I’ve been away this week on a part business, part family trip such that the experiences, some of them quite unspeakable, straddle my two online identities in terms of blogworthiness. If you live in north America or Australia you won’t be impressed but for us Brits, a trip of 300 miles or more demands military grade attention to detail and personal fitness. This is because we don’t expect to spend more than an hour in our vehicles or encounter anything approaching inclement weather and so we are constantly outraged when that happens. Our outrage is justified because the builders of our roads don’t expect this either and so they provide us with inadequate signage, invisible markings, and nowhere to stop even after the signs that say ‘Tiredness kills: take a break’.
For a few months now, I’ve been conversing by phone and email with Dr Sanjeet Pakrasi who is a consultant psychiatrist in Newcastle. Sanjeet has put together a care service for people with dementia that I would like to see researched for adults with learning disabilities as it seems to have potential not just for improving care delivery but also reducing costs. At its root is a touchscreen and broadband connection between client, family (optional), and a care hub which gives people live and spontaneous access to recognisable others who are able to provide help and support. Increasingly, it is also offering entertainment in the form of digital painting, jigsaws made from a person’s own pictures, and life story books. The beginnings of a client-driven social network is also emerging. I drove to Newcastle on Monday in conditions that had me wondering if I should be in charge of a vehicle at all. The speed of other drivers implied that they could see when I could not and, at a point where my three lanes were joined by another three lanes and all I could see was spray, I seriously questioned my sanity. Another 100 miles of headlights, poor visibility, and lousy road markings got me to my approximate destination some three hours later than expected and, with an empty tank and a full bladder, I was not best pleased to find that my satnav had misconstrued its position relative to its target. We were out by a parallel road, as it happened but when incontinence threatens, you’re not up for taking prisoners!
I phoned my host who came to get me and, with the kind of luck I would almost have traded for a bit less nonsense on the roads, it transpired that I had come to a halt right outside the house of a friend of his and so I was propelled through the door of this very kind stranger to park myself with immense relief on his loo.
Despite that quite horrific journey, during which I seriously feared for my life more than once, this was well worth the trip. Sanjeet had brought together people from the Technology Strategy Board (Assisted Living Innovation Platform), Microsoft, Northumbria University, the Department of Health, and the Connect for Care user council to generate discussion about development and research. My part in this would be evaluation of an extension of this service model to a different client group where the potential for better use of outreach time seems likely to improve considerably the service we can offer to vulnerable adults. In addition, people whose needs currently preclude independent living for safety reasons might, with this technology in place, find they are able to cope well with their additional needs. More discussions on my return, this time at Brighton university, and hopefully out of that, an application for research funding. Crossing fingers as of now!
On a more personal note, I was astonished to find that the hotel, The Falcon’s Nest (one of the Innkeeper’s Lodge chain), had no lift, despite being quite a new development. There is also no attendant so that anyone needing assistance, as I did with a hefty case that would have toppled me back down the stairs had I tried them alone, has to go back outside and over to the pub to find the staff. There is no warning about this when booking and the next day, as we made the return journey to retrieve my case from the first floor (which they called the second floor, oddly enough), I asked what would have happened had I arrived in a wheelchair. There are several disability access parking bays just outside and so the response that ‘We would have shuffled things around’ (to get me a ground floor room), seemed a little unprepared. Be warned!
The next hotel on my trip, the Blue Bell, necessitated by a detour to Yorkshire for family reasons, was quite different. Although this too seemed not to have a lift, there was a very obvious and constantly staffed reception with helpful people who did not need to be asked regarding luggage. I am not sure what would have happened had I appeared in a set of wheels though, as there did not seem to be any ground floor rooms. However, this is an old pub that has been thoroughly upgraded and the comfort of it rather distracted me from my minor crusade! Family visits seem likely to be more on the cards than previously and so I will be back, and I will be back to this hotel too because of its aesthetics, its comfort and its personal warmth. Anyone who can combine elegance with sociable homeliness gets my vote and for that reason I’m putting a link here in case you are planning on visiting east Yorkshire and would appreciate a recommendation.
There is also a small brasserie for evening meals and a rather splendid bar which I was too tired to sample! TV and wifi in the rooms, bedside sockets for those with charging needs and separation anxiety should their iPhone get more than a couple of feet away from their grasp!
When I returned, I found a blog item titled ‘Seventh Weekness’ detailing the ephemera of what had been the seventh week of the new year. Well, this was mine and if I ever, and I mean EVER, say I will drive to Newcastle again, please come after me with a large butterfly net and a plate of profiteroles to distract my attention while you remove the starter motor. I will gladly visit Sanjeet again but I will take the train or a wing-ed beast such as our internal airlines can offer. Or I will nip over to my science blog and quickly invent the teleport device.