Dylan’s transition to residential care made an immediate difference to the quality of his life; within weeks he was calmer and after a month or so appeared to be positively enjoying himself. Early in Dylan’s transition I identified three factors which I thought were contributing to his successful transition. In the course of the last 85 days I’ve revisited some of these factors and explored other possible explanations but haven’t fundamentally changed my mind: diet, communication and activities seem to me to have been key.
I’ve written about diet in these daily bulletins and described some features of Dylan’s communication system. I’ve also referred to specific activities, such as Dylan’s social enterprise work, and sometimes shared photographs from Dylan’s trips out. What I’ve only touched on briefly, however, is the thought that goes into planning Dylan’s weekly schedule.
Dylan’s programme (like that of all the residents) is individualised and designed to meet his particular needs. The activities coordinator has identified that while Dylan needs some structure and routine he also responds to change and variety. Each week, therefore, Dylan’s programme contains something which is new as well as some routine activities. This balance of change and familiarity seems to reassure Dylan while preventing him from becoming bored.
Dylan’s familiar and reassuring activities are the ones in which he has a special interest or from which he derives particular therapeutic benefit. Dylan responds well to sports, for example, and enjoys ice skating, trampolining, cycling and swimming. Rather than schedule all of these activities each week, however, the activities coordinator has selected swimming as Dylan’s regular physical activity as this seems to provide most benefit, creating space for other activities too (additional sports are scheduled on a carousel basis). Similarly, rather than schedule all of Dylan’s arts activities (museum, library, art gallery, cinema) on a regular basis, only his weekly library visit is fixed.
Dylan loves his varying activities; each week, when his schedule is published, he pores over it, pointing at activities he is especially curious about or looking forward to. Sometimes a ‘one-off’ activity doesn’t go quite to plan; trips have had to be aborted due to queues, closures and timing problems. Dylan seems to cope better with these disappointments and changes of plan, however, than with the frustration of a routine activity going wrong.
I was concerned, therefore, to hear at Dylan’s recent review that there had been problems with his library visit. Apparently the staff at the library which Dylan had joined had not been especially supportive. In particular, they were unhappy that Dylan had sometimes removed library labels from his books. Dylan may or may not have picked up the less than warm welcome from library staff but the care home staff were in no doubt about it and had raised the issue with their manager. ‘I think we’ll try the local library instead’, the manager suggested at Dylan’s review.
Dylan has been using public libraries all his life and this is the first time he has not been made welcome. He has used small local libraries and a large central lending library without an issue; on the contrary, staff at our local library looked forward to Dylan’s visit and would put books aside for him which they thought he might like. I never enjoy negative encounters with public services but I am especially dismayed that library staff should fail to include Dylan. Lending libraries are a public service, provided for all members of a community; at a time when such services are under threat (several libraries in my own local authority have closed recently) they should surely be demonstrating their relevance and accessibility to all members of the public, and particularly the vulnerable and those with additional needs.
Dylan’s weekly library visit was scheduled for today. Staff at the smaller branch library which Dylan has been attending recently have, apparently, been more welcoming so I’m assuming all went well this morning. To end on a more positive note, staff at the cafe where Dylan used to go following his library visits have, apparently, been especially welcoming; their attitude is so positive, in fact, that Dylan is being supported to continue to go there, even though it now involves driving there from the new library location. The positive inclusion, and continuity for Dylan, is worth it 🙂