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Magic Moment Club Coordinator, Lisa Argyle

Nice one Cyril

Lisa Argyle has arguably the best job title ever: ‘Magic Moment Club Coordinator’. However, it was her father’s dementia that led to her entering the care profession, along with her sister and daughter.

My dad was diagnosed with vascular dementia after having an anaesthetic. He was in his mid-70s and had only retired a few months before. I was 33 years old and my children were very young. Stephanie was seven, Lauren was five and Jack was a new-born baby. My dad had been a wonderful grandad to his other 14 grandchildren, all of whom have fabulous memories of a loving, fun and kind man. My eldest children have memories with a difference: Dementia memories.

My dad was cared for at home initially by our mum and us, then various care packages and respite care, but eventually we accepted that he needed 24-hour care. We looked around several homes, but they weren’t suitable. It’s difficult to explain why, but you just know. It could be the smell, the way that staff greet you, or simply a feeling in your gut. At the time my sister worked at Highfields and we all felt it was the best place for him to be, even though this was difficult for her.

I’d not been into a care home for years and although most people seemed friendly, they didn’t really know or understand my dad. Victor Cyril Mitchell was born in Battersea, London in 1933. During the war he was evacuated to Somerset with his two siblings. They were treated well, although he would only talk about the experience if asked. He never returned to London because the family home was bombed. That’s how he ended up in Southwell, Nottinghamshire.

National Service was made compulsory for 18 - 30 year-olds after WWII, which is how dad learned to be a hairdresser. He also took up boxing. But he eventually became a painter and decorator, like his other five siblings, because this was the family business - my two brothers would also take up the trade. Dad always wore a shirt and tie under his overalls, taking pride in his appearance, even if it was concealed. He was that kind of man.

When he met my mum, they moved in with my grandparents. When they’d saved up enough money, they bought a house a few doors down the street, close to my aunt, who owned the local cornershop. This suggests he was a man who flourished in familiarity. So, you can understand why I was worried about how he would cope in a care home.

He was also a man of routine. He had his own chair in the living room and would not sit anywhere else. He would spend the evening happily darning his socks. At the weekend he liked the racing on a Saturday and a family roast on the Sunday. Despite being able to drive, he never owned a car. He didn’t like going on holiday, claiming he had everything he needed here. All that mattered to him was family.

When he was put into care, I visited him a few times and subconsciously decided that the children should not visit. It was too upsetting for me and I knew this would impact on them. I had to be in the right frame of mind to visit in order to cope with the emotional difficulty of seeing someone you love struggling with dementia.

The reason I felt uncomfortable visiting was there were no activities that encouraged families to join in. There was nothing fun to do – like you would at home. When I visited, I felt like I needed a distraction, something to talk about or look at. The care was amazing, but something was missing – the laughter and fun that families have together, the simple routines.

I now work at Highfields and have done so since 2016. I probably have one of the best job titles in the world: Magic Moment Club Coordinator. I make sure that when residents enter Highfields it’s not the end chapter, rather the beginning of a new one. I help plan activities that create new memories for them and their family. We’ve done everything from Pony walking to visiting Lancaster Bombers. Magic is easy, you just need to listen to what people want.

Now my daughter Stephanie works here too. She’s in her final year at university where she’s training to be a nurse. It’s probably because my dad was such a smashing human being that three members of the same family have decided to work in the same care home, ensuring other people get the treatment and love they deserve. It was either that or painting and decorating...

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