Sally Tabbner’s Covid-19 Weekly Diary – 5

Dementia Support's Chief Executive Sally Tabbner


Reflecting on the Week………

I’m in a good mood in fact I’m like a proud parent to a relatively new born this morning, wandering around my house with a grin because…..I slept all of the way through the night!! Go me!! It was only for five hours but it was unbroken sleep!

It’s Saturday morning as I go through my journal to pull this together and it’s a little grey outside, but also very early still, so I am hopeful we will be graced with Phoebe Brightside (as my lovely little nanny used to call the sun – she was only 4ft 10’ hence me and my sister always calling her little nanny 😊).  They both had dementia – my nan the Lewy Body form following her onset of Parkinson’s and my grandfather had Alzheimer’s and Vascular dementia, hence my affection and love for what I do.

I do wonder what little nanny and my much adored grandad would have made of today’s world – grandad would definitely have had lots to say about the madness (his motto: “say it as it is – please or offend”).  One thing I am sure of is that there is no way on earth grandad would however have isolated, stayed in or social distanced either before his dementia or following.  Grandad was a lorry driver and such a sociable man  – my little nanny ways always moaning that it took him 3 hours to mow the smallest patch of grass in front of their flat because he was constantly down tools-ing to stop to talk to people as they walked past. 

I am reminded a lot of my grandad by Mr. P who continues to go out all of the time.  We’ve been working with his social worker to put in place strategies to minimise the risks he is exposed to as he really likes to go for long trips out and on the bus.  We are hoping that an extra care call that has been put in for him of a lunchtime might curb his going out a little as he likes to be there when “his ladies” pop in to see him.  We have therefore taken to ringing him to remind him that they are coming so that he at least stays local.

This last week started quite low – I could feel somewhat despondency in the zoom team coffee catch up we had on Tuesday – it’s really very hard at the moment to motivate yourself to start a week when you have no way of knowing what it will entail, how it will end but knowing that there is so much outside of your sphere of control.  I however continue to remind myself that staying positive doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be happy all of the time – it means when you are feeling low you know that this will pass and better days are on the other side.

So here’s my week – becoming more mundane I fear as time goes on…… 


Saturday 18th April

Spent a lot of the day writing my blog and manning the phones – just a few calls from the ever so lovely Mr. P but he’s not in a great place today.  He’s very anxious and he can’t comprehend what a virus is – he tells me he knows he shouldn’t go out and see people and he’s absolutely convinced that it is the people that are bad and are ‘after him’ not that there is a virus.  He says he mustn’t answer the door as they will come and try to get him.  I can’t move him away from the discussion and I try distracting with conversation around his dinner and his old job but his brain and anxiety levels draw him back around to people being dangerous.  I feel useless – he’s a tactile individual (like me) and he loves people normally so I worry about how his brain will process these new thoughts and how that might impact him and his view of mankind in the longer term…..please do not let it go down the road of aggression and paranoia but I fear it easily could.

Nothing else particularly remarkable today – a couple of glasses of Merlot to finish the day – I have tomorrow off afterall.


Sunday 19th April

Took the day off – did not send one email.  Did however spend my day doing chores – my house is dusty and my garden overgrown unlike everyone else I talk to who says that their’s is looking better than ever as a result of more time at home!  To a degree I am jealous but then reason that I get far more out of being at work and there is plenty of time when this is all over for me to iron my clothes and clean my windows!

Managed to spend a little time sat in the conservatory listening to Etta James.  I think that the birds are definitely noisier these days and are coming closer to the glass than ever before? Perhaps it is that I am just noticing them more as I look for some good around me? Whatever it is I am committing to ensuring this becomes a regular thing – spotting the good, appreciating it and sharing it.  


Monday 20th April

I woke up really early again this morning however I did manage a relatively decent night’s sleep (although did some online shopping at 4:00 AM!)

It was just Dianne and myself in the office today – I am missing people especially after the weekends of being on my own – I talk to people throughout, of course, but there is something about the physical presence of others that is very tangible these days.  I am not sure that I had ever even thought about it in the past but it’s now one of the things I consider a lot and especially so for my team who live alone and of course my customers.  It’s very clear now from our telephone call logs that the amount of time we are spending talking to people is increasing significantly as the weeks go on.  What we are doing doesn’t feel enough, but I am at a loss to know what more we can currently do.

I had to furlough four further members of the team today which again doesn’t feel nice and not phone calls I enjoyed making (although it was lovely to have one to one catch ups with them).  There are a procession of difficult decisions to take these days and a lot of rapid reasoning required which suits my mindset normally speaking, although it requires a level of concentration that can be difficult to maintain in these times with the pace of change.  I just need to keep thinking about what is best for the charity including what is business and crucially PEOPLE/CUSTOMER critical at this time vs. the long term financial health of the charity. 

The balance of our activity packs arrived today – however we’ve had so many requests over the weekend that it means that they are all now spoken for. This means that any further requests will need to wait until we produce activity pack two which we are just having discussions over the content about now.

I prepared the majority of the board papers for our Board of Trustees meeting on Friday this coming week – they are late as should have been with the board for a full week before, but I reason that the majority are self-isolating so will hopefully have a little more opportunity to prep, than their normal hectic schedules allow.  Preparing for the board is not one of my favourite things to do at any time – it’s paperwork heavy and time consuming – although don’t get me wrong governance is hugely important for any charity!!  Today however it’s really not “my thing”, in fact it’s made me miserable and grumpy.  I have no energy for pulling together the documents.  Compared to the operational side of what we are doing it seems inane and unimportant and it doesn’t feel like it’s a good use of my time or energy at this moment.

I delivered an activity pack on the way home which was lovely and I felt more joy at doing that and knowing that I was delivering to one of our daybreak’s customers something that would help them in their family over the next few weeks.  It took me 2 minutes and gave me the joy and feeling of worth that I needed.

My blog was published online earlier today and someone has reached out to me.  They state that they are grateful at this time to be an orphan because they are not having to watch any of their precious vulnerable family go through this.  I can only agree with the sentiment but what a very sad state of affairs that we are grateful for our loss.  Thought provoking, sad and just not normal……..hold onto the thought Sally that this will pass.


Tuesday 21st April

Loads and loads of meetings today – apart from the fact that I haven’t got out of my chair for most of it or seen anyone face to face and some of the content itself, then you wouldn’t necessarily know it was any different a day to the norm of 6 weeks ago…..was it really only 6 weeks ago things were normal? Certainly I was issuing staff guidance on the 10th March saying people should be extra vigilant regarding handwashing but I was still reinforcing our business was as usual…..6 weeks – this is madness

It started with our SMT meeting where we talked about launching our COVID fundraising appeal next week – basically our current best guess [today] is that the charity will suffer a potential loss of income of £140,000 – the issue we have is that this changes on an almost minute by minute basis.  Outside of fundraising our largest income stream is from our Day Breaks services but I can’t begin to fathom what that might look like in the future.  It will be driven by government guidance around social distancing and care directives.  As for when?? again lockdown for our customers will dictate.  I’m a planner – and this frustrating me and then the guilt……really it’s not that frustrating Sally is it?  Big deal, you can’t work out some numbers……

  Next I went straight into an HR committee meeting where a lot of people joined us from the Board of Trustees to discuss where we are up to in terms of staffing at the moment.  This was followed by one of my favourite times of the week – our whole team coffee break meeting!  We hold them twice a week at the moment to catch up with each other and to share how we are feeling and what we are up to. 

It was lovely to see all the gang again! There were 22 of us who just all chatted away.  What was nice is that we all prepared an inspirational quote so I’ve penned  them down so that it captures the mindset of where we’re at and how they’re feeling and thinking.




Motivational Team Quotes;

  • Be grateful for everything and everyone
  • What if I fall? But my darling what if you fly
  • You can’t do epic **** with basic people
  • One of the happiest moments in life is when you find the courage to let go of the things you cannot change so think happy and be happy…’s good to talk!
  • Live everyday like it’s your last and every night like it’s your first together
  • Happiness is working with great people (but then she added I am happy and you are great thank you)
  • Respirer l’instant (broadly translated as breathe in the moment)
  • Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts
  • Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but, today is a gift that is why it’s called the present

It is moments like this that you appreciate what you have and those that you surround yourself with.  How lucky am I to have such a resilient, brave and forward looking bunch hey?

This afternoon I was into a meeting with Linda our finance manager where we talked about closing the end of year accounts, coding and adjustments – essentially all of the normal stuff that you’d actually expect to be doing at this time of the year…all so very odd a feeling at this moment though.

Finally, in the afternoon we took a call from a social work team and who were desperately in need of a single mattress and some sheets and duvets etc. It’s for someone who is incontinent and being discharged from hospital and they only have one set of bedding and their mattress is badly soiled.  Talk about fate! Dianne has a new bed being delivered this very evening for her son so will have a single mattress available from tomorrow! We also put out a shout on social media for bedding and I swear that literally within 5 minutes somebody have offered us what we were looking for and they were dropped to us within 10 minutes – I find the kindness and peoples propensity to give and help and to look after one another right now very humbling. 

One of our trustees, Therese came into the office and packed up all of the 100 packs that arrived yesterday – they are all pretty much committed now but I am excited that in my email inbox I have received the first draft of the 2nd activity book!  So much genuinely lovely feedback from the books – something so small has made such a difference to people. 


Wednesday 22nd April

Slept okay ish.  Another busy day! But again it feels a bit more normal apart from one thing…..we SAW PEOPLE!! 

Tracey, our Catering Manager popped in this morning – she has been furloughed and wanted a bit more information.  We had a good chat and it is really lovely to see her in person and to have different faces back in the office.  In the office we were talking about the last week of day breaks before we closed and how special it had been as Tracey had cooked for everyone each day and we had all sat with the customers and eaten together – really desperately we all want those times again, we ache for them.  In hindsight it is like we knew…..we took the opportunity to spend as much time with our lovely customers as we could and to share. Seems so long ago.

After Tracey left I was a bit perplexed to see her come back after two hours later……but she brought us food!  She also brought me food to take home and eat because she knows I tend to ping food these days just because of time and effort! I couldn’t believe it – she went home and she made me a cottage pie and brought me in a salad and she bought in pastries for all of us in the office that she’d made that morning.   So, of course I cried again, and she laughed and said that she knew I was going to do that – was nice to see her laugh.  She’s also organising a fundraiser for our 26 on the 26 campaign – having her Dad (who is living with dementia) get active around his local area – she has set up a fundraising page now with Luke’s help and that’s definitely given her purpose and drive…..not only has she fed us, but she’s actively contributing to the charity and I can see her becoming invigorated by it.  That’s how all the team are now, its why we do what we do….to make a positive difference.  

Martha and Isla also both popped into the office.  Isla was picking up files that she needed for accounts because sadly they don’t stop just because we are in lockdown and Martha was in to drop off some receipts too.   

Another request from social care today – a bed required for someone being discharged home from a nursing home. The lady has Parkinson’s and her lack of mobility means she cannot get upstairs anymore and can only fit a single downstairs.  Anyway all sorted within the hour and it will be collected and delivered to her house on Monday……at least she can go home and stay safe.

First befriending call today! One of our trustees is ringing Miss B now each week to chat for a while and to put the world to rights!  She is 91 and just wants a call just once a week to have a general chat, she has been housebound for a couple of years, after an injury to her back….. I cannot imagine how she gets by on a day to day basis.  The match seems to be a good one though!

And lastly a very special visitor……I saw Phoebe [granddaughter] today which was so very very lovely but I was instantly sad as she automatically social distanced. I found that awful and I started to worry – I’m her best friend (so she says, although I accept everyone is!) and I am her nanny who she spends a lot of time with and we cuddle a lot! but she did not even attempt to,,,,,,how has that happened so quickly? She’s only 3 ½ and I never want her to think this is normal…how quickly will she revert back? Will she revert back to the affectionate and tactile little one she was only a few weeks back? This is my worry tonight…..This will pass but what will it leave in its wake.



Thursday 23rd April

First journal note at 6am – I’ve woken up  and given myself a good telling off – I need to snap out of this silly questioning of things I cannot answer and I need to concentrate on the good stuff – I am super lucky afterall – I’ve always said I’ve got the best job in the world, so about time I sorted myself out and cracked on – that’s my resolve for today!

Some lovely stuff has gone on today.  We had a gentleman turn up at Sage House to see if we were open or not.  Dianne spotted him and went out and spoke to him.  She explained we were closed and gave hime an activity pack recognising he was pretty sad and a bit almost lost after chatting to him.  She told him about the new befriending service and that he should just give us a call and have a natter if he fancied it – he said he didn’t want to waste our valuable time but she insisted that it was fine.  Turns out his wife used to be a day breaks customer until a few months ago when she passed away – he’d been coming to Sage House himself – just popping in for a cup of tea every week or so to keep himself busy.  Thank goodness – he rang through to the team when he got home.  He admitted he’s very lonely, grieving and feels completely overwhelmed by his feelings especially as he now cannot go anywhere or see anyone for distraction.  He was delighted with the pack and said it gave him some positive focus.  The wayfinding team will work with him now for a bit – he needs more than befriending – he needs some emotional support for his grief and some mechanisms and techniques to help him cope and deal with his feelings. 

We’re reviewing the draft of the 2nd edition of the activity pack – its been a springboard to so many other things that I’m keen we get this one right too!

Our first shopping requests are filtering through which is exciting news – its affording those who really want to and can, with an opportunity to get involved, so a couple of our trustees are on call to help out.  It’s hard not to feel sorry for those you are delivering to – the referrals we get are those that have been filtered by Adult’s Social Care where there really is no alternative for the individual – no family who can help and those who have ben banished to lockdown for the longest amount of time.  The trustee delivering Miss S’ shopping stopped and chatted (at distance) with her about hairdressers or lack of and all sorts of things! This was never going to be just a shopping service afterall – its about people seeing other people – hearing voices and presence of being……must talk to Martha about debrief for trustees…

An unexpected contact from another CEO of a charity elsewhere in the Country with whom I am networked on LinkedIn.  He has suggested we have a zoom call to chat about where Day Centre services might head next to swap our thinking – he does something similar with people with autism.  He said my blog which Ive been putting online has been a helpful read and reassuring! We’re going to talk next week – I like that this is helping others…..I also love an unintended positive cosequence of getting heads together to think about how we can make the next step as good as possible!

Going to bed happier tonight – proactivity is what I like and I’m beginning to feel it reemerge.


Friday 24th April

We’ve really started something!! After last week’s throw away comment between Dianne and myself i.e. “let’s dress up tomorrow in the office” we have turned it into a mini campaign!

Lots of meetings which started with an SMT meeting and then I went straight into the Board of Trustees meeting – so very proud –  they all got into the spirit of the “Dress up For Dementia” #D4D and all dressed up!!

The meeting was good although I admit to the fact that there were some areas where I found it difficult to be focussed.  I am struggling with meetings online and find I cannot concentrate as much as I can face to face – any more than an hour and I get fidgety and my attention span is certainly waning.

The struggle during the meeting was that none of us could do what, essentially, we should be doing or would normally do.  The role of the trustee is to collectively agree the strategic aims and objectives for the charity.  It is my job to work with them and help develop the strategy and then with my team to design and develop operational plans to deliver said strategy.  The charity uses a system of committees split between, Services, Fundraising, Finance and HR who largely make the decisions and escalate those decisions to Board for information – again my role is to work with these committees.



The problem is we cannot set a strategy. We cannot make decisions.  We do not know what we do not know. Some are struggling with that but, I think I am coming around to accepting that position now.  We often use the phrase to carers of people living with dementia that you have to “go with the flow” you do not try to correct, do not argue as it is fruitless.  I think “go with the flow” amply sums up where we might best be served for the moment with strategic planning.  I remind myself and appreciate also that I am far more weighted currently toward the operational than the strategic.  It’s why I find some of the conversations challenging as my priorities are gearing to customer and carer issues and how we overcome them and that of keeping our team tight, together and motivated.  So upon reflection as I write this I appreciate I was a bit grumpy…..the board will forgive me I’m sure…


Following the Board meeting we went into our Team Coffee Break and it was great as a lot of the team got all dressed up too!! We then directly after went into a Dawn Gracie special which she Facebook lived from our page – she also got dressed up and explained what we were up to and announced that our theme for next week is the 1960’s!! Dianne is mortified!  It was brilliant to think that some of our old customers were watching and enjoying – we had some of the nursing homes tune in too and even had messages to say the staff at a local care home were dancing around with residents – LOVE IT!!

I am home this evening on Friday writing my journal and actually I have to say that I am okay. The day was okay in the end – many highs mixed with a bit of grumpy, but I wasn’t filled with the sadness and anxiety I think I have felt in the last few weeks.  I am still tired but less so (although maybe my body has just adjusted to it?) and I think I can see some light – I hear snippets of good things but I am still being choosey about what news I listen to.  I am still wanting the 7th May (don’t get fixated Sally) for lockdown lift….really would love for us to enter our third year with renewed hope and vigour. My mantra is becoming a truth for me this will pass.


Until next week……. Respirer l’instant



Sally Tabbner

A very lucky CEO


A very very proud CEO