Helmsdale Community Christmas Dinner took place earlier this month at the Community Centre with more than 80 members of the local community enjoying a freshly cooked meal, carol singing and great company.
This year’s dinner was provided by the team behind our Dinner To Your Door service, which launched in September. Chef Margaret Finlayson, with her team of volunteer serving and waiting staff, had hot roast dinners in front of everyone in less than fifteen minutes and service of the Christmas pudding and Eton Mess desserts was equally efficient.
Wendy Simmonds, Project Lead for the Helmsdale Health and Well-being Hub, led the carol singing with glorious renditions of Silent Night, O Come All Ye Faithful and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
Karina Ross, Social Programme Manager for our sister-company Creative Communities and organiser of the Community Christmas Dinner said “The event wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for our volunteers. Making sure everything went smoothly was a definite team effort. Everyone got stuck in and did what needed to be done. The feedback we got from people was fantastic.”
All proceeds from the raffle and additional donations on the night were split equally between Dinner To Your Door and the Helmsdale Christmas Lights Committee.
The celebration continued outside the Community Centre as the Sutherland School’s Pipe Band made their way along Dunrobin Street and gave an outstanding performance in the Helmsdale Community Centre car park. This was followed by the switching on of the Community Centre’s Christmas lights and a firework display wowed the crowds.
Yesterday at the Helmsdale Village Hub we welcomed Bess the collie and her owner Nikki. Bess is a PAT (Pet As Therapy) dog and has been assessed to make sure she is safe to work with both older and younger people.
Bess was a huge hit with one of our Hub members in particular. Hub staff found themselves getting quite emotional at how attached she immediately became to Bess and how happy she was for the rest of the afternoon. The lady had once owned a collie herself and spoke enthusiastically about her experience as a dog owner. A number of our other members also reminisced about old family dogs as well.
We are hoping to see Bess back at the Hub again very soon!
We were delighted to learn in September that a funding application made to SSE to get our Men’s Shed built and in working order was successful. The support from SSE, through the Gordonbush Community Fund, is enabling us to run our own shed, a project which has taken off in numerous countries around the world.
An area at the side of Helmsdale Community Centre has been earmarked for the project. We are now beginning to work closely with Bunillidh Rowing Club, who will build the shed for us.
The picture above shows where the shed will be located and shows how the area looks now. Updates on the project as it progresses will be available on our Men’s Shed page.
At the end of September, five 65″ interactive screens were installed at various locations across East Sutherland to support greater collaboration and engagement with those both inside and outside of our area. This project is part of the work done within East Sutherland to test the 8 Pillars Model of Community Support.
The original idea came from a tweet we posted back in December 2013. In the tweet we asked whether it would be possible to get an art therapist to visit us in the rural Highlands or, failing that, if there were any creative solutions. This was where the idea of the interactive screens was born and it is now being put into action.
On Wednesday 28th September screens were installed at the Helmsdale Village Hub, The Bradbury Centre in Bonar Bridge and Migdale Hospital in Bonar Bridge. The following day further screens were delivered to Seaforth House care home in Golspie and Brora Village Hub.
Since the installation, the screens are being tried and tested while the staff get to know how to use them effectively and for the benefit of their residents or members. Webcams will be installed very soon and links will be made between the screens via Skype. From there a more detailed plan will be established for how the screens can be used most effectively to support communication and collaboration.
More details will be available on our interactive screens page as the project progresses.
On 21st September, five representatives from DFC headed down to Perth for the Life Changes Trust dementia in the community conference. The conference was an opportunity for all groups receiving funding from Life Changes Trust to share their progress and successes so far.
Our founder and Chair, Ann Pascoe, was co-presenter of the conference alongside DFC Director Agnes Houston, who is living with dementia. Ann and Agnes opened the event and we were then shown a short film about just some of the projects receiving funding.
Those groups receiving the funding fall into two categories: those that are running geographical dementia friendly communities (or trying to make a particular place dementia friendly) and activity-based dementia friendly programmes.
The first presentation was given by Chris Wilkins who runs Sporting Memories. They are doing some great work by using sport to help tackle dementia, depression and loneliness through talking about and raking part in sport. A key message we took away from Chris’ presentation was that there is no prescriptive model from one group to the next.
Ann then took to the stage, giving an overview of the work we have been doing in Helmsdale and how, in the past five years she had gone from a lone carer with no support to having circles of care surrounding her and her husband.
A presentation on the work underway by Festival and King’s Theatres in Edinburgh to make their buildings and performances more dementia friendly gave a clear indication that they are listening to the voices of people living with dementia. Their work is very exciting and they have some really fun initiatives and performances coming up.
The morning was finished off with a fabulous performance from Centrestage’s Gie it Laldy group. The audience were moved to tears and singing along with happiness in equal measure. Such a fantastic project and worth seeing the group performing live if the opportunity arises.
Plenty of networking took place over lunch with exhibition stands showcasing some of the projects being funded. There was a real buzz about the place with everyone desperate to meet up with others to discuss their learning and potential collaboration.
The afternoon was divided into two sessions with everyone given the a choice from a variety of topics. While some of the DFC contingent found themselves singing and dancing, others were learning more about progress made in other areas of Scotland and partaking in group work around organising an event.
The conference came to a close with a Q&A with some of the representatives from the groups. A highlight was a story from a lady called Helen who attends the West Dunbartonshire dementia friendly communities allotment. Helen shared a wonderful tale of a time that she got lost in M&S and how valuable the help from a staff member had been.
Agnes, alongside Life Changes Trust’s Anna Buchanan closed the event with the message that the conference had been such a success due to people living with dementia being at the heart of it.
In 2014, East Sutherland was chosen by the Scottish Government as a test site for the 8 Pillars Model of Community Support. After two years of testing, the project has now concluded with results presented at a conference in Inverness on 23rd August. To find out more about the 8 Pillars Model of Community Support see our dedicated page.
The testing of the 8 Pillars in East Sutherland was a joint collaboration between NHS Highland, Alzheimer Scotland and DFC. The report-out event highlighted some of the progress made and challenges faced during the test.
The event was opened by Michael Perera, Community Mental Health Services Manager of NHS Highland and Chair of the 8 Pillars Steering Committee. David Alston, Chair of NHS Highland, spoke of the Spanish-artist Francisco Goya and, in particular, his painting ‘Aún aprendo’ or ‘I am Still Learning’ in respect of the 8 Pillars aims and how this is taken forward in the future.
The former Dementia Practice Coordinator, Lynda Forrest, described the efforts that were made to gather the thoughts, experiences and concerns of carers of local people with dementia. One of the most notable findings from this work was the recommendation that groups offering support shouldn’t just wait for them to ask for help, but should step in before crisis point is reached.
Sarah Muir, Project Lead for Veterans First Point, presented a timeline of events that led to the introduction of an interactive screen at the Helmsdale Well-being Hub. From a simple tweet about the chances of getting someone in to do some training locally, the project progressed through social media engagement with people with dementia and others and now onto a plan to introduce interactive screens to four further locations within East Sutherland and the surrounding area. The plan is to use the screens to aid communication between all five locations as well as services in Inverness.
Ann Pascoe described the role of DFC in the project and the work that is being done on the ground. Using positive case studies to highlight the impact of the work being done, Ann provided the community perspective. Michael Perera offered the perspective of NHS Highland on the work that has been done and the impact they have seen in the area of mental health. Patricia Howie from NHS Education for Scotland showcased what is now on offer to support promoting excellence across the 8 Pillar Model on a national level.
Catriona Watt, a Partner from Anderson Strathern, worked closely with DFC on the ethics around the use of GPS devices for people with dementia and explained the legalities behind it.
Ruth Mantle, Dementia Nurse Consultant for NHS Highland, described the learning from the test site, and in particular a presentation given in the Highlands by Dr Al Power from the USA, in relation to therapeutic interventions and recognising the underlying causes of some behaviours. The message that intervention should address the causes rather than the behaviours was a real take-away from Ruth’s presentation.
Sutherland District Manager Lorraine Coe and Lynda Forrest co-presented on the role of the Dementia Practice Coordinator in a rural setting. The testing had highlighted the need for the post to be carried out by somebody with good all-round knowledge and not someone who only specialises in one area. Lynda described how her role has encompassed a variety of tasks, including booking appointments, knowing who to speak to when a problem needed to be solved, and being able to build a relationship of trust with local people with dementia and their families.
Douglas Philips, Team Lead for Dementia at Focus on Dementia (part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland), reported back on findings from across Scotland presented at a national evaluation meeting earlier in the month. The key messages nationally were; that systems need to be ready for change in respect of resources and their impact, and sustainability; the importance of the role of the Dementia Practice Coordinator; the value of investment in knowledge; how essential it is to secure carer input and provide support; and the emphasis on therapeutic interventions that have made a difference.
Mr Philips also gave an overview of the focus of Scotland’s third Dementia Strategy, due to be launched later this year.
DFC would like to thank all who attended the event and have supported the project or contributed to it over the past two years. DFC’s next steps now will be to consider the legacy that will be left following the great work that has been done.
Presentations from the event are available on our Presentations page.
Earlier this month we were joined at the Helmsdale Village Hub by Fèis Chataibh Cèilidh Trail during their tour of Sutherland and Caithness. Fèis Chataibh provides an opportunity for 16-22 year-olds to share their musical talent by performing traditional Scottish music as part of a group.
The Helmsdale Hub staff and members had a wonderful time and are grateful to the organisers of Fèis Chataibh for choosing to come to come and see us.
On 1st August we launched our new Dinner To Your Door service, which provides hot meals to those who often experience difficulties preparing food for themselves or a loved one, or simply would like an occasional break from cooking.
During this first trial month we are providing the service to regular members of the Helmsdale Well-being Hub, with the service due to be introduced from 1st September.
On it’s second day, we followed our Dinner To Your Door staff as they provided the service, right through from preparation in the kitchen to one of the Hub members tucking in! Below is how the day went in pictures.
On 16th July, Helmsdale residents and visitors braved the elements to attend our first Dog Show at Helmsdale Community Centre. Twenty-six dogs in total took part in the event at Helmsdale Community Centre, with a number of puppies watching and learning from the sidelines.
Entrants went up against each other in 10 award categories, including Best Pedigree, Best Cross-breed and Best Small Dog. All categories were judged by Rogart artist Lyn Wells who chose Iona the Border Terrier as the Dog the Judge Would Most Like to Take Home. Other winners on the day included Bruno the Staffordshire Bull Terrier for Dog with the Waggiest Tail and Kirsty the Golden Retriever for Best Veteran. Maggi the Boston Terrier picked up the award for Best Trick for her dancing skills as well as Best Dressed when she donned a pink tutu. Top prize for Best in Show went to Summer the Border Collie who, alongside her owner Catriona, was thrilled to receive the trophy.
Beverages and cake were served in the Community Centre hall where visitors could browse around tables with plants from Portgower, local crafts and the SSPCA. Braveheart Photography from Dornoch, who specialise in pet photography, had a number of their beautiful slate-mounted pictures, frames and pet-themed gifts on display and available to buy.
To close the event, the Sutherland Dog Training Group provided a particularly enjoyable agility display and offered the dogs who had taken part in the earlier competition a chance to try out the tunnels, seesaw, hurdles and slalom.
Wendy Simmonds from Dementia Friendly Communities said following the event: “We were delighted with the turn-out for our Dog Show. With the weather as it was we weren’t sure many people would come, but it didn’t seem to put anyone off. We even had some visitors from the West coast and from the south too who happened to see the signs as they were passing. It was a great day. We’d like to thank everyone who came along and supported us. We’re also grateful to Easter Ross Vets in Tain for sponsoring the rosettes and Lyn Wells for doing the hardest job of all in judging the competition.”