Tuesday, July 17, 2018

"Come in any time!" Thursday 12th of July

Today Penny and I worked together on Evington ward.
The staff suggested several patients to us - we began to work with a patient who had been causing some problems because she was abusive to other patients and staff - we were able to give her the attention she clearly craved - as she knew we were artists, she asked if we could do a painting of her mother from a framed photo she had by her bed - I obliged using charcoal  - meanwhile Penny asked her about her mother as she wanted to talk about her even though it made her upset - Penny wrote down what she said. 
She was difficult to work with because she was demanding but feedback from the sister afterwards made it worth while.

“ You and Penny can come in anytime - you have calmed the patients down today - we were able to give the patient her medication while you were her, we hadn't been able to all day as she was angry and aggressive.You are able to give the patients attention - we just don't have time”

For a while Penny continued to work with the patient and I spent some time with another patient and then we swapped over.
I tried to interest her in an app on my I pad and also in painting as she mentioned that she had been praised for her paintings in the past but she was too distracted and eventually went to sleep.

In reflection it is easy to see how hospital staff become hardened from working with difficult and abusive patients - it is emotionally exhausting - we wondered if we would also become less friendly and dis

interested if we had to work with difficult patients on a daily basis.

Collieries 11th of July

Today I went to see a patient on Erddig Ward
Initially he didn't say much at all - I didn't know anything about him except that he had been in the Fron Choir.
I decided to use the scrabble letters and see if he was interested in making any words - I sat opposite him at his table and took some letters myself as if we were going to play a game.
Watching him I realised that he couldn't see the cream tiles against the light coloured table so I helped him turn them over.
Slowly he looked at the letters and moved them around until it became clear that he was trying to write Elizabeth - it was his wife's name. 

Together we wrote his name next to her name and then Cefn y Bedd where he had been brought up - he started talking to me a bit more, telling me about Cefn y Bedd and his father who was an under manager at Llay Main Colliery.
I showed him my blackboard and asked if he had used one like that at school - he said that as a matter of fact he had - I asked what he would have written on it and he said that they had to write down the names of local collieries - so that is what we did - he listed them I wrote them down - he told me lots more as well - I found out about him and his family - when I left he thanked me.

“Its nice to have company really, its nice to go back to your youth”

I popped back in to say hello to a patient we had seen before and she remembered me.
She said she was busy and would need to go and see her mother soon but she said she had time for something quick - I wondered if she would like scrabble as we had done the crossword in her newspaper together previously - she made some words with her letters and we made it into a bit of a sentence together before she had to go.
When I left she said

“I really appreciate your visits, I really look forward to seeing you”.

In my garden 10th July

Today I went to Erddig Ward, initially I went to sit with a patient I had worked with previously with Penny who had told us about her childhood home - she was really pleased to see me again which was nice - she said she was going to have to leave soon to meet her mother so I said I would be very quick today. 
I showed her the butter pats as I knew the she lived on a dairy farm 
I have some little school blackboards in my suitcase so I gave her one and took one for myself.
She drew the house she lived in as a child I wrote her name and her village on my board.
Her family came just after we had done this - so I left but showed them the drawing she had done of her old house - they were interested in this and one relative took a photo of it so that they could talk about it again later - they knew that she often talked about her childhood home.

I went to see another patient we chatted for a while and I discovered that what she really enjoyed and missed was her garden.
I asked her to describe it and I drew a picture of it - she had some gardening magazines and she showed me flowers that were in her beds so that I could put them in  - we tried to put them in the right part of the garden as she described it to me - it was important to her to get it right.
It was a nice way to take her out of the hospital environment for a little while.

She became breathless and needed a nurse so I got out of the way.

Fishing in the Dee Saturday 7th

Today I went in on my own and worked on Evington ward. 
As it is a Saturday it is much quieter on the ward.
I went to speak to a patient we had met before and this time sat at her bedside.
I had a stick and some ink and some paper also some butter pats  - we spoke about the farm she lived on as a child - it was the patient that initiated the conversation.
I asked her to tell me what the farm looked like and that I would try to draw it from her description.
She also told me a lot of information about the stream and making butter so I wrote that down.

Once I had a rough drawing to show her she was able to point at parts of it to tell me where things should be - the windows should be bigger - the doors are at the ends of the building - there was a wall there and a garden - woods behind the house…
She explained to me the journey of the stream which went under the house and through the cellar.
She was quite confused about where she was now but could speak in detail about the farm.
I liked that we both went on a journey together  - to her childhood  - her describing the farm to me meant that I could be there too - it took us out of the hospital just for a little while.
She told me that she would go fishing in the River Dee (or the brook ) and that her and her sister would fish with a cane with a fine string and a hook on the end and catch Dace and Roach and Trout.

I used my I pad to look up Dace as I had never heard of it before - I used ink and the stick to paint a Dace from the photo from the internet while we chatted.

“What a blow!” July 15th 2018

Wrexham Maelor Residency Notes
Erddig Ward

“What a blow!”

Erddig today, and my goodness it was quiet. Weekends on the ward are quiet but today there was a nice sort of peacefulness about on the ward. Our old favourite Mrs C was still here, and a sister said that both she and the lady in the next bedside would benefit from some company- particularly Mrs J because she was feeling especially low.
I introduced myself to Mrs J and explained who I was and asked if she would be interested in seeing some of my typewriter work, deciding to go slow and not overwhelm her because she looked exhausted. She smiled warmly at me and her eyes reassured me that I was no intrusion, so I showed her some of my typewriter images and this made her smile a lot, and I explained how I use text and language in my work- as an opener to allow me to introduce some kind of a text-based activity.

I decided to use the fridge poetry again because I have really enjoyed how it has worked in the hospital environment; it doesn’t take up much space- it isn’t messy, and in terms of creativity- it is very versatile. With it having a limited vocabulary, in many instances you have to settle for another word, but this in itself can take a poem off in a far more verbally adventurous direction. (I say “poem” in the broadest most abstract sense, because every person reacts differently creatively to the words on show).
Mrs J looked impressed at the variety, but nothing seemed to jump out, so I asked if she had a particular theme or anything she loves; she said “The sea”. So, we were off! It did take time because her mobility was very hindered by her fatigue, but she remained engaged and involved and helped me to pick out and assemble the words.
This is what we came up with:

Water licks feet beside golden glory
Summer twinkle, jewel sky
Glitters beneath a silver breeze
In a gold dream boat
I carry along and float
To glance above
Beautiful memories shine

After completion she kept saying, “Lovely; it’s just lovely. Absolutely lovely.”
She closed her eyes gently with a smile on her face, and gently fell asleep for a happy doze.
It was almost as though she could hear the water lapping to-and-fro with the glittering water twinkling before her.
She slept the rest of the time I was there.

Turning and greeting Mrs C I was most pleased because she remembered me- except she thought she knew me from “down by the river.” In conversation that follow she happened upon explaining that she used to work in a factory at one time, “a big building with hills behind, it was down by the river.”  I realised that she must have been confusing me with someone from her youth. I wondered if she liked that person- because she was very warm with me. I sort of felt like I was given an unfair advantage in a way- piggybacking on someone else’s reputation! Memories are funny things.

Mrs C was very settled today. Other times she has suddenly become alarmed and announced that she must go and find her family- because they “won’t know where I am”.  Today though she happily sat and completed a crossword- asking about the weather and being very contented. I wonder if she becomes more distressed later in the day, as her rational thoughts begin to anticipate visiting times, and her irrational thoughts counter this with frequent distress that people won’t know how to find her. Maybe even 3pm, at the end of the school day?

She asked how I had got on with Mrs J, saying that she has not been too good recently and has been very sad. So many times on this residency I am struck by the devastating loneliness and sadness endured by these people lying in these beds. I wished I hadn’t exhausted Mrs J to the point of needing a rest but had to remind myself that she had looked very happy, albeit happily asleep. Part of me wished I could have engaged with her further. It doesn’t feel like enough sometimes. If you have dementia, and happen to feel perpetual sadness- then would a pleasant experience remain with you? Or upon waking would you be once more thrust into a state of confused sadness, with little idea why? In that case, is anything lasting?

Mrs C, cheerfully completing her crossword asked what I had done together with Mrs J, so I showed her the magnetic poem and she was very impressed. I asked if she would like to have a go and she insisted that crosswords are my thing so instead I switched to a little technique I like to use, whereby I ask the patient if they could help me a little; I asked her if she could give me a theme, or something about herself, so that we might collaboratively put together some words. It worked. She said “Ok, how about, A farmer’s life.”  Combining conversation, memories and a little artistic license on my part, we made a couple of verses about a familiar anecdote of hers- that of being sent by her father to milk the cows. The aforementioned cow kicked her while she milked her, resulting in her being thrown across the barn and drenched in milk.
She has told me this story before. She really enjoys it- her eyes dance with happiness and she does this sweet little chuckle at the thought of her drenched in milk. On the morning of her communion- of all days!

“A Farmer’s life”

Sun above
Vale beneath
Out of bed
Walk those feet

What a blow
I fall
A milky flood
And a white soak

She seemed quite impressed with what we came up with together, and kept asking “Do you do this every day?”
I think she was seeing it on a parallel activity with completing a crossword. Perhaps it should be.

We were then interrupted; she had a visitor. I discreetly gave them space and packed my bags away. She was to go on a walk with someone from the hospital, down to chapel! She was most pleased. I thanked her for her time then as I left she called out to me: “I will be back here in a few hours- if you come here and I’m not here, I won’t be long!”  She had already forgotten what I said. I said not to worry and to enjoy herself, then made my way to the exit. I turned one last time to wave goodbye and she was still smiling at me with the beautiful happy eyes of a lady in her 80s. I don’t know why, maybe it was the way she was looking at me like she knew me, but I kissed my hand and outstretched my arm to her- which she immediately reciprocated, and we both parted ways with broad emotional smiles on our faces.

Artist Uniforms

Today we went to Erddig Ward to work with patients,  we spoke to someone who had been helpful the previous week after she finished on the phone and she took us to see a patient but he was adamant that he didn't want to work with us.
A ward sister told us there was no one there with dementia today and perhaps we could try Mason Ward. (We are there to work with all patients)
So we left - it was very busy and we felt that we were in the way.
It brought up a few issues for us about how we are perceived and has prompted us to think about how we could potentially change that.

Firstly - we were introduced as “ladies here to do some arts and crafts”

To us Arts and Crafts conjures up images of ready made craft packs etc
we don't mean any disrespect to the nurse who went out of her way to at least introduce us to a patient but it has made us consider what we need to do to explain more clearly what we are actually there to do.

“We are being limited by the language of preconceived ideas about creative practice by well meaning staff, this dialogue is seeming to put too much pressure on patients to be creative individuals or at least to be confident in their output - most people aren't .” 

If someone asked me if I wanted to do Arts and Crafts I would say no too and I am an artist - the word Artist also frightens people.

We need to get staff to introduce us differently  - perhaps just saying that we have brought some interesting things to look at or just to have a chat?

We also wondered if the fact that we don't have a uniform meant that on first impressions patients might feel a little intimidated - we could be specialists  - doctors - or visitors.

Other staff may view us differently if we had some kind of uniform which would make us seem to have a relevant and valuable Wellbeing Role.
This is something that I suggested following my residency in Morris Ward and The Arts in Health and WellBeing team also thought it was a good idea so we have T Shirts arriving imminently.

Penny and I decided that we need a full uniform so we have agreed to wear the same plus name badges for the remainder of the residency.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

“Luncheon meat” July 14h 2018

Wrexham Maelor Residency Notes
Erddig Ward

“Luncheon meat”

Ticky previously met Mr G on Erddig ward, and he talked to her about the mines in the locale.
They had sat together and listed all the names of the mines and apparently he had very much enjoyed this topic. So today, when the staff suggested he might benefit from some conversation we gladly obliged.

Something that keeps coming up in our pre and post-workshop discussions (we do a lot of talking!) is that people are trapped on a ward and they seem to very quickly lose a sense of self- and of identity. Being stripped of clothing and freedom, and much choice beyond a restricted menu, they seem to shrink into a bed and have little to occupy themselves with- other than their surroundings- which, very often, are the cause of their misery.
The complex contradiction is that they are in a place of safety, and a place that’s sole purpose is to care for, and to aid recovery. Yet contradicting that is the loss of freedom, and the loss of opportunity to experience the unexpected.

Although we are unable to take patients out of the ward, for a walk, or a cup of tea, we did realise that we are able to aid people in taking journeys via their minds. It struck us to be a potential meditation of sorts- describing something familiar, a happy place, to verbally revisit it and have a break from the current surroundings.

Much of our conversations have been aimed at encouraging conversation and encouraging the sharing of memories of happy places. We hope that in describing to us and using us as a kind of human canvas- that they might later on continue their venture back into the past.

So, with Mr G we asked if he would like to talk some more and if we could type it at the same time. For some reason today he was a lot more verbal. We weren’t sure if it was the typewriter, giving his words a sense of purpose, but I didn’t waste any time and wrote frantically.

Ticky interviewed him about his life in a mining family and about life in Cefn Y Bedd. He seemed to quite enjoy the attention – with me sat on my little empire aristocrat typewriter like a reporter of some kind. He told us his father was a general manager in a mine in Cefn y Bedd. Mr G himself worked in the mine on a Saturday as a school boy, then became a mine surveyor and remained in that village his whole life!
He described meals in the pit (luncheon meat and anything that was growing in the garden) and how the other lads would laugh hard at you if you were ever stupid enough to get yourself lost.
After the little impromptu “interview” was up I asked him if he would like a copy. He said “Yes please”…. And whilst at the photocopier a curious nurse asked if she might have a read. She said:
“Mr G has been here quite a while and he has never told anybody any of this!”

All I can say, is Ticky is very charming!

"Come in any time!" Thursday 12th of July

Today Penny and I worked together on Evington ward. The staff suggested several patients to us - we began to work with a patient who had ...