Families in focus: Jo Cooper talks to us about Montessori and music at Edensor

07 Aug 2023

“It’s really beneficial to mum to keep busy and motivated – and Edensor provides the space for her to enjoy the activities she loves.”

Jo Cooper’s mum Susan lives at Edensor, and has vascular dementia. She has kindly given us some of her time to talk about Susan’s background, her life in residential care, and how Jo connects with residents through a mutual love of music!

Hello Jo, thank you so much for talking to us today. Could you tell me a bit about your family background?

“Originally from North London, my grandma, like my mum, also had dementia. Mum married my dad in 1969 – he’s American and they met in London. They moved to America for a while, but ended up coming back to the UK and had my brother in 1973. I was born just under a year later. My mum has always loved children, working in a playgroup during her early life. She and Dad moved to Manchester to be closer to my brother’s children, but after a while he emigrated with his family to Brisbane, Australia. Obviously that means that we don’t see him as much as we’d like to, but we have been to Australia to visit. When my parents lived in Manchester it got to the point that they couldn’t manage the house anymore; so we moved them to Clacton-on-Sea, Essex - into a supported living flat. We chose Clacton because of my mum’s happy family memories of the town, of holidays spent there as a child. Dad loves sea fishing and it is quite close to London where I live, so it seemed the obvious choice. Now mum is at Edensor we are able to visit her regularly - along with my dad who visits once a week. We can drop in anytime and are always made to feel welcome by the team.”

Your mum has been at Edensor for several years now. Could you tell us a bit more about her care?

“Mum has hereditary vascular dementia, and received her initial diagnosis over the phone during the lockdowns. She then moved to Edensor during the pandemic when it became obvious she could no longer live independently. Mum has lots of different conditions and requires a lot of medication at this stage in her life. She’s also had to spend short periods of time in hospital which has been managed by the staff at Edensor alongside her residential care at the home. Mum remembers who I am at the moment, but it depends what kind of day she’s having. She definitely has more good days than bad days.”

Could you tell me some more about Susan’s experience of Montessori practices, and how it has helped her?

“Montessori is really beneficial to mum – she likes to keep busy and motivated, rather than being at home where she did nothing really. Edensor is a sociable place and she loves crafts and singing, hence my idea to bring over the karaoke machine! She remembers the words to the songs really well. The nature of her disease means she has gradually deteriorated over time but is still able to do a lot of different things. The outings we go on really help keep her mind and body active. Usually, we go out to Armstrong’s Cafe on the pier – they are really good with her there and she enjoys the amusement arcades with her grandchildren. Mum is comfortable with being out and about as long as she is with her family, as her memory loss can make her a bit confused and emotional. At Edensor she knows she is safe because she is safe and well cared for.”

You have brought musical joy to the residents! Can you tell us a bit more about this activity?

“I do karaoke at Edensor, alongside taking part in local amateur dramatics in my spare time. I know music can be very therapeutic. It can ignite all sorts of emotions in residents – happiness, sadness, or indifference! It’s all fine because it both stimulates them and relaxes them as well.”

What does Edensor mean to your family?

“Edensor provides mum with the care she wouldn’t otherwise receive at home or in the community. And her dementia means that she can no longer live with dad. I am really impressed with the new sensory walls and nutrition and hydration station that has been introduced at Edensor. This extra level of interactivity is invaluable to improving mum’s quality of life as her condition changes over time. The animals that visit the home and the music that is played is so therapeutic to residents at Edensor. I would love to go back with my karaoke machine, and hope that they invite me again soon!”