Dementia, Uncategorized

You better think…..

First week back at work.  Holidays have the peculiar effect of feeling like you’ve been away for ages but also never left.  There’s the inevitable gazzilion emails to wade your way trough.  Unless of course you set it to auto delete but I gather that’s frowned upon now….

It’s been quite a full on week that started with a presentation at a conference for care home staff on delirium and dementia.  Delirium is something I’m particularly passionate about it so it was fantastic to be talking with people who play such a vital role in their care.

Delirium can be a devastating illness that can affect anyone of any age however it affects older people more commonly.

At the start of any presentation I always start with the think-deliriumsame question: ‘What does delirium mean to you?’  So it was with total dismay and frustration that to area of the media delirium would appear to mean criminal behaviour.

The headline ‘Over-75s perpetrators of NHS assaults’ immediately conjures up images of staff being assaulted in a deliberate act of violence by old people.

The language used to describe the fear and distress of older people without once mentioning the word delirium was particularly upsetting. There are people out there trying to make a difference, educate and change perceptions.  An excellent blog written in response to this was by a Geriatric Registrar Dr James Woods (@jmwoods87)

One of the ways I try to challenge people in their attitude and behaviour is to talk about ‘Jimmy’. Jimmy is a fictional person but his story is a fairly typical account of the people we see with delirium. I take them through what may’ve caused his delirium and its subsequent effects. I then pause and put up pictures of crying babies.  The story is repeated word for word only this time Jimmy is 9 months old.  He is frightened. He is distressed. He is alone.

What do we think about Jimmy’s behaviour now?  Do we repeatedly tell him to be quiet?  Do we tell him to stop moving around?  Do as many as 30 different people meet Jimmy but not explain who they are?  Do we keep his favourite toy/security blanket from him?

What do you do instinctively for your child and why do we forget the fundamental basics when looking after an older person with delirium?

And l ooking after a person with delirium should be instinctive. It’s common sense and it shouldn’t be that hard.

Going into my on call on Wednesday I knew that the vast majority of the older people I would see would have delirium.  I also knew that the families and carers of these people would be extremely worried and stressed about their loved one.

I’m a big fan of open hours for visiting as it’s an opportunity to talk to families and hopefully, to a chance to reassure them. At the very least I try to be as honest as I can.  That can be tough though.  Sometimes you are the emotional punchbag for a lifetime of family dysfunction and issues that have absolutely nothing to do with you.  You just happen to be the person who appeared in that moment of crisis.

As cliched as it may be I honestly think the best thing to do is just listen.  After that, give the best care you can.  Part of that can be to remind people that ‘bed 6’ has a name or to ask them to pause a minute to think about how they might feel if their mum/dad/husband etc was admitted – what would you want for them?

So it seems crazy to me that we have to teach or even remind people of this.  When did we stop doing this?

Kate Granger died today. She spent the later part of her life reminding people of this very thing.  The work she did in this was nothing short of amazing but it saddens me that there was a need to do it in the first place.

Next week will be different and the same.  I will do the best I can. I will encourage others to do and be the best they can.

Hopefully, in time, there will be no need to remind people. Instinctively people will just know….


You cannot be serious……..

So this week was the 15 year anniversary of one of my favourite films – ‘Legally Blonde’. The film follows Elle Wods as she goes to Harvard Law school to Unknown-1win her boyfriend back.

The film at first glance might draw assumptions of chick flick froth and to be fair the first 15 minutes do little to dispel that idea. However watch on and you see that below the superficial pink sparkle are themes about discrimination, prejudice, leadership and haberdashery.

My own personal take is that it is mostly about the multi faceted nature of being female and what it’s like living in a world where you are immediately judged by how you look.  What you say is similarly judged and compartmentalised – Bossy, Ambitious, Part Timer or worse of all Nice.

The film takes me back to the days when at high school the deputy head (who was female) told me several times that ‘Medical School is very competitive. For every one place there are ten others vying for it. You are highly unlikely to get in.’

So when I got 3 conditional offers I was told again that is was ‘highly unlikely’ I would get in.


Like the skimming stone of time not much appears to have changed.  Today I’m a Consultant Geriatrician working in the NHS. The barriers and obstacles remain but they are more covert.  So the film got me to thinking about resilience.

Its about choice.

You can chose to be miserable and mired at work or you can choose to do things differently.  To put this into some kind of tangible context its worth remembering that for the vast majority of us working to, lets say 65, we will spend approx. 35% of our lives in work. Or as one study quoted ~110,000 hours.

Are you really going to be that unhappy for that length of time?  I see many of my older colleagues coming back to work after their official retirement.  It also makes me wonder about my colleagues who tell me that they just want to retire and have a life. It makes no sense!

Now, to be clear I’m not talking about being sunshine and rainbows all the time. Our job at times is hard, stressful and utterly demoralising.  It is also the most amazing, satisfying and interesting job a person can do and that is why I love it!

There can be prejudice or assumptions that comes with being that positive person in such a negative environment  I was once told that it ‘must be hard being the team cheerleader all the time’. You may be judged as caring less, presumed to be less knowledgable and frankly just not serious enough.

This could be demoralising if it were true and you allow people to project their issues on to you.

But the world needs cheerleaders. Individuals who make being the tough days that little bit better. Smart, fun, serious – multi faceted.

2, 4, 6, 8 who do we appreciate?


Holiday, Uncategorized

For once in my life….



Holiday time has finally rolled around. Plans ahoy!  However the unplanned stowaway was Mr Virus.

Now, many will be familiar with that feeling ~24hrs ahead of the out of office button being pressed that something is brewing.  You might be mislead into thinking that its just the rushing around pre hols but be vigilant people.  I can confirm that it is in fact your immune system checking into the first class lounge as it prepares to leave for the Caribbean.

You however will be oblivious as you naively continue your plans for ‘quality family time’ complete with a world breaking effort in creating Kodak moments that all your friends and family will be jealous of.  Complete with Facebook and Instagram posts without filter – because you’re that amazing!

Then Mr Virus hits. Without realising it you have become the 5 star holiday home it had booked the year before.

Now usually I spend quite a bit of time fighting the uninvited visitors. It ain’t pretty and usually I loose. The battlefield ends up with me being exhausted, mood in my boots (I really am the most terrible person/mother/wife/friend/daughter etc etc). I would drag myself back to work with that feeling of ‘why did I bother?’.

This time I almost repeated the 10 year cycle of non learned behaviour then something magical happened. I gave in.  For once in my life I surrendered. Right at the start of the fight.

In doing so I won.

I can’t say in all honestly my recovery was quicker or less vile.  It was however a much easier process. I let the hideous thing run riot for the best part of a week.  I was almost in the third person watching it. I indulged in my guilty pleasures – reading newspapers cover to cover and watching property programs. A particular favourite being the ‘A Place in the Sun: Winter sun edition’.  I’ve travelled the world this week judging and passing comment on everything and anything. The pool is too small. The beach is too far to walk to. Its not south facing.  Two bedrooms, are you kidding me? I need three.

After my pseudo foreign trip I was fighting fit and able to witness the spectacle that is Beyonce.  The talent, the work ethic is enough to put us mere mortals to shame.

We held a moments silence without realising that at that moment we were silent to the unfolding horror that was the Dallas shooting. And suddenly my brain was struggling to make sense of the world again. Except this time there was no virus, no delirium to explain it away.

I’m not going to get into a commentary about life in the USA.  I know very little about these things to be credible.  What I do know is that violence is not the answer. I feel the frustrations – why do people act/behave in that same way they always do?

As Martin Luther King said:


So as I go into my second week of holiday I will indulge in the luxury that is my family close. The friends I treasure near. I will pray. I will continue to shine.

For once in my life I will just….. Be.


I need to write this sh*t down (or thoughts of a busy mind…)


Hello, my name is Claire. I have some stuff to say and thoughts to share. I want to add my voice to a conversation that has been going for a while.  What is the topic of conversation? Equity.  Equity of choice. Equity of opportunity.

For a long time I thought I ought to write about equality especially being female but the concept just doesn’t work for me.  There are some things in life that are not the same. I personally believe that difference is to be celebrated. Being equal seems to my mind a way to stifle that. However I do believe in equity.  I think it represents where we are these days.  Apparently it came from the Latin word aequus meaning equal. Given that Latin is a dead language it seems fitting that we have evolved from that to equity.(Also I chose to do home economics instead of Latin at school and I have to say, it was one of my better life choices…..)

So, here I am. Hello!

I really want this blog to be thought of as a Smorgasbord or scrapbook of thoughts and ideas. They’ll all be centred loosely around things I’m passionate about; education, women in leadership, faith, healthcare (especially for older people) and sparkly stuff.

In the aftermath of Brexit and yet another horrific attack on human life I found it hard to have anything positive to say at all, never mind write a blog. Wherever you looked you were assaulted by anger and fear. The world, it appeared, had begun to dislocate and fracture.

That said I think there are constants in a sea of change but it starts with you. It starts with kindness, the foundation for all that is good, fair, happy and positive in life.

I realise this isn’t exactly a new concept but it amazes me how much people continue to be so wrapped up in what other people think, do or say to the total detriment of their own well being.

So really its about choice. And it needn’t be hard. Merely pausing to check in with yourself can be enough. Find your go to happy place – have a brew and cake, stare at photos of tropical beaches, pay someone a compliment. A personal fav at work is to write messages to myself in the calendar as ‘Future Claire’. Messages like ‘you have an awesome day! – Future Claire’ always makes me grin widely when I see them (the trick is to forget you wrote them so space them out).

Once you start being kind to yourself it becomes contagious. You’ll find without realising you’ll extend that kindness to others who will in turn (hopefully) do the same.

Now thats a force for change I can totally support!