A day in the life.....Gill Stokes
A big thanks to Gill for answering our questions this edition. Gill is one of the charity's very talented Assistant Project Respite Workers - take it away Gill:
Could you tell us how you first became aware of the charity, what brought that about and how you came to work for the charity?
My part-time DCA (Dementia Care Advisor for Younger People with Dementia) role involved close collaboration with YPWD (Berkshire) right from the word go! At the time I was also managing a new service user mentorship programme for another organisation but opted to leave the position in order to accept a part-time support worker role with the charity in 2013, thus creating a greater symbiosis between my two roles in the support of families living with young-onset dementia in West Berkshire.
Can you tell us what you do in your job?
As well as supporting people within a myriad of YPWD workshops over the years, quite a lot continues to go on behind the scenes in the research, planning and evaluation of the various sessions! While offering carers and loved ones some time to themselves, the workshops offer younger people with dementia lots of stimulating activities. I currently work just one day a week with the charity but I’m also kept busy with training, meetings, administration and other events – never a dull moment (well rarely, anyway!)
Would you be willing to share with our readers a little about your career, what attracted you to it and what you have done and what else you do now beyond the day job?
Prior to training to become an SRN (remember those?!) I worked as a hospital receptionist in outpatients and appointments which taught me how to calmly interact with patients who often felt vulnerable. Following three years’ nurse training I specialised as a Staff Nurse and then Ward Sister in elderly care where I worked on an assessment and rehabilitation ward. The holistic care of people has always been very important to me … if only we’d had then the level of specialist knowledge and resources that we have now to better support the wellbeing of people with dementia.
After having my babies I continued nursing part-time at a local nursing home – until I was no longer able to continue with the physical demands that lifting and handling had wrought over the years on my spine. I did a range of part-time work before accidently falling into running a vegetarian café in an arts centre (it all started with quantities of cashew and mushroom loaf supplied to our girls’ school for Inset day training!) From there I returned to the NHS and trained as a clinical coding analyst before bumping into an old colleague who encouraged me to return to nursing (minimal lifting and handling policies were now in place, he said). After completing a course with UWE I worked in an endocrine clinic and a rheumatology ward for a while. Nursing had changed so much and it was hard to both regain my confidence and adapt to all the changes so I went on to work for a heart charity as a nurse advisor for several years. However, my concern for the welfare of people with dementia was brought back into sharp focus with Mum’s diagnosis of the condition and I decided to return to helping families living with dementia in West Berkshire, alongside my other role for a patient support charity. So you could say I’ve pretty much come full circle during the past forty-odd years of my working life!
If you had to pick one thing to be most proud of, from your involvement with the charity, what would it be and why?
I think it might be the social events under the banner of ‘Altogether Now!’ (formerly known as ‘Al’s Place’) because families have regularly been able to come together to enjoy supper and an evening of entertainment. It has provided an ‘ice-breaking’ opportunity where friendships have been forged and guests have been able to relax in a supportive and sociable environment.
If you had to sum up YPWD in just three words what would they be?
Enabling, resourceful, supportive
Of all the many workshops the charity runs which would you say is the one you like/enjoy the most (assuming you can pick just one)?
That’s a tough one! The joy the Inkpen garden brought to so many over the years has been a pleasure lovely to witness and it’s been wonderful to see how popular kata-kanoeing on the Thames has become. The charity is lucky to have the Padworth garden and its ‘barn’ for more fulfilling indoor & outdoor pursuits too. More recently, I found helping to facilitate the reading group extremely rewarding – the camaraderie and reminiscences that the sessions invoked were touching and the level of interest & engagement among the group very impressive.
Do you have a hobby or skill that you’d be happy to share with us and that you think may surprise our readers?
I imagine it’s no surprise that I love being with my grandchildren and dog, reading just about anything I can get my hands on, gardening and cooking for friends and family, in that order! I also enjoy playing table tennis, walks in the countryside, crosswords & quizzes.
What is your favourite meal to cook and why?
Simple but one of my favourites is Aubergine Parmigiana with green beans or salad. I love most Mediterranean cuisine.
Where is the most interesting place in the UK/world that you have been and what was it that attracted you to go there?
I haven’t travelled extensively and my favourite country is Italy – its climate, cuisine, coast, cities and culture is, in my opinion, hard to surpass. Sicily, Venice & Lucca in Tuscany were especially enjoyable in different ways. Closer to home, we discovered the tiny Isle of Gigha in the Inner Hebrides last year – the Gulf Stream warms its turquoise waters and white sandy coves and, under endless blue midsummer skies with the mountainous Isles of Jura and Islay as its backdrop it’s simply sublime.
If you were in charge of the world, for just one day, what is the one thing you’d encourage everyone to do?
I think our current situation has already encouraged many of us to appreciate some of the simpler pleasures in life and to consider how we may help those more vulnerable and in need of our support.
Do you have favourite song that you could listen to over and over again, and if so what is it?
Gerry Rafferty’s Baker Street and John Lennon’s Imagine are two old favourites.
As we are now all stuck at home for the majority of time – do you have any ‘top tips’ for our readers to make the day inside fly by that little bit quicker?
Spend time outdoors if you can – gardening or with your head in a good book.
Finally, the most important question – cat or dog (to have as a pet)?
Have had both as pets but if I had to choose it has to be dog.