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Colten Care Conference 2024: Connecting Through Dementia

When Peter Doyle, Senior Operations Manager at Colten Care, messaged me a while ago to ask if Peter and I would like to be involved in the organisation’s conference in Bournemouth, my first reactions were: are Bournemouth playing at home, closely followed by how are we going to get there?

Peter D could not have been more helpful.  We had a couple of zoom meetings where I explained to him that any trip out of Suffolk would necessitate travel and overnight accommodation.  Peter D then came up with a great idea: rather than stay at a cheap hotel, why not stay at one of Colten Care’s homes?  He quickly dispelled any stereotypical notions about what that experience might look like and, after consulting with the Berrys, we agreed this would be a good idea.  As is evident from the photos, this particular care home proved to be the perfect place for us to stay. I was delighted that the Berrys’ daughter, Kate, decided to join us and this made it a short holiday for Teresa and some quality mother/daughter time. 

This report covers three main elements of our trip: the care home, the conference and the learning experience - not just those attending the conference - but my own.

The home: well, this should be the blueprint for all care homes regardless of one’s financial circumstances.  Our rooms, in the top floor guest area, were exceptionally comfortable, clean and quiet.  We were provided with tasty food and treated so well that some of us (well, all of us actually) wished we could have stayed for longer!

The conference: whilst Teresa and Kate took themselves off to visit the aquarium, Peter and I arrived at the vast campus of Bournemouth University and were quickly involved in one of the morning’s workshops: design a care home to Utopian ideals and think about the activities which should be available. 

What was apparent to me, having sat through countless, tedious conferences during my work days, was the enthusiasm of participants and the way the organisation’s ethos of caring and learning was embedded in those who were there. 

Our talk was well received by the 75 plus staff in attendance and our participation on the afternoon panel and its Q and A session was equally enjoyable.

The learning experience: it was not only the staff who learned that day.  Although I know intellectually that Peter lives in the moment and will not remember most of what he has achieved, I realised that I needed to work out what I actually felt emotionally about this memory loss against what I knew rationally.  Indeed, Peter has asked me to write something about this and perhaps to include it in future talks. He's a hard task master!

The best way I can think of to sum up our participation in the conference is to include this post on LinkedIn from Peter Doyle:

“If you're even the slightest bit involved or interested in Dementia, follow Deb Bunt and Peter Berry. Peter, who lives with Dementia and Deb his very close friend allowed me into their lives this week and I couldn't be more grateful. In 24 hours I think I learnt more about Dementia then I have in the last 18 years!!”

I hope the photos of the care home, the food, (even the loo roll with the artistic flower design), our journey and the conference itself give some indication of the wonderful experience we all shared.  I hope, too more than anything, that something will have lodged in Peter's heart so he knows the impact he had on so many people that day.

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