Laura Scroggie, Manager at The Firs care home shares details of their Resident Author Programme and how staff are involved
We hope you enjoy reading this as it gives you some background information on the project as well as providing an insight into why this project was created. We hope it helps answer any questions you have about the Resident Author Programme.
Enhance Healthcare Ltd (Clancare Ltd) is a privately-owned care provider, owned by Mr. Manvir Singh and his business partner Mr. Paul McNiven, they are also joined by Manvir’s wife Lesley, who brings a wealth of knowledge from her extensive nursing background in community nursing. Lesley sees to daily operations as the operational director, it is with this close contact with the company’s directors that Enhance can pride themselves in the ability to invest in their workforce. Working with Enhance is not a faceless environment and each and every member of staff that is employed within the business are encouraged to develop both personally and professionally and inspired to continually find new and exciting ways to add innovative practice and enrichment to the lives of those we support. Driving up quality and excellence really is a team effort here at Enhance and that is key to what we do every day!
Our resident author programme has been developed and delivered by Paul McDonagh, Paul has worked within The Firs care home since 1999, throughout which time Paul had been employed within an ancillary role. After the takeover of Clancare Ltd by Enhance Healthcare Ltd and the commencement of new management within The Firs care home in April 2018 it became apparent very quickly what talent lay within Paul and the value of opportunity that he offered with bringing enrichment to the life of the residents within our care homes
Having taken the vision of the resident author programme to our Operations director Lesley Singh, Lesley immediately seen the value of such a resource and supported a pilot programme to be rolled out across the group, commencing within Paul’s base home, here at The Firs and latterly being rolled out in our 7 sister homes, along with our community-based support service ELSS.
Innovation is critical to the continuing success of any organisation, following on from that thought and in line with the ethos of Enhance Healthcare’s commitment to delivering the highest quality and standards of care to those we support we took a look at the research that had been done in relation to reminiscence therapies.
Dementia UK and others have carried out research which reveals that those living in care benefit from writing down their life stories because it helps them retain a sense of identity for longer and to feel more connected to their family and community. Writing and reading their own life story can be an enjoyable reminiscing activity and form part of a broader activities programme. It also helps the care staff understand more about those they work with and what they need because the life story books provide extra information that can be used to give greater choice. At the same time, there are a few care homes in other parts of the UK that use the rhythm and rhyme of poetry to help those living in care in the same way that other care homes have music and art therapy programmes to help individuals access hard to recall memories or express themselves more fully.
It is this which explains why the life story books in the Firs Care Home also contain poems. In effect, they are short autobiographies that also function as tailor-made poetry books. People can enjoy the books for the life story or the poems depending on their mood at the time. Indeed, at the end of each book, there is a blank page with the title ‘Thoughts and Notes About My Life’ so individuals can write down extra memories that come to them after they read their life story, but that didn’t occur to them when they were interviewed.
Each person who wishes to take part in the Resident Author Programme is interviewed either separately or with their family and a series of questions asked about their lives. The answers to these questions along with any information already on file is used to help them write their life story.
Each interview is recorded because it makes it easier to create an authentic first-person narrative account of their lives and because the audio may be required to produce audiobook editions of the life stories for those with impaired vision who cannot read the large print editions.
On average, from the moment of interview to the order for printed copies of the books, each life story takes 10 hours to write, but slightly more if a lot of original poems are written for an individual. Paul McDonagh along with being an accomplished (and published author) is also blessed with the ability to write poems and verse, with many residents being involved and penning their own personal poems that relate to their life memories.
Having the option of sharing these stories with families, friends and loved ones ensures that memories live on. It can offer great comfort and pleasure in sharing these memories and provides an opportunity for engagement and quality of time spent together during the initial information gathering phase.
Currently, we can produce the life stories in paperback, hardback, large print, e-book and audiobook formats.
As part of the process of writing the life story books, other books do get written based on photographs, artwork and the extra journeys that are undertaken to finish writing the life stories.
This aspect of the project has resulted in the production of the following titles: On the Way to Iona, this book followed the life of resident A.M. (The Firs) his experiences and tales that lead to him relocating to Iona and Tom and Ron’s Book of Haiku, blending the pictures taken over the lifetime of one gentleman to the poetry and verse written by another.
Up and coming
As well as rolling out the Resident Author Programme across other care homes, the following additional book titles are currently in production: Riding a Bike in Millport, A Bunch of Characters, The Firs Sketchbook and Poems That Care.
Riding a Bike in Millport is a travel book in the same vein as On the Way to Iona. Just like that book, Riding a Bike in Millport is about the journey made to help write a life story. Both the Firs Sketchbook and A Bunch of Characters are photo books based on the hand-drawn sketches done by a former employee and friend of the Firs Care Home. The poetry book, Poems That Care, contains the poems that have been written especially for people who now live in the various care homes in which the Resident Author Programme operates.
The pilot programme has successfully seen the completion of three initial books across each nine very unique and differing care settings, and as expected displayed the diversity of the client group that we support. The success of the programme has re-affirmed in us all as care practitioners that everyone has a story to tell, many just require the opportunity and platform to do so and if we only take the time to provide this the results have proven to be priceless.
As an extra bonus for those who take part in the programme, we offer an opportunity to put their book on Amazon (with consent and agreement) so that they can become a published author on Amazon if they wish and have their life story up alongside the autobiographies and biographies of the rich and famous. It can then be purchased in exactly the same way that you can currently buy the latest bestseller from the likes of Stephen King or Barbara Cartland. In any case, each book is given a unique ISBN so that should they wish to publish their book at a later date they can do so.
We are always keen to improve the project and to answer any questions that people may have about the Resident Author Programme, so if you have any questions or suggestions for improvement., please contact Laura Scroggie (registered manager) at The Firs – [email protected]
We hope you find this as inspiring as we do.