A different kind of day

Chris attends MacIntyre Lifelong Learning Services 5 days a week.

Chris has a diagnosis of dementia which is becoming more prevalent; some days he seemingly does not want to engage in activities and sessions he has previously enjoyed. However, Chris’ love of jigsaw puzzles and working on 1000 piece puzzles has remained a favourite past time.

Staff will ask Chris to join in on the group activities such as the weekly ‘Boccia with Bob’ or Chair-based exercises sessions, but are usually met with his usual response of ‘no’.

Michelle is a newly appointed Front Line Manager who has arrived with an endless amount of enthusiasm; she has a vision for the service but the main focus is everyone who comes into the service and they are her drive.

Michelle had recognised the potential of transforming the over grown garden area by the hall. The task looked to be back breaking work as it hadn’t been touched for years. Not wanting the scale of the work to put anyone off, Michelle arranged for the area to be cleared. This revealed several rose bushes, which people voiced they wanted to keep.

It was the right time to ask for volunteers to help with the design and work on the new garden.

When Michelle first started, she and Chris instantly developed a friendship. Chris would gravitate towards Michelle and she in turn would excitedly sit and keep him updated on the step by step progress of the garden. Chris began to show an interest in what he was hearing; Michelle invited him to have a ’look’…to step away from the jigsaw for a moment and just take a walk and glance outside.

That ‘look’ very quickly turned into Chris picking up a spade and getting his hands dirty! 

Chris was working alongside others. Not only that but local residents stopped to have a chat. Chris and the team were receiving compliments on the transformation of an eye sore and locals wanted to know more about who ‘we’ were.

On my next visit, Chris was sitting with a jigsaw. He stopped me to say hello. I asked what news he had and with that he enthusiastically stood up, linked my arm and took me outside.

Proudly he showed me the roses and we smelt them. He pointed to the vegetables that were starting to grow. He told me how he dug the soil and explained the importance of watering the plants. He knew which of the growing seedlings were the tomatoes and which were the potatoes.

We stood back and together admired all that had been achieved so far.

Chris was beaming.

Chris still enjoys his puzzles; how many of us would have the patience to sit with a 1000 little pieces in front of us? Patience is a great skill to possess and the puzzles are a good activity for keeping the mind active. Chris deservedly has a great sense of achievement when he completes one.

But importantly, Chris has also begun to enjoy being outdoors again; whether that’s working on the garden project or playing football. 

Enthusiasm is definitely infectious!

Merle Davis

Area Manager, Chesterfield and Leicester