National Book Lover’s Day

National book lovers day at Gibraltar nursing home with Veronica Weir.
August 9th is National Book Lover’s Day

August 9th celebrates National Book Lover’s Day which is designed to encourage people to pick up a book and spend the day reading.

In Monmouth’s Gibraltar Nursing Home, they have a well-stocked library, so it is easy for any of the “family members” who live there, to help themselves to a book to read, or if they have limited mobility, request one. They can choose from literary classics right up to the latest crime thriller.

76-year-old Veronica Weir moved to the home a couple of months ago and is a self-confessed book worm.

“Reading is a fabulous pastime. I think reading is like going on an adventure” she says.

“One of my favourites is Tolstoy’s “War & Peace” but at over 1200 pages long it does take a while to get through”.

Veronica knows more about books than most as she went on to write and publish her own.

“They say there’s a book in all of us, so I decided to sit down and write mine. I self-published it on a website called Lulu, and I called it “Coffee.” It was written under my pen name of Claire Jensen.

“It’s about magical events that followed the unearthing of an old pot when a garden was dug over and involves a genie.”

Veronica’s love of books began in the 1940s when she was taught to read by her Mother and loved the exciting world of literature that offered a means of escape from the norm.

She went on to become one of Europe’s top computer salespeople and was even consulted when the Royal Household requested their first computer system to log the thousands of priceless works of art in the UK’s 36 palaces.

Studies have shown…

Studies have shown that reading can not only be entertaining but can also have proven health benefits. Reading helps reduce stress levels, improves focus and concentration, and can improve sleep patterns. Intriguingly, science has proven that those who read are also much more likely to be empathetic and understanding of others.

Veronica agrees with this although she is not a fan of the growing world of electronic books, preferring the feel of a real printed novel in her hands. There is always a pile of books in her well-lit and comfortable room in the Home.

“I feel sorry for anyone that has not discovered the joys that reading can bring” she says. “The young of today can have such a short attention span. I think that writers like J.K Rowling should be applauded.”

It is great to know that good old-fashioned books have enriched the lives of so many people in the world and continue to do so in Gibraltar Nursing Home. When asked how she will spend Book Lover’s Day, Victoria smiles and say she will just pop down the hallway to the library and pick up a new thriller to spend the day with.

We will be celebrating National Book Lover’s day here –

Read more of our News here –

Jerry Short, care writer


A Bard’s View on Dementia


April is Poetry Month, at least in the USA. Over here we tend to join in but maintain our British feeling of literary superiority because our lists of poems and famous poets are much longer than those of our American cousins and I’m pretty sure that most of us can quote a line or two from Wordsworth. Poetry is designed to make the beauty of words visible and I had recently come across some poems written by a senior governance nurse, Karen Tidy, that focus not on daffodils or clouds, but dementia care.  A subject that is not the most obvious to write verses about.

Karen is at the centre of Evolve Care Group and supports 6 care and nursing homes, one of which is Gibraltar Nursing Home, in Monmouth, and I thought her poems offered a fascinating insight into the world of dementia care.  As a senior governance nurse her work involves supporting everyone within all the homes to maintain their best physical and emotional well-being.

The individuals that Karen supports at Gibraltar are always referred to as family members and some happen to live with dementia which is a difficult condition that gradually erodes all the nuances and subtleties that make you who you are. The home uses a “Household Model of Care” which aims to create a true continuation of home life and means that choice and remaining independent for as long as possible is at the forefront of everything they do.

I was interested in discovering how such a dark subject could inspire Karen and ask, in this age of watching movies on our phones and having Australia in the Eurovision Song Contest, is there is still a place for writing poetry in the 21st Century?

When I met Karen, I noted that she had kind, smiling eyes and a shy disposition. Within seconds of me asking how she got into caring, she told me how her father had passed away when she was just ten, she immediately embraced the role of caring for her siblings which made the move into professional caring a logical and natural step for her as soon as she was old enough.  She talked passionately about how much she loves what she does and being in the homes, helping people is second nature to her.  She says that knowing that she is making a real difference keeps her going.

Her love of poetry comes purely from her emotions and the words seem to simply pop into her head, prompted by what she sees, feels or hears. She finds it hard to write planned poetry, much preferring to write rhyming lines spontaneously.  I was busy scrawling my notes trying to keep up with her when she said something that struck me as poignant.

She explained that a few years ago, she had been on a specialist course that taught end of life care and said that seeing people confined to their beds who were unable to verbalise got her wondering what they were thinking and feeling. She says it is imperative that the people she cares for are still spoken to and included in discussions. As soon as you stop doing that, she explained, the person becomes part of a conveyer belt system, on their way to their end.

She also became acutely aware of how hard it must be for them to lie in bed and hear laughter from passers-by in the hallways outside.

She concluded by saying that caring is like music. A silent music, and the most important thing for a carer is to have a big heart. I knew at that point that we need more carers like Karen, who gives a new meaning to the term nursing care. And in case you’re wondering, yes, there is a place for poetry in the 21st Century.

An excerpt from Let’s Just Get It Right ©Karen Tidy 2016

The level of care and support that we give,

Dictates the standard of life that they live.

Time and attention, and a listening ear

Will dictate a plan of care that is clear.

Likes and dislikes, one sugar or two,

Walk with a Zimmer, with slippers or shoes.

A bath or a shower, which they like best,

A bra, a T-shirt or old stringy vest.

To eat at the table, with a spoon or a fork,

To sit there in silence or choosing to talk.

“I like rice, not potatoes, crackers not bread

Coffee not tea, I like that instead.”

Oh, please give me choices,

I know I can’t speak

Then show me a picture of what I may eat.

Wearing my night wear on top of my clothes,

Or my makeup all smudgy right over my nose.

Does this really matter? At least I have tried,

And managed to maintain independence and pride.

When I go to the toilet, please give me a chance,

Don’t stand there and hold me, then pull down my pants.

You make me feel frightened, you fill me with fright,

Then I just react with a kick and a fight,

And then I am labelled – it’s not really my fault

It’s a natural response to a downright assault.


Home Helps Former Nurse Celebrate International Nurses’ Day

Hospitals and care homes across the country celebrated International Nurses Day on 12th May but it is not just practicing nurses who joined in, but former nurses, too.

Gibraltar Nursing Home in Monmouth are delighted to have a retired SRN nurse living with them. Barbara Jones (nee Morgan) is 86-years-old and started her training to be a nurse in 1951 when she was just eighteen. She worked at the Royal Gwent hospital in 1952 before becoming a district nurse in the early 1960s, based at the Caer Mawr Road Surgery in Caldicot.

She was a nurse for 40 years until illness meant she had to retire in 1989. Her daughter, Ruth Bishop, said she was much loved by her colleagues and patients, many of whom still fondly remember her.

In 2016 Barbara moved to Gibraltar Nursing Home in Monmouth and immediately she felt the difference between a home from yesteryear and to the home of today. Gone were the days of an institution, and in came no uniforms, no set mealtimes, no lights out by ten, and fine décor as you would expect when walking into anyone’s home. You felt safe, comfortable and a sense of belonging as you walked around. The care is always person-centred and previous life histories are celebrated and the home puts choice and remaining independent for as long as possible at the forefront of everything.

When asked if this was very different to the type of care offered when she started nursing, Barbara nodded her agreement. The methods are certainly much better, now and it was a lot stricter when she started but she always tried to nurse with kindness.

There have been some huge advances in medicine since Barbara started her training. The amount of time spent in hospital recovering after operations has reduced hugely and diseases such as smallpox and polio have now disappeared in the UK. Barbara says the Care Team at the nursing home are excellent. High praise indeed, coming from somebody that knows more than most about health care.

The 12th May was chosen to celebrate Nurses Day as it is the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birth, so perfect for celebrating the role of nurses everywhere. Most people agree that it’s a beautiful thing when a career and passion can come together. Claire Knight, Clinical Lead at Gibraltar Nursing Home, agrees. She said: “International Nurses Day presented us with the perfect opportunity to say thank you to Barbara because she dedicated her life to caring for others and as carers and nurses ourselves, we really wanted to help her celebrate.

Family Member Has a Boat Named After Him

One of Our Family Members has a Boat Named after Him

All of Gibraltar Nursing Home’s family members are loved and accepted for who they are, always treated with dignity and given as much independence as possible. And all are considered legends, but only one is a legend in the world of rowing and has recently had a boat named after him!

83-year-old, John Hartland has been living at Gibraltar for the last four years and has an astonishing life history. He was the Master In charge of rowing at Monmouth School for Boys' Rowing Club for nearly 30 years and formed the Monmouth School for Girls Rowing Club in 1990. He also led the Welsh rowing team to the 1986 Commonwealth Games and was chairman of Welsh Rowing for helping more than 30 Monmouth rowers go on to win GB caps, including Olympic medallists Colin Moynihan and Charlie Wiggin, double Olympic gold medal coach Robin Williams, and his own son, two-time world medallist, James Hartland.
John and his family decided he would move to Gibraltar after discovering he lived with Alzheimer’s which is a condition the home is excellent in providing care for. Gibraltar boasts a home from home feel with stylish décor, along with a hydrotherapy pool, cinema and restaurant, or private dining if preferred.

On Saturday 6th April 2019, a sleek, new racing 8 was named after him in a ceremony at Monmouth Boys School Rowing Club. At the naming were Olympic medallist Charlie Wiggin and former Cambridge Boat Race chief coach, Robin Williams, who guided the GB women's pair to two Olympic golds.
John’s wife, Ann Hartland, grandsons, Ben and Will, daughter, Kate Callaghan, the Head of Rowing at Monmouth School for Girls, and son, British veteran champion, Nick Hartland were there and watched proudly as Anne christened the boat with champagne, pleasing the large crowd of well-wishers that had assembled.
John Griffiths from Monmouth Boys' School said, “This is the first new empacher eight that has been bought by any club in Wales and it is fitting that it should be named after a man that did so much for Welsh rowing.”
Son, Nick Hartland said, "As a family, we’re all delighted with this honour for Dad and he will be touched when I tell him how many came to the naming of this fantastic new racing eight.”
He went on to say “There were some huge achievements for John; a first 8s appearance and race win at Henley Royal Regatta in the 1960s, a Henley semi-final in the 1980s, and a first-ever National Schools Championship title.”
“Although he couldn’t attend the ceremony, the sport and the River Wye flow through his veins and the fact that the rowing club has seen fit to name the boat after him, will take his link with the club into the future.”
A large portion of the sizable crowd at the ceremony were rowers and he concluded by saying “With Dad’s name on the bows, he will be there in spirit, rowing every single stroke with you.”

Jerry Short, from the home, attended the naming and said “ What he has done for, not just rowing, but for Wales, too, is truly remarkable and I know that every single member of the Gibraltar Care Team and all the other family members in the home, are very proud of him, and delighted, that he is living with us.”

Gibraltar Nursing Home, wins second 5-star rating

The kitchens at Gibraltar Nursing Home in Monmouth were awarded a maximum 5-star hygiene rating for the 2nd year running when they were visited by a Food Standards Agency inspector on Wednesday, 27th February 2019.
Head Chef, Rosemary Mecklenburgh, said she was delighted with the rating and said it was due to her hard-working team. “I am so proud of them. As a busy chef, it is vital that our kitchens are kept spotlessly clean and that we always offer choices that are both healthy and tasty.” She went on to say that on Fridays they always offer a fish dish with mushy peas and chips, but every part will be home-made. We like to do things properly here. It’s nothing but the best for our family members.” The home offers 3 daily choices and that will always include a plant-based dish. “These days, vegetarianism is becoming increasingly popular.”
The home has 95-beds, so to cook that many meals, the kitchens are humming with activity for much of the day. Rosemary has worked off and on at the home for the last six years and when asked how she felt when she heard about the rating she smiled, before saying “Very, very, proud"

In the photo,  L-R, Kitchen Assistant, Debbie Taylor, Head Chef, Rosemary Mecklenburgh and Kitchen Porter, Maggie Pritchard

Valerie’s Stress Free Move

Care Writer, Jerry Short, visited Gibraltar Nursing Home to talk to their newest family member, 86-year old Valerie Jacques, to find out how the change to living in the newly refurbished nursing home had gone for her.
He said “Gibraltar is nestled at the top of a hill overlooking, not the sparkling Mediterranean as the name might imply, but the more Celtic vista of Monmouth.
“Moving into a care home is one of life’s biggest moves, akin to moving out of your parent’s house. I was keen to find out how it had gone for her, as big moves can be stressful and at 86, stress is the last thing Valerie would have wanted.

The welcome I received when I arrived in the reception area was as warm as an Iberian summer. I explained that I was visiting Valerie, who had moved in just twelve days prior to my arrival. Gibraltar always refers to their residents as family members and operates as being a real home from home. For example, the care team chose to wear comfortable, everyday clothes instead of uniforms, and family members are given as much independence as possible and can make drinks or snacks in small “family-type” kitchens, whenever they want. The home feels as much like a family house as possible.

As I walked through the home, I noticed one of the dining rooms had a group of bridge players battling it out, their laughter followed me down the hallway. I had no idea bridge was such a fun game. We walked on past a library, a cinema and even a heated hydrotherapy pool.
Valerie’s room was warm and comfortable and after being introduced, I asked if she had settled in yet. She nodded.
“Oh yes, I was made to feel welcome as soon as I arrived” she told me. “I moved here after having a few falls, so we thought it best for me to move to Gibraltar where they understand limited mobility.” She smiled and leaned forward in her wheelchair.
“Within a very short time,” she continued, “I felt supported and confident enough to be able to walk to my bathroom with just a walking-frame. I hadn’t been able to do that for ages.”
I asked her how she passed her time in the home. “I enjoy the music,” she told me, “I even joined in, despite the fact I can’t sing”. She also said she loved reading the broadsheets. “I’m a bit of a snob” she teased, “I do like keeping informed. But what I really like most is chatting. I can talk all day. Ask anyone here what I’m like and they’ll tell you what a chatterbox I am.”

Valerie explained that she had learned to talk to older people when she worked as a pension advisor.
I asked her if the move into Gibraltar had gone easily. “Yes, they know what they’re doing here,” she told me, going on to say she felt welcome and included. Inclusion is a key part of maintaining everyone’s well-being.
She added “I’m really looking forward to the weather warming up as I’ve heard they have great BBQs here.” I follow her gaze out across the misty treetops through the window and I am sure we are both imagining hot food sizzling. As I walked back along the hallway, I make a note to myself to come back in the summer to revisit Valerie, hopefully on a BBQ day.
Jerry Short, Care Writer.

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

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