrounds range from care assistants to nurse consultants and managers in all services. This development is not about hierarchy, it's about having passion and commitment to improving services and a willingness to build awareness of the self and others. And so the course builds knowledge of the context and need for change, working through change and transition, it develops an understanding of continuous improvement. It builds understanding of how to achieve the ambitions of the health and wellbeing outcomes including working with communities, developing yourself and others, understanding wellbeing and transformational change, alongside the core skills of coaching to enable them to enact their learning. But perhaps the main outcome is, as one of the coaches framed it, is the embedding of person-centredness into the DNA of the participants. 
Mindfulness meditation is a core practice too, enabling resilience and building awareness. The group itself is a peer resource which shares learning and experience and builds a support network. From the first weeks people start to use their new skills and see the difference they are able to make just by bringing a fresh approach, a deeper listening, and a greater sense of empowerment. Each session starts with a check-in which in turn builds the group, sharing learning as well as any fears or challenges. Developing a peer approach to support like this is particularly valuable in times of change and transition.The cross sector working too deepens empathy with other sectors and builds interaction. There is a focus on honest feedback throughout using a "what works well and even better if" tool which builds an authentic culture which increases the ability to be sure footed and resilient in times of change.
The highlights for me are when I see the light bulbs come on for people.  Of course this happens at different times for people but what consistently emerges is people who look more confident, less stressed, more engaged with the passion for their work and with a network to support them to continue. We use a combination of learning methods with a strong focus on practicing coaching skills and utilising the wisdom within the group and supporting them to share their learning with others. Throughout the course people develop, shape and implement change projects. These have ranged from introducing a new way to admit people into a ward to changing how a team work together. Our focus is on what's learned from that to apply it to other situations and also to embed a culture of improvement. 
Of course I'm a learner too. I have learned that you don't need to be the most senior person to be an effective person centred coach and indeed change agent,  in fact sometimes professional boundaries can get in the way of that. I have learned that it is key to have a plan for the expected outcomes but be flexible in how we achieve them, working with the live issues in the group too. It's has been reinforced for me that people not only need mindfulness to help them be resilient but also the connection to others. And also the chance to laugh and even to cry when we need to. 
I have been so inspired by the willingness to learn and develop and especially by the commitment of all of the coaches to a person centred service. I have mostly learned that the people who need the services are in good hands and we need to give them the trust and support to deliver their best for others. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

No man is an island-my afternoon with Contact the Elderly





My first quiet Sunday for sometime I found myself heading off to a Contact tea organised by Contact the Elderly. I wasn't sure what to expect as the invite came following a blog I had written on loneliness. Why not come along to one of our teas and see what we do, they asked and so I did.
The venue was at Aegon who were hosting this event and several staff members were there to act as hosts, as well as two children who greeted us all very cheerfully. There was a quiet hum of conversation as people arrived which got steadily louder as people took their seats. The room of round tables and beautiful white table cloths ( mm very posh was the comment) was bright with sun and looked over to trees in bloom; a lovely setting for a blustery Sunday in May. The tables were loaded with neatly cut sandwiches and beautiful cakes to enjoy. I can't eat wheat and hadn't made that known so it was my lot to admire and envy.
But really it wasn't about the food at all. The two men in the room were well outnumbered by the gathering of women, in their Sunday best. They came from all over Edinburgh and surrounding areas. Each came with a volunteer driver who stayed for tea as well;a door to door service with a promise of conversation and cakes but perhaps most of all connection.

All of them lived alone but came together once a month to fill the loneliness of a long Sunday afternoon. Indeed several of the guests mentioned how lonely a Sunday can be.
I had a sense of new and important friendships formed over time but also of difficult experiences shared, in a form of peer support too. One conversation I was part of was about the sense of loss experienced when they had moved from their old home. For one woman it was within the same town but for another it was relocating from a very different part of Scotland. Is it due to leaving behind a family home or adjusting to less space or more than that, I wondered if at its core it was about a loss of control over their lives. They shared the fear of hurting their families who were being kind and so the losses were left unspoken. I ventured that I would want to know of my own Mum's feelings and encouraged them to open up the conversations at home. But perhaps they are wiser than me and know that some conversations just can't be had. That sometimes the truth needs a hiding place or a safer place to share, which is just what this Sunday afternoon offered.
At first those I spoke to seemed to be of a very similar hue. Comfortable, well dressed, with families to advocate but I noticed as I went round the room the diversity was wider. Miners wives, former nurses and mothers of doctors all represented and all linked in their need for the company of others. I noticed they recalled often their first response was to resist the invite.  
"Thats no for me" the go to position. But gentle persuasion and offers just to give it a go convinced them differently in time. Recruitment was as varied as a phone call after reading a Daily Mail column and including family referrals as well as a dial-a-bus chat. Indeed dial-a-bus is clearly a recruiting ground for many things- with one lady attempting to recruit votes for her party at the recent election!
I wondered if I would find it poignant to be with this group as my concern for my own Mum grows. And I admit to deep sadness as I spoke to one woman with dementia whose condition was isolating her from others. But mostly I felt honoured to be with such a fine group of people ( the volunteers of course as well) and loved sharing some stories of older times. The ex-nurse and I recalled a time when our patients lived in tenements with shared toilets on each landing of a stair and not a bath in sight. They've gone now in the main and so have the times when poor mothers used ex sauce bottled as feeders for babies. Perhaps it does no harm to realise how far we have come and to value that. The NHS in particular was mentioned, this is a generation that knew what it was to need care and not be able afford it. A generation who know what it is to fight for values be it at war or in the picket line as one miners wife had. Mostly I didn't know ages of the guests but learned the oldest there that day was 101years old and another lady told me she was 99. How much we can learn from their resilience and wisdom.
You will hear through this blog that not only was their Sunday transformed but frankly so was mine. I loved speaking to them and know I will volunteer as a driver in the future as there is a waiting list and it seems a small way to be able to help. You can also host an afternoon tea which I admit Im not sure my house could cope with, not least with a cake stealing lurcher on the loose.
But if I could get some friends involved I'm sure we could be creative in offering a tea. Because it’s not just the older people who benefit from contact, truly,  we all do. And if you throw in egg sandwiches and chocolate brownies ( the declared favourites this Sunday) whats not to like?
I'm already looking forward to going back again.....thanks for the invitation; it's a connection I will value.
For more details on how to get involved or to suggest someone who might benefit have a look at the Contact the Elderly website and remember you can transform a life.and your own.




No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.