Rocester school pupils share the joy of reading

Students from Ryecroft C.E. Middle School are stimulating memories and bringing laughter to residents thanks to a reading scheme that’s brought the two together.

Every Friday a group of year 7 and 8 pupils spend an hour with residents, reading to them and chatting, as well as playing games and doing crafts.

Their reading helps residents to relax, recall memories that bring them comfort and they enjoy the positive energy the young people bring.

Zara Jackson reads to 82 year old Doreen Bell
Zara Jackson reads to 82 year old Doreen Bell

“Our residents don’t always remember they’ve seen particular student,” said activities manager, Karen O’Moore, “but they always enjoy the sound of their voices and the stories they read.

“We can see how they relax with them and there’s often a lot of laughter.  Being with the children helps them to think of younger family members or even their own childhoods.

“In those days, it was an exciting book and a torch under the bedclothes rather than a smart phone!”

The visits are something particularly enjoyed by Bill Smith, 92. He’s formed a special relationship with 11 year old Jack Moore, whose mum, Alison, is a senior carer at the home.

“Bill’s really nice, he’s really funny and we got on straight away,” said Jack. “I’ll be reading to him and suddenly he’ll remember something.  We’ll talk about that for a bit, then carry on.

“I was a bit shy to start with as I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I don’t really know anyone who has dementia, but Bill’s so easy to be with – he’s like a grandad.”

“I wish he came every day,” said Bill. “I love seeing all the children but he’s especially good company.”

The visits are part of the school’s ‘Options’ scheme – a lesson each week that pupils spend following an interest or learning a new skill.

“We weren’t sure how many children would take up the option of visiting a care home but there’s been great enthusiasm from the students,” said headteacher, Rachael Baramuszczak.

“We felt this was an important option for them. The school is just a mile away from Barrowhill Hall so it is a way for our pupils to contribute something very positive to their community. It gives them an immense amount of pride and satisfaction.”

The pupils largely spend their time in the main lounge but will take books up to residents who find it difficult to leave their rooms.

12 year old Zara Jackson is another of the students who chose to visit Barrowhill Hall.

“I wanted to come here to help me build my confidence,” she said. “I love talking to the residents and they really listen to me when I read to them.

“And it’s great to know that I’m doing something that makes them happy.”



Staff climb Mt Snowdon for families living with dementia

A huge ‘congratulations!’ and a well-earned rest are due for our team of staff who completed a five mile climb up Mount Snowdon to raise money for families living with dementia.

The four staff made the near 250 mile round trip to north Wales on Saturday 15th September. They took two and a half hours to reach the 1,000m peak.

September is World Alzheimer’s Month and the staff organised their ‘Memory Walk’ in aid of the Alzheimer’s Society. Barrowhill Hall is home to 74 residents, many of whom are living with dementia.

Our activity co-ordinators Val Barnes and Becky Dalton, and carers Amy Farrell and Becky Buckley, took part in the climb

“It was a fantastic if exhausting day,” said Val. “We weren’t sure if we’d be able to do it but we were thrilled to get to the top!

“We’re so passionate about the work that we do and we wanted to show that by completing this challenge.”

The team also comprised Ann Parker and Michele Millward, teachers from Abbotsholme School in Rocester. Children from the school visit us every Monday to spend time playing and chatting with residents.

Ann and Michele enjoying the climb
Ann and Michele enjoying the climb

“Our little ones have gained a great deal of understanding about dementia over the last few months, and so have we,” said Ann. “We were very keen to support Barrowhill’s fundraising and the support they show for families living with dementia – even when they’re not at work!

“The climb was amazing and we’re so glad we were part of it.”

The team is hoping to raise £500 for the Alzheimer’s Society. To donate to their fundraising page visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/barrowhill-hall-dementia-care-home



“My nursing staff saved my life!”

Our manager, Martin, is happily now back at work after his nursing team saved him from a potentially fatal heart attack.

Too much cake?

Martin left work on the 31st of January in considerable discomfort that he put down to cake he’d enjoyed with residents in Churnet Lodge. Despite pain in his chest that woke him up during the night, he came to work the next morning.

“He didn’t feel right and he asked me to get him some lemonade,” said his deputy manager, Rhiannon McGirr, who has more than 20 years’ nursing experience.  “He thought the bubbles might help him bring up wind.”

“But as soon as I saw him I knew he needed an ambulance.”

Life saving advice

Martin eventually agreed for paramedics to be called. They took him to the Royal Stoke University Hospital where he was immediately prepped for surgery to fit stents into his arteries.

“I know I have an amazing team but I think they really did save my life,” said Martin. “The ironic thing about this is that I used to work as a cardiac nurse!

“I’d convinced myself it was just trapped wind or indigestion.  But I think the fact that I asked for Rhiannon shows that I knew what was happening and I needed her help and expertise.”

Barrowhill Hall was a recent finalist in the ‘Best Nursing Care’ category of the national Care Home Awards.

Changing his lifestyle

Since his heart attack, Martin has been going for nightly walks around Bath Pool.  He has cut red meat from his diet and hasn’t touched a single one of his much-loved cigarettes. He’s lost two stone in weight and wants to lose two more.

“I know how to look after my residents but I haven’t been looking after myself,” he said. “My blood pressure was too high and so was my cholesterol.”

The episode was immensely worrying for his wife Erica, and their two sons Jacob, 18, and Tobias, seven.

“Toby said to me, “Daddy, if I give you a piece of my heart will it make yours better?”” remembered Martin. “It moved me so much. The changes I’m making now are as much for my family as they are for me.”

Martin is now planning a fundraising challenge for the British Heart Foundation.

“The charity has been a great source of support,” he said, “especially in coming to terms with the fact it was me this time – you always think these things happen to someone else.

“I want everyone to be aware of their heart health – you might think you don’t have the time because you’re caring for other people but you won’t be able to do that at all if the worst happens.”



Dementia-friendly garden design planned by Bob Flowerdew

Celebrity gardener and favourite of Radio 4’s ‘Gardeners’ Question Time, Bob Flowerdew, has pledged to create a dementia-friendly garden design for our residents.

Mr Flowerdew was the special guest at our celebrations for National Care Home Open Day on Saturday 21st April.

He chatted to visitors and answered their gardening questions as well as admiring and photographing the spectacular views.

National Care Home Open Day is an annual event that gives people the chance to visit their local care home.

Linking communities

This year’s theme was ‘linking communities’ and we certainly did that!  We welcomed Kinglsey Bird and Falconry Centre, Bamford Engine and Machinery Group, St Michael’s Church in Rocester, Tesco’s in Uttoxeter and the 22nd Signal Regiment from MOD Stafford.

Mr Flowerdew well-understands the needs of people with dementia.  His mother Pam lived with the condition for several years.

“She loved to sit in the garden,” he said.  “She wasn’t able to communicate very much in the later stages but she always seemed happier being able to see flowers around her.

The scent of lavender

“Scent was very stimulating for her.  The smell of bacon cooking brought out a single memory of “Dad’s shop” when she hadn’t spoken for close to a year so I’m planning to use lots of scented plants at Barrowhill Hall.

“Beds of old fashioned lavender will give a wonderful smell and colour.  It’s a safer plant than roses whose thorns can be a danger.

“I’ll also be thinking about seating and building in raised beds so residents can do planting without having to bend down.

Our care quality manager, Geoff Aris, said; “We would like to thank Mr Flowerdew, and all of those community groups and volunteers who made the Day such a success.

“It’s very important to us to make sure Barrowhill Hall, and all of our residents, are still very much part of their community.

“And with a beautiful, tailored garden design to look forward to we hope to welcome more local people to enjoy our home.”



Celebrity gardener joins us on Care Home Open Day

Join us for our open day on Saturday 21st April where you’ll have the opportunity to put your questions to pioneering organic gardener Bob Flowerdew.

The veteran panelist of Radio 4’s ‘Gardeners’ Question Time’ will be with us for National Care Home Open Day.

As well as meeting Bob you can enjoy a falconry display, a miniature steam railway, live music, a range of stalls, refreshments and the chance to win a hamper courtesy of Tesco in Uttoxeter!

Win champagne!

Visit the event on our Facebook page and tell us you’re ‘going’ and we’ll enter you into the draw to win a case of champagne!

Gardening for dementia

Bob will also be advising us on how to re-design part of our garden to make it more dementia-friendly.  Being outdoors has a positive impact on wellbeing and we want to make sure our residents can access it safely.  Plus, it has to meet their needs and their interests.

Bob Flowerdew will help us to redesign this space for our residents with dementia

Join us 2.00pm – 6.00pm

Care Home Open Day is when we throw open our doors so you can see that moving into a home means you’re still very much part of your community.

Our event is FREE!

You can meet our staff and ask us about our care as well as enjoying a fun day out with all the family.

We look forward to seeing you!



“Pimp my Zimmer kids!”

Residents have had their traditionally bland walking frames ‘pimped up’ by their young friends at Abbotsholme School.

The children have been making brightly-coloured pom-poms and sparkly stars in their weekly visits to us.

The decorations have been used to brighten up the grey Zimmer frames many of the residents use.  The youngsters have also been wrapping them in colourful streamers and personalising them with people’s names.

National project

‘Pimp my Zimmer’ is a national initiative started by a care worker in Essex who realised residents often struggled to identify their own walking frame.

The scheme, which began in 2015, is also designed to improve mobility and has helped reduce falls in some homes by 60%.

“This has been fantastic fun for us and the children,” said Barrowhill Hall’s activities coordinator Val Barnes.

“The children visit us every Monday afternoon and they’ve really enjoyed bringing some colour to what is an extremely dull but hugely important piece of equipment.”

The children visit Churnet Lodge which offers residential care and care for people in the early stages of dementia.

“We are yet to see what impact the pimped up frames will have on people’s mobility,” said Val, “but we are seeing a change in people’s mood – the bright colours and the memories of the fun they had decorating them put a smile on their faces and that’s lovely to see.”

“I’m proud of my frame.”

97 year old Peggy Hughes has enjoyed the experience with six year old Rory and four year old Jensen.

“We’ve had such a lot of fun together,” she said.  “Mine is covered in pink and blue pom-poms, I’ve got stickers and pink bows and stars.

“I would never choose to use something grey but walking frames don’t come in any other colours!  I’m proud of it, I want to get up and move so I can show it off!”




Soldiers’ visit brings back precious memories for Ian, living with dementia at 53

Soldiers from MOD Stafford brought back precious memories of a Forces career to Ian Burton, who at 50 years old was diagnosed with behaviourial variant fronto-temporal dementia.

The condition can bring about changes in behaviour and personality.  As it progresses can affect the person’s memory and ability to speak.

Now aged 53, Ian lives with us at Churnet Lodge, where soldiers from the 22nd Signal Regiment visited him.

“Ian loved his Army career,” said his wife, Wendy. “He joined aged 21 and served with the Signals, working all over the world including the Falkland Islands and Iraq.

“Because it’s not that long ago since he left, the soldiers who came to Churnet Lodge remembered some of the people he served with.  They loved looking at his old photographs.

“Ian doesn’t have much speech now but you could see how engaged and how happy he was that they were there.”

Ian completed 22 years of service then became a technical support worker for Derbyshire Police.  But as he approached his 50th birthday the signs of his condition began to emerge.

“He was one of their best staff,” remembers Wendy, “but the nature of his type of dementia meant he lost the ability to plan and carry out tasks as he had been doing.  He had to medically retire two years ago.”

Dementia is ‘young onset’ when it affects people under the age of 65.  There are an estimated 42,000 people with the condition in the UK although the actual figure could be higher because it can be difficult to diagnose.

“A pleasure and an honour.”


Staff Sergeant David Tuck, Captain Becky Parkinson and Corporal Patrick Hearne also spent time talking to residents who’d served in the Navy, the RAF and the Army.

“It was a pleasure and an honour to meet Ian and the other residents,” said Staff Sergeant Tuck.

“Since our visit we’ve been able to identify and contact a number of people who remember Ian and they are making plans to visit him.”

SSgt Tuck also asked if he could take Ian’s medals with him to remount them as their ribbons were showing some wear.  He and his colleagues returned them in pristine condition the next day.

Val Barnes, our activities co-ordinator, helped to organise the visit.  “Active reminiscence is so important for people with dementia.  Ian clearly enjoyed the soldiers being here and the effects of their visit stayed with him all weekend. It had a huge impact on many of our other residents, too.”

Wendy, who works as a dementia advisor for the charity Making Space in Derby, makes a 40 mile round-trip three times a week to see her husband.  Churnet Lodge is one of the few care homes in the area able to cater for people with young onset dementia.

“I spent a year trying to find somewhere suitable for him,” said Wendy.  “Churnet Lodge feels like home to him and to me.”

“Organising visits like this shows how much care they put into making life meaningful for Ian and everyone else who lives here.  I can’t wait to see how rediscovering his friends and colleagues will benefit him.”