Sally Tabbner’s Covid-19 Weekly Diary – 7

Dementia Support's Chief Executive Sally Tabbner


Reflecting on the Week………

It’s Saturday as I write this, so the 7th May has been and gone, which was my personal ‘predicted’ lockdown easing date – I tried not to get my hopes up but of course I did, as anyone does when they wish for good news and craves better times.  We are all waiting for the Boris speech tomorrow where we hope for positive news however my suspicions and mindset today tell me that any relaxation will likely only involve a small amount of extra time for exercising and some garden centres re-opening – I may be being cynical though!  The problem is I really want more, (although I do need to sort my garden in fairness and a trip to a garden centre would be welcome).  My biggest issue remains that I want to plan so badly for the charity and what I suspect will be that I still will have no clue as to what the future direction might look like. I also want the general feeling amongst people to start to lift as despite trying hard to personally be buoyant it is becoming increasingly challenging……spending the Sage House birthday alone yesterday was pretty miserable – some peaks but largely troughs of personal frustration and some resentment too – stupid and unhelpful feelings to have I know, but feelings nonetheless which cannot be helped. 

It’s been the week leading up to Sage House’s 2nd birthday on Friday 8th May and one can’t help but compare to our first birthday and the day we were opened by the Countess of Wessex. The first birthday was the first week of five celebration weeks in 2019 and huge amounts of planning and team effort, as we launched from birthday week to Dementia Action Week, to Wayfinder week into Carers Week and then Volunteers Week.  When we came back to work after the Christmas break (5 months ago now – how mad!!) the SMT all sat down and we planned and plotted out this year’s month of celebrations to kick off from our birthday.  Like everything else this has gone – evaporated and lost.  We’ve done our best to make the birthday special, with a video compiled, some entertainment etc on our social media but its nothing compared to the special street party (as it coincided with VE day) that we had planned for our customers in our car park – the cake – the town crier – the dancing – it was going to be something truly special and we were all excited as we had started the discussion about how it could work in practice.  [Photo is my favourite from the day we opened – my grandad wearing his Wales cap telling the Countess about how he had toothache]

Luke asked me to do my film for the birthday and when I sent it to him I was asked to do a re-take! Apparently, I was somewhat miserable (having reviewed it I really was!!!).  Reminiscing and reflection however do catch me off guard at the moment and it affects my mood to the point I cannot or certainly don’t hide it.  For the film we were asked to say what we love about Sage House.  What I love is the people.  Yes the building’s wonderful, it’s purpose built and we made it colourful and bright, we’ve made it clean and modern but we’ve made it friendly too – it’s actually however the people in Sage which bring it to life – the customers – the staff – the volunteers.  Each bring something special to what we have.  It’s a warm environment and people enjoy coming to us knowing they will be greeted with a smile – Sage in itself is a big warm smile essentially. 

I have an office where I can sit and watch the customers coming in and out all day long [I do work too just as a point of clarity!] but I see the carers who leave the building at drop off, absolutely exhausted and then return at the end of the day more relaxed having spent some valuable time doing what they need to – often nothing nice – as carers don’t have time to do nice things – but they do get to spend time catching up on housework or sleep or shopping, all necessary parts of daily life the rest of us often take for granted.  The customers leave with them having spent time having fun, being stimulated and doing things they enjoy – most of all happy.  This is the main source of my upset these days and what is making me miserable – this is what keeps catching me off guard, when I glance out of my window to nothing but an empty car park.   

The importance of which day it is now lessening. In fact, it is difficult to tell which day it is most of the time anyway – I’m not alone in that though I know. As such I have decided to put together my blog in a slightly different format now as reflections of the week rather than put them in as daily snippets from my journal – although that’s where the content comes from, as my brain also cannot compute or remember from one day to the next either what has happened.  

Work is starting to normalise with some days feeling and seeming similar to others that have occurred during the pandemic. Some of the tasks I am doing are also feeling like the “pre-covid” work of old normal, and somewhat administrative, which I have to say is taking some getting used to – I am thriving in a world where I am making a difference and being selfish I don’t want to lose that feeling. 

I managed a couple of nights of really good sleep this week and what an absolute difference that makes to concentration levels and feeling brighter.  In honesty I had been a little concerned about how my ability to concentrate and my forgetfulness/clumsiness was so bad recently – a good example is the number of emails in my drafts box which I have got halfway through writing, clearly been distracted and then not sent them, but thinking I had…..  The sleep however makes me instantly sharper and reassures that this will pass and I do not need to expend any energy worrying about my concentration.

On Monday I had to get up very early as the only slot I could get for shopping was at 7:00 o’clock this morning.  I had spent a long time deliberating as to whether it was ok to have my shopping delivered or not! I felt very guilty and agonised for a while but conceded that it is one of the worse slots ever and I cannot imagine any of my customers making use of it!  I also made sure it was a shop to last me for a month so I wont need another one.  In any case I regretted it as I had little sleep the night before only dropping off at 3.45am when I had to get up at 6.00am to be ready!

Monday, I also signed off a press release with regard to the birthday appeal which was, as is the norm, sent out to various places. Global Radio then came back to us very quickly asking for an interview with me on Tuesday – thought that this was really good until I was told they have 51,000 listeners!! The interview went well though although very quick to record and I can only hope that I got all of the points across about how challenging our birthday is this year by comparison, our new Day by Day Appeal and also the fact that it is Wayfinder Week next week.

All of the Activity and Wellbeing Packs are in the midst of going out this week – our customers have all had theirs delivered to them and it makes me feel better to know that they will have them for the bank holiday weekend.  Daft really as I appreciate for a lot of people the bank holiday makes little or no difference to everyday life currently, although I know that the fact that it is VE day will be something special and well regarded by many of the customers.  In any case I feel better to know that they will have something to somewhat keep them entertained and hopefully they arrive at the right time for them.

We have had some lovely feedback about the new packs – some even from the Cornwall area which appears to have been a popular place where they’ve heard of us! One lady emailed to say thank you and on behalf of her mum and dad.  Her dad has really enjoyed it and as his main hobby is colouring, enjoying the different prints and having the puzzle pages has kept him interested and whereas he’s never liked word searches surprisingly he’s having a go at them in the pack!  Apparently her mother has found the easy read coronavirus information has really helped her to explain to her husband what is going on and the pictures in the pack have been really helping her to communicate with her husband – apparently the pack, a very simple and small thing we have produced, is a lifeline.  We just need to get all 1400 out now – quite incredible to reflect how this has grown!

A weekly newsletter has gone out this week to all of our customers and supporters updating people of what we have been up to.

Thursday 7th was Dress up For Dementia Day this week – the theme was Superheroes.  Oakwood School got onboard including the teachers and it was great fun and raised some money too for the charity.  It was lovely to have photographs of the pupils coming in by email throughout the day and to see how seriously the children took it, making up superheroes of their own – Cricket Boy was a particular favourite!  Of course, it was a very hot day and Dianne came as Cat Woman in a PVC black jumpsuit – think its fair to say she was slightly warm for most of the day hahaha. 

We had a team meeting today where a lot of the team also got dressed up which was good fun – Anna even mentioned that it was nice to have something to think about and do for a while to distract her!  It really made me laugh though when our chairman dropped in dressed as Superman – what a sport and by coincidence I was Supergirl!

My daughter also brought little Phoebe over dressed as Batgirl which was so sweet as she stood in front of the Sage House sign and held out her £5 that she was donating for photographs.  Great to see them but sad too as Phoebe said she is coming to stay with me for two sleeps when the virus has gone as she misses me.  She knows not to hug or get close at the moment and I find this really hard to get my head around.  I cannot fathom if this is something that will have a long-term impact on our younger folk.  Will these learned behaviours already engrained into their everyday life at such a young age impact them and their ability to display affection in the future?  How can we influence this to make sure that this does not become a trait that gets passed onto future generations but remains merely a blip in our current world?

I did forget that I had an important meeting with the CCG on Thursday until I sat down at my desk in the morning – again a little symptomatic of the current position as I would normally know a week ahead and plan my diary out.  Meeting people for the first time dressed as Supergirl and hoping to come across as both professional and knowledgeable was a little challenging but I think I contributed!

An update on Mr P.  It’s fair to say there’s been a lot of activity going on this week, which culminated in us being very concerned for his safety on Friday particularly, and us needing to contact and raise an incident with the police.  His dementia makes him so vulnerable to those with ill intentions as he just wants to be friendly and talk to anyone who might listen or potentially help him.  Luckily on this occasion he spoke to someone with good intentions who offered him a lift somewhere and luckily he is safe – although it calls into question all sorts of queries around attitudes to social distancing on the other persons part at the moment in my opinion.  His call levels are quite extreme now and he can ring up to 20 times a day – none of us mind and the fact that he tells us he misses us and loves us makes any time we spend talking to him absolutely worth it.  The wayfinding team are going to try and set up a virtual meeting with him so he can see some of the team as we know that will make his day as he spends a lot of time looking at our photos on various leaflets and reports he has at home from the charity.

Good news to report in that the bank account for the ex. Offender is now set up thanks to the wayfinding team – apparently this is the first bank account that he has ever had and means now that he can get the benefits to which he is entitled and to which he has never received previously. 

The shopping calls have now properly taken off and we have a good number of customers.  Keeping on top of this is proving very time consuming but Isla is managing it well and Sylvie has now managed to recruit some extra volunteers who are happy to help which will be useful as the geographic area we cover really is quite extensive. 

So, the Friday is bank holiday, for VE day, and also our birthday which I mentioned earlier.  I’m sorry but I can’t help but feel cheated by Covid-19 – it has stolen our anniversary and plans which is unforgiveable.  However, what I resolve is this.  We will celebrate when this is over with our customers.  We will also celebrate every birthday to come and we will look back at this time and remember the part we played in keeping our customers safe in the best way that we could.

As I look back over this particular blog I accept it is all a pretty miserable read and I am sorry for that – there have been some laughs and high points this week, as well as numerous examples of where we have made such a difference to people.  For instance when I collected a prescription and delivered it – it took 5 minutes as all very local, but I then spent half an hour chatting to the lovely elderly recipient who was clearly quite lonely (whilst social distancing of course) – that was a lovely time where I felt good.  We have delivered lots of shopping to some hugely grateful and desperate individuals too and spoken to so many on the telephone offering support during this time, so I know we are doing good work – but I want more now – I am ready to move on from this please…… 

Until next week…….when the theme for Dress up for Dementia on the 15th is Disney! And hopefully we know a little more……….


Sally Tabbner

A resolute CEO today