Tuesday 24 October 2017

'It may not be a home in the traditional sense but it's our home'

During this, Nursing Homes Week, two residents Merrial Davis and Bill O'Donnell, share their positive experiences

Merrial Davis pictured at Glendale Estate Nursing Home in Tullow, Co. Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Merrial Davis pictured at Glendale Estate Nursing Home in Tullow, Co. Carlow. Photo: Dylan Vaughan
Author Bill O’Donnell with Bernie Cronin

Merrial Davis

MERRIAL DAVIS says: An article in the Irish Independent last month, was headlined 'We need to put the home back into nursing homes for the sake of our lonely elderly'. The message emanating from the article and headline was there is no sense of home within nursing homes and they are lonely settings.

I'm a nursing home resident and this is certainly not my experience. I want to inform readers of my differing and direct experience of life in a nursing home.

I'd never envisaged relocating to a nursing home – even when I moved into my 80s.

But at 86 years of age it was the right move for me. I'd realised I could not continue to live on my own at home and I needed the help and support I'd receive in a nursing home.

Of course I was apprehensive, anxious, worried. These are natural instincts when you make any seismic move in life. I was moving to a new way of living; one that was appropriate to allow me to fulfil life.

I've now been living in Glendale for over four years. It is my home. I consider it my home. I live with friends and they call Glendale home. It is not home in the traditional sense. But it is our home and we are enjoying fulfilling our lives.

I'm writing as a person who has always been very independent. Shortly before moving to Glendale I was driving myself around visiting friends, going to lunches and afternoon teas. Of course I miss that independence. But I am very happy here and very active.

I've started and learned a number of new activities here in my new home. The activities here are very fulfilling, interesting and bring great enjoyment. They bring me and my fellow residents – my friends – together. I can now use a computer, I learned the necessary skills here in the nursing home with the help of the supportive staff. In my 80s I've become a computer user!

I've always enjoyed writing and now I write the nursing home newsletter. This is great fun and I work with my friends and their families to bring stories together for it.

There's a beautiful sensory garden here in the nursing home. It is a lovely, tranquil place to spend time in and features lovely archways, flowers, a pond with goldfish – although the Irish weather doesn't always encourage us to go outside! I can even play a bit of golf here. Glendale has a mini pitch and putt course.

Activities take place every day and bring us all together. We have live music, sing-songs, exercises, gardening, baking, pet therapy, hairdressing, reminiscence, film, hair and beauty therapy, religious services. The activities bring immense enjoyment and happiness.

We celebrate throughout the year – birthdays, summer, Christmas, festivals. Families are constantly brought together in Glendale. We interact with different generations. Staff are our friends and always there to support us. They empower residents to learn and achieve. They are fantastic people.

What goes on in my home every day is not generally what we read in the papers about nursing homes.

People in nursing homes live very happy lives. We do lots of activities. I'm not lonely in Glendale. My friends are not lonely. There is a fantastic community here: fellow residents, family and friends, the staff.

Nobody likes the thoughts of leaving their own home and moving to a nursing home. This is very understandable. But Glendale has become my home. My room is very homely and I am surrounded by personal, previous and important possessions. I have independence. I can choose to be with other people or I can be on my own if I prefer – I am free to make my own decisions and choices for myself.

In many ways I have the best of all worlds. My family and friends are nearby and visit regularly and I have lots of activity to participate in if I wish. I can please myself about what I want to participate in and live my life as I wish, for example choosing when I go to bed or get up. Help is always on hand when I need it!

The move to Glendale has opened a new chapter in my life. It has been extremely fulfilling and brought lots of happiness and new friends. I'm very happy living in my home.

  • Nursing Home Care will be celebrated nationally during Nursing Homes Week 2014 that will run from today, Monday, June 16 to Sunday, June 22.


BILL O'DONNELL: 'Don't hang around – go for it' is my advice to aspiring writers who dream of writing and publishing their first novel. At the ripe old age of 85 I have published my first novel and this has brought great joy, immense pride and a fantastic sense of fulfilment.

For eight decades I've had a love of writing. I was always one to scribble and record events and tales of my many travels. Over many years I brought stories together and started novels but never completed them.

I started my recently published novel, The Small Kingdom, over a period of time some 30 years ago. It was part of other bits and pieces of unfinished work. I started writing it in my fifties, while living a busy life with family and running a very busy bar.

It's about people, about life; it's a moving story of love and intrigue set in a rapidly changing island community on the west coast of Ireland. The novel was influenced by my knowledge of the lives of the seafaring people of West Cork, my worldwide travels and my four decades of running a public house in Bantry where I met many different people and characters.

So why now, 30-plus years later, has my first novel been published? It began with my move to Deerpark Nursing Home in my native Bantry. As a result of several ailments and advancing years I was feeling that I was becoming a burden on the family and, being a man of strong will and mindset, I made the move to begin another chapter in my life. I set about making my home at Deerpark House.

On finding myself once again living within a community – central to life in Deerpark House – I became involved in a creative writing group facilitated by a man called Tom Weld, a member of the Deerpark activities team, where we explored past experiences in a group setting that brought together fellow residents. With a lot of support and help from its team, Tom and I set about putting the finishing touches to my unpublished novel.

Tom helped with the editing and Bernie Cronin, the activities leader at Deerpark House, took on the costings for book publication and brought together a project deadline, which gave us a goal. The book was launched on November 15. It was fittingly launched in my beloved Anchor Bar, where I had spent 50 years of my life. Family, friends, invited guests and dignitaries, all toasted an achievement I am immensely proud of. I felt a great feeling of community support and it was fantastic to realise a lifelong ambition. I had the honour of signing over 50 copies on the night. The Small Kingdom has been well received and the reviews have been very good. Over 200 copies have been sold.

I'd like my story to serve as an inspiration to others, young or old. I'd advise aspiring writers 'don't hang around, go for it!' Reach out; there is help and support out there – seek it!

My move to a nursing home has literally opened up a new chapter in my life. The team at Deerpark House have enabled me to experience a sense of fulfilment. A move to a nursing home can liberate.

I'm close to completing my next novel, about my travels across America in the 1950s.

  • 'The Small Kingdom' is available from The Bantry Bookshop (027 55946). At Bill's request, proceeds benefit Bantry Inshore Search and Rescue Association.


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