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How to explain dementia to children
Coping with a diagnosis of dementia is tough for all involved, even children. As much as we might think kids can’t cope with knowing the facts, it’s important we communicate in an age appropriate manner so that they are given the chance to understand the changes they will inevitably see. 

It’s natural to want to protect children from painful situations, but if you choose to shut them out, you could be doing more harm than good. Children are often aware of changes in atmospheres, of people feeling tense and of difficulties in the family. Failing to offer an explanation about what’s happening will leave them feeling confused and worried, so it’s important to clarify the situation in an appropriate way. 

The news is likely to be distressing, but it will allow the person to take their time and to come to terms with things. They will also be relieved to know that any unusual behaviour is just the illness, and not personally directed at them. By letting them see how adults cope in a difficult situation, you’ll be equipping them to manage painful emotions better later on in their own lives. 

Talking about dementia 

Here are some top tips for talking about a dementia diagnosis with a child or young person: 

· Use age appropriate language: You know your child and their maturity better than anyone, so start your discussion in the right mental place for them. Don’t dumb down your language if you usually talk to your child on a mature level, and similarly avoid using complicated or confusing words with younger people. 

· Be honest: Don’t be afraid to tell them the hard truth. Dementia does not usually get better, and things may get quite bad as the illness progresses. Tell them how the person might forget who they are, or may think they are someone else. Don’t filter out all the bad bits, because they will only find them harder to cope with later on. 

· Allay their fears: Remember, children aren’t always as logical as us adults, and may let their imagination run away with them. Reassure them that dementia isn’t contagious, nor is the person likely to die any time soon. Ask them what they are afraid of, and don’t laugh if it’s seemingly ridiculous. 

· It’s OK to laugh: Let them know that the person with dementia may sometimes do something silly, and that it’s OK to laugh if they put the milk in the dishwasher or keys in the oven. Let them know it’s not all doom and gloom, and that there will still be plenty of good times to be had with their loved one. 

· Use resources: You’ll find plenty of resources to help you explain dementia to a young person, from leaflets to storybooks and activity sheets, many of which are free. Ask your GP for any sources they might have, and explore online resources at Alzheimer’s Research UK for support in getting the message across.

Children are often far more resilient than we give them credit for, but they need to be given a chance to get involved. Don’t shut out your child in a bid to protect them, they won’t thank you later. 

Following on from your discussion 

Once the child is aware of the diagnosis and what is likely to happen next, they will need plenty of comfort and reassurance from you. They need to know that you are there for them, no matter how preoccupied or sad you might seem. Giving them a role in the process will make them feel valued and important, and can help them focus their energy on doing something useful. 

Maybe you could ask them to make some large signposts for the home, to help remind your loved one where to go and where things live. Reassure them if the person with dementia says something hurtful that it’s not really what they mean. Let them know that simply spending time with their loved one and showing them care and affection is the most important thing they can do, and remind them how much you appreciate their help and support. 

Here at Fernhill House, our approach to Dementia Care is one step at a time. And it works exceptionally well. Whatever stage your loved one is at, we can help you not only manage but make the most of every moment. 

Get in touch today to hear more about our specialist dementia care in Worcester. 

Fernhill House gets ten out of ten on care homes’ answer to Trip Advisor
Fernhill House has been giving a ten out of ten rating by the ‘Trip Advisor’ of the care industry., like the well-known holiday and restaurant review site, bases its scores on real life reviews from people who have used the service.   A plethora of comments on the website, from residents, their offspring and friends, give “excellent” and five out of five scores, helping the home achieve the best possible rating.  

The home was scored on criteria such as facilities, care, cleanliness, accommodation, food and drink, dignity, security and value for money, with every category declared ‘excellent’ by the vast majority of reviewers.   

Respondents were also asked how likely they would be to recommend Fernhill House – and without exception all said they were ‘extremely likely’ to do so.   

One respondent said:  “My mother loves her daily Jacuzzi or shower and she is clean and her hair is always tidy. Staff are professional, kind and patient - nothing seems to be too much trouble for them. It is a pleasure to visit - you can't say that about many care homes. This is how all homes should be - older people need to be able to live as they were accustomed.”     

Another resident’s daughter said: “It was quite an emotional and physical upheaval, but the care and kindness she has received have helped her to settle. The facilities are marvellous and these are extended to relatives who visit.   

A resident’s son explained: “I was very impressed with the design and philosophy of Fernhill House and the objective of making it a comfortable home from home, not like a conventional residential facility for the elderly.” And it’s not just the children of residents who are impressed. 

A friend told the website: “What an amazing home. Nothing is too much trouble for anyone. I would love to move in myself.”   

The report and reviews are available at and

Fernhill House welcomes English Symphony Orchestra musicians
A duo from the Worcestershire-based English Symphony Orchestra performed at Fernhill House this month.   

The bass player and cellist entertained residents, family and friends with their stunning performance – the latest in a varied series of activities staged at the home.   

The idea of taking music into care homes was mooted in 2007 by ESO cellist Corinne Frost, as she and fellow musicians believe live music is hugely beneficial to people who would not otherwise have access to such stimulation in their daily lives.   

As well as having the ability to trigger memories, research has shown that performing live music enhances the quality of life of elderly people, reduces agitation, stress and the perception of pain. 

Evidence also demonstrates improved communication, greater levels of understanding between residents and staff and the reduction in the need for medication to alleviate distress.   

After the concert, the pair chatted to the audience over a cup of tea.   

The ESO has worked with distinguished instrumentalists, composers and conductors, including Nigel Kennedy, Michael Tippett and Yehudi Menuhin, who was appointed the ESO’s principal guest conductor in 1991 and led the orchestra on a number of international tours.   

Fernhill House manager Mike Dearn explained: “Residents loved the visit. We have a good deal of musical activities going on here and they always go down extremely well. Whether it’s professional musicians such as the ESO or enthusiastic children’s choirs, they always bring plenty of happiness into our home.” 

“Poshest care home ever” welcomes new manager
Fernhill House, described by BBC Hereford and Worcester presenter Malcolm Boyden  as ‘the poshest care home I’ve ever seen,” has welcomed a new manager. 

Mike Dearn takes the helm at the home, described on a recent BBC radio programme as ‘like an opulent cruise ship or a swanky hotel’ – and plans to make it truly part of the local community. 

Mike takes over from registered nurse Peta Mandleberg who has been given a new role as commissioning manager, setting up further homes for its parent company Majesticare. 

Mike, whose professional background is in hospitality, has ten years’ experience of running and commissioning care homes in the Midlands and Worcestershire, and spent 28 years as a chef, many of them in the care sector. 

He joins deputy manager Clair Gurteen, a qualified registered mental health nurse who has been working at Fernhill House since before it opened last spring. 

He will also work closely with fellow chef, award winning Chris Williams, whose restaurant quality meals are hugely popular with residents – and friends who are invited to join them for no extra charge. 

Mike shares the home’s ethos of creating a caring, fun-filled and vibrant environment and is determined to strengthen its growing links with the community. 

“This is such an amazing place,” he said. “Everyone who steps through the door is bowled over by its beauty and luxury.  Malcolm Boyden, who came to visit a few weeks ago, could hardly believe it was actually a care home. He said it was like an incredible country hotel. 

“In fact, he said that while he sometimes leaves a care home feeling down in the dumps, on this occasion he had a feeling of optimism because it is such a beautiful place.” ·       

* Mike Dearn joins Fernhill House as its new manager to work alongside award winning hospitality manager Chris Williams and deputy manager Clair Gurteen. 

Fernhill House’s activity programme helps improve wellbeing 
NHS advice on keeping healthy for over 65s is being embraced by Fernhill House.     

And the latest proof of the efficacy of an active lifestyle is the media stardom of its 94-year-old resident turned specialist activity adviser.    

Lifelong keep fit enthusiast Marian Hill, who enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame on a recent BBC Hereford and Worcester broadcast about the home, recently became the oldest person in the country to join a team of staff to help run regular Seated Physical Activity sessions for her fellow residents.  

The sessions are aimed at enabling participants to become more physically active, maintain mobility and prolong independence and can make a real difference to their ability to perform everyday activities such as getting dressed, brushing their hair, lifting a cup or simply moving about.   

More vigorous activities are also on offer at Fernhill House – with the aim of enabling residents to have fun as well as keep fit. A weekly exercise class helps keep the brain as well as the body active, alternative treatments such as sound therapy and reiki provide mental and emotional relaxation, crafts fire the imagination and get the fingers moving and the brain is stimulated with quizzes and games.   

Fernhill House also has a sensory garden within its two acre grounds and grows plenty of wholesome veg – and residents are encouraged to help out with planting, harvesting and watering. An indoor potting shed helps keep brain and fingers nimble.   Recent weeks have seen musicians, celebrity speakers from Radio 4 and a small menagerie of animals visit the home.   

Numerous reports highlight the benefits of regular physical activity in older age, which can help maintain bone mass; improve sleep, balance, mental ability and circulation; strengthen muscles; reduce the risk of dementia; increase happiness; reduce aches and pains and help the participant live longer.   

The NHS Choices website gives detailed age appropriate advice on activities to maximise physical and mental wellbeing. 

“Evidence shows that there is a link between being physically active and good mental wellbeing. It can help people with mild depression, and evidence shows that it can also help protect people against anxiety. It is thought to cause chemical changes in the brain, which can help to positively change our mood. Some scientists think that being active can improve wellbeing because it brings about a sense of greater self-esteem, self-control and the ability to rise to a challenge,” it says.   

Over 65s who are generally fit and have no mobility limiting health conditions are advised by the NHS to do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity  such as cycling or walking every week or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, alongside strength exercises on two or more days a week which work all the major muscles  - legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.        

Older people are also advised to break up long periods of sitting with light activity, as sedentary behaviour is now considered an independent risk factor for ill health.   Older adults at risk of falls are advised to do exercises to improve balance and co-ordination on at least two days a week. Examples include yoga, tai chi and dancing.