Gibraltar Nursing Home embraces World Religion Day

Last month here at Gibraltar Nursing Home, we celebrated World Religion Day which calls for acceptance of all religions and were reminded of the comfort that it brings to many of the people living with us.  Religion can be contentious for some, so acceptance of others’ beliefs is vital if we are to live together in harmony. Gibraltar have a policy of total acceptance, whatever a person’s beliefs.

Gibraltar welcomes religious figures of many different faiths, inviting them into the home regularly to interact with family members.  An example of this being the Catholic bi-monthly communion which is held for Carol Kaseleht in her room, with Father Nicholas James from the St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in Monmouth. Carol thoroughly enjoys this interaction, especially the “good conversation” they share. Father Nicholas agrees and feels “the interaction is important to Carol, she is a very interesting lady and I enjoy coming to the home and speaking with her.”

Carol has been living at Gibraltar Nursing Home since 2012 and is a practicing Catholic. “If you have to live in a home, this is a good home to live in” Carol says with a smile.

When talking with Carol you can see how important the communion is to her, Father Nicholas visiting regularly keeps connected to her faith.

Gibraltar Nursing Home supports and follows the message of World Religion Day, encouraging family members of all religions to continue partaking in their faith in the comfort of their home.

Gibraltar Nursing Home takes family members on holiday

A move in to a new home can be stressful, but can also be exciting, at Gibraltar, we feel moving in to any new home should be a continuation of one’s life, we believe life shouldn’t change just because your new home is a care home.

Fiona Mirylees, one of our family members, moved in to Gibraltar Nursing Home in February. During the course of her first few weeks, the team focused on finding out Fiona’s likes, dislikes, favourite pastime hobbies, previous occupations and holiday destinations. If Fiona went on holiday prior to moving in to the home and she was able to travel, why not carry on with the same tradition?

One of the team members had seen an advertisement placed by Willets of Coleford, a travel company, who had partnered with the Queens Hotel in Paignton offering a 5-day “Turkey and Tinsel” break. Fiona showed an interest as well as some of her neighbours who live within the grounds in the Independent Living Village. So, plans were put in to action and Phil Hannant, Village and Home Liaison, along with 2 care team members supported 14 people, all from the home and Independent Living Village travelled down to Paignton for a fun pre-Christmas break.

The 5 days included a mock Christmas Eve with festive food and entertainment, then on the Tuesday, the group visited the beautiful Buckfast Abbey and later devoured a traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and complimentary wine. Instead of taking ‘Boxing Day’ to relax, the group hired wheelchairs for those that needed support and went for a leisurely stroll along the sea front, taking time to embrace and appreciate the cool sea air and picturesque views.

Fiona had such a wonderful time, as did all, and was thrilled to be able to take the trip with friends. She said “to be able to go on holiday still whilst living in a home is wonderful, I’m looking forward to next year’s trip!”

Gibraltar Nursing Home uses Art Therapy

Fiona Mirylees, from Gibraltar Care Village, Monmouth

Every Tuesday evening there is an Art Club held at Gibraltar Nursing home, part of the 95 bed Gibraltar Care Village in Monmouth. They use an innovative Household Model of Care which has been rated as Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission. This creates a homely, domestic environment for the residents, who are referred to as “family members,” around ten percent of whom, live with dementia.

Part of their model of care aims to keep everyone happily occupied, rather than sitting, doing nothing, and they do this by offering a range of activities that can be chosen from. Art Classes are on offer and they have proved to be popular. The weekly Art club is attended by not just the interested family members, but is open to the local community, too.

Fiona Mirylees is 73 and a regular at the classes and has been a Gibraltar family member for the last eight months. She is passionately interested in all forms of art, but particularly in her favourite medium, which is painting, using watercolours.

She told us “I think it’s a good therapy for me and I’m learning a lot. When I look at my most recent painting, a picture I copied from a postcard from the Isle of Skye, I can hardly believe that I painted it myself!”

These are extraordinary words, coming from a lady who admits she did not really want to live any longer when she first arrived.

“I’d been burgled, losing some irreplaceable family items and involved in a serious car accident, which had really knocked my confidence. Also, I didn’t really know anyone here, but within a few weeks of moving, I have made some very good friends. Now I’m glad I came here and look forward to each Tuesday evening. Art has been like a miracle for me.”
Fiona has several of her paintings of flowers on display in the communal areas of the home and cites Van Goth as her favourite artist.

“I love his pictures with his bold brush strokes and primary colours. I really like bright colours as they are more cheerful.”

Since moving to the home, last February, as her painting skills grew, so too did Fiona’s interest in reading and writing. “I used to be shy and terrified of everything, but art has really helped me to come out of my shell.” she admitted.

“Activities offered within care homes should play a central role” says Professor Martin Green of English Community Care Association. "Purposeful activities stimulate residents and improve their wellbeing. It’s important for all residents and particularly for those people living with dementia”
Louise Lakey, Alzheimer’s Society’s policy manager, says: “There continues to be a deep-seated pessimism about the quality of life that a person with dementia, living in a care home can have. Truly person-centred care can be achieved, if meaningful activities are in place that reflect the pastimes, hobbies and preferences of residents.”

The activities on offer at Gibraltar Nursing Home, such as gardening, music, day trips, playing games, watching films in their own cinema, or dips in the aqua-therapy pool, support their family members to be occupied, stimulated and engaged, which is an excellent way to maintain their quality of life. They also have other benefits, too, such as improving mood and reducing agitation.

To join or find out more about the Home and the Art Classes, speak to Gibraltar Nursing Home reception on 01600 775 800.

Why Doesn’t the UK Have a Women’s Equality Day?

Wendy Mills, in Frome Nursing Home, and, pictured right, about to break the sound barrier.
Wendy Mills, in Frome Nursing Home, and, pictured right, about to break the sound barrier.

60 Years Ago, The RAF Told Wendy Mills, No Female Pilots

Now living in Frome Nursing Home, I asked her if things had changed

The 26th of August was Women’s Equality Day but only in America. In the UK the date is meaningless because we don’t have a day set to celebrate women’s equality, despite British women wining the right to vote over 100 years ago and having had a female Prime Minister for 11 years.

I wanted to speak with someone who had lived through many decades of discrimination and learn what they thought about this, so I started researching Nursing Homes in the South West, to find somebody who was both the right age, and had a powerful story to tell.

I found that person in Frome Nursing Home. One of their residents is 84-year old, Wendy Mills. Frome refer to all their residents as family members, and after I explained the reason for my visit, Wendy was keen to talk with me.

As a child, she had watched the Battle of Britain in the skies over her childhood home in London and grew up determined to become a pilot. As soon as she was old enough, she applied to join the Royal Air Force but when she asked about flying, she was told point blank, that they didn’t accept female pilots. She was angered and disappointed but didn’t let her frustration show. She went on to do her basic training in North Wales before going on to work as a fighter plotter, who are those women you see in war movies, pushing model aircraft around a map, with sticks. This was during the Cold War years when there were regular incursions into British airspace by Russian bombers, usually coming in over Scarpa Flow. Wendy and her team would scramble fighters up to intercept them. Her shifts could last 36 hrs, meaning she slept and ate underground, in a top security bunker in Norfolk. The job was onerous because the aircraft were sometimes carrying nuclear payloads. Before her shifts, she told me she would walk in the fields around the bunker, filling her nostrils with the scent of vegetation, because if a nuclear war did ensue, it may have been her last chance to experience that.


She did well in her post and was soon promoted to Flight Sergeant, but she never lost her yearning to fly. One day, she noticed a magazine advert for women to join the RAF as air-crew. Eagerly she took the magazine across the airfield to where the flight crews were based and knocked on the commanding officer’s door. She waited nervously before being invited in. She presented the magazine and explained that she was requesting flight training and had thought of little else since she was a child. The C/O smiled and carefully read the piece before leaning back in his chair and telling her that she’d need to pass a medical exam and get permission to fly, from her own commanding officer.

A few days later she presented him with both. The C/O smiled, stood up and told her to follow him. They walked into a large room, where the aircrews sat around smoking and drinking coffee before their missions. He introduced Wendy as their first female air crew member. The place erupted with cheers and whistles. Wendy’s eyes twinkled as she tells me this, the memory still fresh in her mind.

Although women could be air-crew members in 1958, they were not allowed to be operational pilots for another 34 years. In 1992, long after Wendy had left the RAF, the government finally announced that women would be allowed to fly military jet aircraft. But what had happened to Wendy?

She left the RAF, to get married and start a family. She went on to work as a successful aviation journalist for the Yorkshire Evening Post and spent her first month’s wages on flying lessons.

It turned out that she was a natural and quickly passed her pilot’s licence and then became a flying instructor and then a flight examiner and taught flying instructors how to teach. She continued to write aviation stories, including one memorable piece when she flew faster than the speed of sound, as a co-pilot in a 2-seater Phantom jet fighter.

Impressed by her remarkable story I asked Wendy if she thought the UK needed a Women’s Equality Day. She sighed before turning to me.

“Of course we do, dear. Things have improved, but I think Westminster still needs a good shake up, don’t you?”

I do, Wendy, I do. Suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, said, “Justice and freedom for women are worth securing, not only for their own sakes but for civilisation itself.”  It seems that millions think we should have a Women’s Equality Day. Last February 6th was the centenary of women getting the vote, so surely that would be an ideal date, but it does beg the question, why don’t we have one set already?

Jerry Short, Evolve Care Group

The 5 pillars of Comfort in Dementia Care

Comfort is defined as A state of physical ease, free from pain or constraint.

Comfort is also one of the six emotional and psychological needs highlighted by Professor Tom Kitwood, to maintain a sense of well-being for anyone living with dementia.

For a medium sized care organisation such as Evolve Care Group, keeping over 300 residents, whom they refer to as family members, living comfortably in their care homes, is a job that is not without its challenges. They advocate following 5 pillars of comfort.

1 Comfortably warm

The World Health Organisation’s standard for comfortable warmth for the elderly is at least 20 °C, but there is a certain amount of subjectivity with temperature preferences. Some choose to sit closer to a heat source, whereas some may opt to sit near a doorway or window, preferring cooler climes. To be a comfortable home, family members need access to both warm and cool locations.

2 Comfortably Sated

In the UK an adult eats an average of 3413 calories a day (approx. 1.8kg of food) but for somebody with dementia, this is likely to be lower, since eating difficulties are more noticeable as the dementia progresses and a reduced ability to taste or smell becomes evident, which reduces appetite. Desserts are often favoured over savoury foods, so, adding small amounts of honey or glucose to main courses can sometimes result in entire meals being consumed, as well as increasing the carbohydrate level of the food.

In later stages of dementia, chewing and swallowing can become difficult. Ben Kerslake, Evolve’s chef in their Frome Nursing Home, offers purees, moulded from casts of the food they are reconstituting, so that pureed carrots are served in a shape of a carrot. This has resulted in an increase in vegetable consumption. Eventually though, food may be refused entirely, in which case there is a difficult balance to be found between continuing to offer sustenance whilst maintaining that person’s dignity.

3 Comfortable Environment

To offer excellent dementia care, a calm environment is needed to help family members relax and rest.

Care homes need to be carefully designed and attention paid to noise levels, intensity of lighting and the décor of rooms, including colour and patterns on walls and carpets. Quiet areas need to be offered, for those that need a peaceful spot and the use of Bluetooth headphones can ensure those wanting to listen to music or watch television, can do so without disturbing those around them. In terms of lighting, minimising shadows and bright reflections can enable family members to relax more.

The Group’s Sundial Care Home uses the skills of an interior designer to make sure anyone living there is as comfortable as possible and this may have helped them in a recent inspection by CGC who rated the home as Outstanding.

4 Comfortably Occupied

Keeping those with dementia, occupied is an important part of care.  Activities improve self-esteem and can reduce loneliness. Walks around the garden or day- trips outside are recommended in the earlier stages of dementia. They are healthy activities and even when later stages have been reached, music is an entertaining way to stay occupied. The part of the brain that deals with the recognition of songs, thankfully remains comparatively unaffected by the condition. Music can still bring pleasure, even when vocal communication is no longer possible.

Person centred care is offered because it increases well-being. The key is being adaptive and observing situations from the resident’s point of view which means problems can often be avoided. If, as happened recently, a family member entered a dining room at 11:30pm, asking for breakfast, the Night Care Team sat them down and offered them breakfast.  Had they tried explaining that it wasn’t breakfast time, and offered a cup of cocoa instead, this would have caused confusion and been disorientating.






5 Comfortably Housed

Making a living area dementia friendly is not a science. Bringing in personal items from former homes is important, such as photos, or a favourite blanket, or even favoured items of furniture that have a long family history, can be moved in. These can provide reassurance and remind the person which room they are in. Making a care home comfortable also means anticipating needs. It means managing pain before it is out of control, it means encouraging someone to rest before fatigue sets in and engaging with someone before they become bored or lonely.

Team Work

This sort of care operation relies on up to 450 skilled care staff and is a 24 hour a day ministration, so the fees charged can be high, but comfort, dementia expertise and safety do not come cheaply. The company spends around £80,000 a year, just on gas. It is not surprising to learn that the number of residential care businesses that went out of business, almost doubled last year, with 148 closures. Accountants have said the introduction of the national living wage has driven up the cost of providing care, but what is the alternative? Uncomfortable and unsafe care?

Comfort in a care environment is about carefully listening and observing to ensure the well-being of everyone is maintained. Or, put another way, it can mean breakfast at 11:30pm sat on a favourite sofa in a home from home.

Jerry Short, Content writer, Evolve Care Group

Afternoon Tea Week at Gibraltar Care Home, Monmouth

Gibraltar Nursing Home, in Monmouth, 79yr-old Michael Green.
Gibraltar Nursing Home, in Monmouth, 79yr-old Michael Green.

Afternoon Tea Week starts on 14th August and is simple to join in. Just pause for afternoon tea as part of your day, sit back and enjoy a nice cuppa which, according the Tea and Infusions Association, will help lift your spirits and keep you going.

Gibraltar Nursing home in Monmouth drink around 150 cups of tea a day and are planning to continue brewing throughout the Afternoon Tea Week. On average in the UK, we each consume 2kg of tea a year, but it hasn’t always been used as a drink.

For centuries, tea was used mainly as a medicine to reduce fevers. It took 3000 years to become an everyday drink and after water, it is the most widely drunk beverage in the world.

The UK consumes 165 million cups of tea each day which is 2000 cups every second. In Gibraltar Nursing Home, the tea drinkers’ favourite brews include English Breakfast and Yorkshire Tea

Some of the Home’s tea drinkers live with dementia and to make their own tea, they are carefully assessed as there are some risks associated with kettle use. Where possible, though, tea making is seen as a positive risk since it maintains an individual’s independence and continues former routines if they made tea for themselves before moving into care. Gibraltar aim to be a Home from home and have small kitchens equipped to look like normal family kitchens.

Research says that Tea is good for you as it contains “polyphenols” — antioxidants that help our bodies fight off disease.

Afternoon Tea Week taps into a British tradition, helping to bring a bit of elegance to an otherwise unremarkable time of day. And, if reading all this has made you thirsty, Gibraltar Nursing Home invite anyone who wants to find out more about what they do and fancies a cuppa, to drop by for a chat and a cup of coffee. Or tea.

Tea Facts

  1. In the UK we drink more tea than water.
  2. Tea bags were first made of silk and were invented to carry samples of tea.
  3. In 1999, 37 people were treated in hospital for injuries caused by tea cosies!

Jerry Short Evolve Care Group

Undressing the Uniform Debate

In a Nursing Times survey in 2014, almost 60% of staff consulted, indicated that they thought uniforms were an important part of the job. It is, like the uniforms, a multi-layered topic that generates strong opinions.

The Evolve Care Group run 6 care and nursing homes across the South West of the UK, employing some 450 carers and offering over a million hours of specialist care, over the last 14 months.

Four years ago, they started discussing the pros and cons of not wearing uniforms. After careful consideration, they decided that this was a good idea because it was in line with their Household Model of Care and would help them minimise the institutionalisation seen in their care homes.


They announced to their Care Teams across the company, that they no longer needed to wear a uniform. By and large, the teams were delighted, but a few carers argued against it. One said that she thought that uniforms were important because they were respected, and it simplified identifying senior carers.

At the time, Health Care Assistant, Rose Pearce, from the group’s Gibraltar Nursing Home in Monmouth, said visitors needed to quickly identify who they could talk to about important care issues and argued to keep the wearing of uniforms.

Talking with her recently, however, she has changed her mind, completely.

She said “It’s not often that I admit that I was wrong, but I was”

She went on to say that within the first few weeks of giving up uniforms, she began to notice the people she cared for, who are referred to as family members by the care teams, started commenting on the clothes she and the other team members wore to work. Nobody had ever commented on the uniforms, before, she said, but since but the change, they were regularly hearing comments such as “I love that top” and “That colour really suits you, dear”

She also noted that the care staff and family members seemed more relaxed and began to realise how divisive uniforms had been, drawing a line between the carers and the cared for.

Being able to choose what to wear for work also meant that staff were able to choose clothes to wear that would be more likely to generate a positive reaction, such as wearing a particular football top when working with a family member who supported that team, or wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a horse, and asking if anyone had ever been horse riding.

Communication levels between carer and cared for, increased, as did the level of wellbeing.

Although uniforms made it easier to recognise care staff, this was primarily benefitting visitors to the Home. For the family members, especially if they were living with dementia, seeing a uniform was not something they were used to seeing in their own homes and could increase levels of anxiety. Also, from the Care Teams’ point of view, uniforms could be uncomfortable and poorly designed, or cheaply made. It also seemed that some people had an antipathy towards uniforms. This may have its roots in our history of associating them with war or the emergency services or even school bullies.

Nocturnally, the care teams were encouraged to wear night attire, such as dressing gowns and pyjamas, so that if a family member rose in the night and saw a carer in a nightie or pyjamas, this seemed normal, but had the carer been wearing a uniform, this could have become problematic.

Evolve’s bold policy change has won favour with the CQC which recently rated one of its homes as Outstanding. Inspectors found that no uniforms promoted an “inclusive family environment” and minimised confusion for people living with dementia.

Having received top marks and approval from CQC, the Group now plans to roll out its innovative model of care with an ambitious £75m acquisition and new development plan.”  Jerry Short

The Positive Risks of Having a Cuppa

For somebody living with Dementia, you may think that making a cup of tea is possibly a risky venture, but always putting safety first denies that person the right of choice and self-determination, which can lead to a loss of self-esteem, increased dependence, and does not support the principles of person-centred care.

At Gibraltar Nursing Home, one of twelve care homes run by the Evolve Care Group, they specialise in both retirement homes and in offering person-centred care for people living with dementia. Part of this is using positive risk acceptance as part of that care.

Visitors could be forgiven for thinking the Home is more like a boutique hotel than a care organisation yet 10% of the home’s residents live with dementia. There is a restaurant, cinema, library, beauty salon, hydro-therapy pool and internet café, all set within the heart of breath-taking Welsh scenery.

They do things a little differently at Gibraltar, compared to more traditional care homes. For instance, they call their residents, Family Members, and have a no uniform policy which has a positive effect on the dynamics in each home.

When new Family Members arrive, they are allocated into small groups with other Family Members. These groups are as much like a home environment as possible. The kitchens look like many you would find in any comfortable, family home across the country.

Here, the Care Team know that changes to a former breakfast routine for instance, can cause confusion and consternation. This is where positive risk acceptance comes in.  Making a cup of tea, with a kettle of boiling water, has obvious risks associated with it. It is easy to see the negatives around people in care being given free range in a modern kitchen, but the benefits of ‘positive risk-taking’ often outweigh the harmful consequences of avoiding risk, altogether.

Nationally, kitchen accidents injure 250,000 each year. Most assume the kitchen is the most dangerous room in a house, but surprisingly, statistics show that more accidents occur on the stairs and in the lounge, than the kitchen. The most common kitchen accidents are knife cuts, followed by slipping on the floor, and thirdly, accidents involving kettles. But any risks undertaken in Gibraltar Care Home, are carefully assessed.

Wherever possible, if Family Members are considered able to make hot drinks themselves, that is encouraged. Care Team members observe this from a respectful distance, to keep an eye on things. Using a kettle or spreading jam with a butter knife, are considered risks that enable older people to have more control and therefore, more choice in their lives. This maintains Family Members’ independence for as long as possible and for anyone living with dementia, this is important feel-good factor.

Michael Greene resides at Gibraltar Gare Home and says that being able to make a cuppa whenever he wants, makes living in Gibraltar much more like living at home and that is the ethos of the Home’s care policy. They use what they call a “Household Model” of care, so named because they’re aiming to create a true continuation of life at home. They thoroughly research each life history, getting to know likes, interests and abilities – Only by knowing this, can they understand who each person is, and assess the positive risks that can be taken to help them. Gibraltar say care homes are an extension of life, not an end to it.

Gibraltar Nursing Home, Monmouth, and the World Cup

All over the UK, football fans are glued to their screens, watching the drama unfold in high definition. At Gibraltar Care Home, in Monmouth, it is no different. They call their residents, Family Members, and in numerous lounges, they have TVs on, showing the World Cup matches.

One of those Family Members is 80-year-old, George Jarvis, known as John to his friends. He is an ardent West Ham and England fan, and lives in care at the home and his long-term football memories are still strong.

In 1949 he played for West Ham Boys after a scout noticed him kicking a ball around. When asked what position he played, George had said “All of them”

The scout smiled down at him saying “We’ve got a right cocky one ‘ere. You can start next week!”

When asked why football was so popular in this country, George didn’t hesitate.

“Because it’s so easy to play. All you need is a ball and some friends to play with. You don’t need proper equipment – You just make goalposts from coats”

The fact that a third of England’s 1966 World Cup team, including Martin Peters, Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles, now have dementia and Ray Wilson recently passed away with it, highlights how common the condition is, affecting 1 in 6 people over 80. Happily, George is unaffected by it.

I asked him who he thought would win. He paused and smiled as if to make sure he’d heard me correctly. His voice was soft and clear.

“There’s no choice is there? England. It’s got to be England”

He turned to look at me.

“I mean, we invented the game, didn’t we?”

Gibraltar Nursing Home in Monmouth are Jumping For Dementia

Two of the marketing team from Gibraltar Nursing Home, in Monmouth, have just raised around £1000 for the Alzheimer’s Society in two sponsored parachute jumps. 10% of those being cared for at Gibraltar, live with dementia and Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

Jessica Caine and Luke Barnett took to the sky on Sunday 5th August from Dunkeswell Airfield in Devon and jumped, each attached to their instructors.

Jessica had parachuted once before, and said the views were incredible, but it was Luke’s first jump. Prior to taking off, he admitted to being terrified of heights, preferring his feet planted firmly on the ground.  Shortly after landing he said “It was all over so quickly, I didn’t have time to be scared”

They jumped from 15,000 feet, any higher would require oxygen tanks, and within seconds, they were plummeting downwards at 120mph in a tandem jump, which is the easiest of all skydives. It requires only 30 minutes of training before jumping, each strapped to a British Parachute Association Tandem Instructor. Jessica and Luke said that jumping was a truly unforgettable experience, and a fantastic way to raise funds for their chosen charity.

They raised enough money to pay for 2 years’ worth of clinical trial drugs to search for an effective treatment for vascular dementia. Speaking afterwards, they said the day was a total success for both Gibraltar Nursing Home, and for Alzheimer’s Society.

Jerry Short, Evolve Care Group

3 Surprising Parachuting Facts

  • There is a sport called Banzai Skydiving. You throw the parachute out of the airplane first and then jump out after it and put it on whilst freefalling. The world-record wait before jumping out is 50 seconds!
  • Afraid of flying, Muhammad Ali spent his first flight praying with a parachute strapped to his back. He was heading to Rome
  • In the 1940s the Idaho Fish and Game Dept relocated beavers into the wilderness by dropping them out of airplanes with parachutes
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