Back to work in Sydney

Leaving the snow and the Blue Mountains behind us, we headed for Sydney. We were lucky enough to be there during Vivid Sydney – a fantastic evening laser light show which lit up the harbour building, the Bridge and the sails of the Opera House. What a spectacular feast for the eyes.

But I was there to work. I visited the Anglicare Elizabeth Lodge, the first AMI Montessori accredited senior facility in Australia. What a wonderful caring facility, with fully engaged staff. All have had Montessori training and all work as a coherent team to give the best care possible to their residents. While I was there I was fortunate enough to meet the visiting AMI group from London. What a knowledgeable group, and great contacts to have made. The Lodge itself has the overriding ethos of ‘the more I do for you, the more I steal from you’. Managed Risk and Resident Choice is at the forefront of the care they provide, ensuring that the resident is fully involved in all their care.

I found that very few of the residents were on thickened drinks and pureed food. This is a last resort for their SALT teams. They use exercise, positioning and are not as quick to resort to thickener unless the risk is unmanageable. This means that snacks and drinks are freely available for residents to help themselves. (I found this in the US too) Falls are managed more by keeping residents mobile and ‘strong’ rather than inactive. Nowhere is off limits, and residents are encouraged to do as much as they can for themselves. There is even a ‘Walk and talk’ carer who takes those who feel they ‘have to go somewhere’ for a walk to the nearby park.

The walls were utilised for activities that could be done by the residents, and everything was labeled with either instructions or conversation starters. the residents themselves, also took part in keeping the Lodge neat and tidy – laying tables, folding laundry and dusting were just some roles for them. All the residents seemed happy to be able to help out and help each other.

With our time coming to a close, we did our last bit of sightseeing to Botany Bay, Bondi beach (a damp squib) Manly and a trip out to the northern suburbs to catch up with old friends from Sowa. Russ managed to fit in a bit of spinning – he saw loads of fish in the ultra clear waters, but sadly none decided to bite.

A long but rewarding trip behind us, it was time to board the flights home. A 40hr journey via San Francisco which due to crossing the dateline involved 3 6ams! Our experiences with United Airlines again left something to be desired and we finally reached home exhausted and not sure what day or time our bodies thought it was! All in all, the experience was amazing, and I have learnt so much which I want to pass on to everyone working in the Care Sector. I have travelled to learn – now I return to inspire

Snow in the Blue Mountains

We awoke this morning to a winter wonderland! Snow had fallen overnight, closing some roads over the mountains and giving some excited children a ‘snow day’. After breakfast we searched for an ‘indoor’ activity for today, and came up with the Jenolan Caves. Setting off late morning meant that the roads were cleared or passable. The 75km trip was through snow edged roads, and ended with an 11km switchback down the mountainside. But the effort was worth it. The caves were stunning, and the stalactite and stalagmite formations were exquisite. A trip to the Oberon Dam completed our last full day in the Blue Mountains. Down to Sydney tomorrow – where the wind is howling and the surf is ‘damaging’ according to the weather report.

Jenolan Hotel
Their logo formation

The Blue Mountains – hidden gem of Oz

After a very, very, very long flight we arrived in Australia at 7am local time. We sailed through customs, picked up the hire car and drove to the Blue Mountains. After checking in to our wonderful hotel, we took a drive into the mountains. Breathtaking views assaulted us from every angle. Words fail me, and it seems most of the worlds nationalities, as the most common exclamation I heard from all the tourists was “WOW” See for yourselves

Bridal Veil

Leura Cascades

Three Sisters

Narrow Neck Trail

Boars Head

San Francisco then Goodbye USA

With my work in Canada done, and our trip to Edmonton scuppered, we repaired to San Fransico instead. From Niagara this involved a car trip back to Cleveland, a flight to Atlanta, Georgia, then on to San Francisco. And all this over Memorial weekend – yes, veterans and serving personnel actually have a Public Holiday in their Honour!. The drive was scenic and uneventful. The overnight Hotel stop was time to repack for air travel, and was pleasant enough. The flight to Atlanta was ok, but the SF flight had to reroute around the heavy storms lashing the mid-west. Not only that, I had neglected to read the ‘flight duration’ and did not realise we were crossing time zones – so our 2 hr flight was actually 5hrs! As we flew around the storm we could see the lightning in the clouds. An amazing sight to see, but a bit disconcerting being in a plane at the time. The time spent in San Francisco was packed with sightseeing. Pier 39, Coit Tower, Golden Gate Bridge, Lombard street (Crooked Street), a ride on the trolley car, all on foot and by bus. Our time in the US came to an end and I will take away overriding memories of automatic flushing toilets ( first time it happened I almost needed the toilet again!) and a distinct lack of tea making abilities alongside my memories of the places I’ve been and the people I’ve met.

Trolley car
Pier 39

Golden Gate Bridge
Lombard street – the Crooked street
Coit Tower
on the Golden Gate bridge


After rescheduling and rearranging appointments and visits, I set off alone into Canada armed only with printed Google directions (satnav still vehemently denying the existance of Canada). Driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road, in an unfamiliar and automatic car, was a daunting task, but one that I gladly accepted. I spent the morning being amazed and inspired by the work of Diane and Elaine of the Alzheimers Society. Whilst they face many of the same barriers as we do in the UK, they fight until they get what they want! They seek funding wherever they can to augment and supplement their federal funds, and the Montessori Home Kits that they have made up to lend out to Homes or individuals are nothing short of fantastic. They also have ‘babies’ and robotic pets which became so successful they actually have ‘adoptions’. Two very passionate ladies changing lives day by day.

In the afternoon, I met Gail Elliot – Dementiability – for a visit to Royal Rose, and a productive car journey. Gail is a leader in the field of Dementia, and the information she shared with me will be invaluable. On our tour of the Royal Rose Home, I observed Montessori & Dementiability in action. There were activites set out accessible to all, and a group of residents were working independently around a group table. As they each did their own work, they were chatting together. Those folding towels & sheets were not just keeping busy – this was the Homes laundry that was being folded – a task the residents do every day. The Housekeeper is on hand to check that hands are clean etc before starting, and that residents do not feel overwhelmed. The Home also partners with the local college to have student volunteers who work either with residents, or revamp/redecorate the areas. Again, I couldn’t help but notice the air of calm, and the restful, muted colours in the Home. With all of the Homes/Communities I have visited ‘risk over reward’ is prevalent. Residents are able to move around as much as they want, with or without walking aids – no-one ‘hovers’ over them in case they fall! ” The more we do for them, the more we steal from them” is the underlying motto.. This should be an adage we all follow in the care industry

The students change the tree each season

The Man Shed ! But the women love it too
There is even a nursery for the Homes ‘babies’

Almost to Niagara-on-the-Lake

After breakfast on the Tuesday, we left our base at the Quail Hollow Resort and headed along the shoreline of Lake Erie towards Canada. The scenery was fantastic, the day warm and sunny. as we neared Canada, the satnav went haywire, and after a trip through a rather shady part of town we finally reached the border. That’s when our problems really started! 4hrs later we were unceremoniously returned to the US after being denied entry to Canada. But ‘n boer maak ‘n plan, and we walked into the nearest hotel with free wifi, ordered tea & coffee, and logged onto to sort accommodation. Once sorted, we regrouped, rescheduled and reorganised.

A walk around the Falls by night was a relaxing end to a stressful afternoon

Niagara Falls by night

R&R in Ohio

When we were not observing or visiting, we were being bowled over by scenery and attractions! The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Westside Market, and the shores of Lake Erie made for some unforgettable memories for Russ and I. Don’t forget to read his observations too, on his blog. The architecture in the old towns we visited was outstanding. And everywhere the mood was so unhurried.

Lighthouse on the Headlands Dunes
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Fairport Harbour
Those who served are honoured in Monuments all over the US . Gone but never forgotten
One faculty of the University

Kendal at Oberlin

On the 20th May we visited the Kendal Community at Oberlin. Founded by Quakers, and still running on Quaker principles, this Community of Elders is vibrant. Most of the activities and groups/clubs are run by the residents themselves (through Committees) . The independent living residents accompany those less able to appointments off campus. Physios, Drs, even the Bank, have offices on site. In the dementia house (not a UNIT, it is run as a house) the residents get up, have meals etc as they please. There is a communal kitchen where they can make toast etc. The only rule is that they must all sit down together for evening meal. If they go out with family or friends, they are asked to be back for dinner. The staff ensure that residents of the house are taken to activities. In the communal lounge residents are free to socialise. There is also an outside courtyard accessible to all residents all the time.

As with the other communities I have visited, the calm atmosphere is everywhere. Muted colours, but with contrasting bathroom walls , signposting and visual cues in the kitchen, all these factors combine to make living in the house as easy as possible for the residents – keeping them independent for as long as possible. The entrance even looks like a front door, and you MUST knock before entering – once someone lets you in. Even staff follow this rule as far as possible (although they do have access codes) The residents enjoy their weekly cookery class with the children from the onsite nursery. Other residents paint, quilt, do woodwork or ceramics and their work is displayed in exhibitions, which are organised by another group of residents. The way all the residents take charge of their community, and work so cohesively together puts our Govt to shame!

One of the Lounges

Observations at Hershey

On Thursday morning we set off to observe at the Hershey Montessori school. In the morning we obvserved the 6-9 yr environment, then the 8-12 yr environment at the Concord Campus. It was inspiring to see the Montessori philosophy that we are taught being played out in the classroom. The calmness and co-operation was a wonder to behold – and Russ was blown away by it all!

We then had lunch in Chardon – a lovely little cafe with the tastiest tomato & basil soup. We walked around the town, marvelling at the architecture, before heading off to the Huntsburg Campus to observe at the Highschool. The farm school was breathtakingly beautiful. There are 80 students, and 20 are boarders. The children take care of the animals and all the cleaning. Again we were impressed by the calmness on campus. The buildings were stone and wood – handmade by the local Amish Community.

That evening we had dinner with Jennifer and her family. We spoke of our observations, and the learning I did at Passavant. Gaining knowledge about implementing the Montessori & Dementia programme is the aim of my visit, and Jennifer shared her work readily.

After dinner Russ and I drove out to Mentor, to Lake Erie. We got some lovely photos of the sunset, which I think Russ has posted on his blog. ( I still need to transfer the photos to the laptop) We saw a skunk, and a groundhog and several different birds.

From Passavant to Chardon

Working with Mary Ann and the residents at Passavant was a wonderful experience, and I learnt so much. MaryAnn and I shared so many ideas that I cannot wait to get back home to implement them! However , all good things must come to an end, and on Wednesday morning after saying our goodbyes, we travelled up to Chardon. The drive was easy and uneventful, but the countryside was lovely. We found the hotel easily enough……… but it was a motel and the photos online must have been taken by a special effects camera!! The place was horrid, and we stayed just long enough to use the wi-fi to book another hotel! Luckily there was still 3 hours free cancellation time left on so it cost nothing. We moved to a wonderful place, and the receptionist even upgraded our room ! What a pleasant surprise. Even better when we found it was only a 4 minute drive to my first appointment, and only about 9 mins from Jennifer’s house.