South Manchester People: Fiona Carroll

Deborah Grace meets Fiona Carroll, manager of Buccleuch Lodge Intermediate Care Unit in West Didsbury.

Tell me about the work of the unit

We’re primarily a service for frail, elderly people, but we see patients of all ages. They come to us from either Wythenshawe Hospital or Manchester Royal Infirmary, or through referrals from the community. Referrals come from GPs, social workers, district nurses – anybody who has a concern about somebody coping at home. Our role is either to prevent people having to be admitted to hospital or to give them a stepping stone from hospital to home.

Patients may be medically fit to leave hospital, but still need a bit of building up and therapy, so they come here for a temporary stay. We have our own designated therapy team and provide individual exercise programmes for each patient.

What challenges do patients face when they return home?

Loneliness is a big problem for the elderly. We can build people up after a fall, but fear of falling may stop them leaving the house. Interaction with others, when they’re not used to it, may be a struggle for some older people. We try to involve outside agencies, including good neighbour projects, to help with that.

Now Didsbury Good Neighbours are giving us two volunteer befrienders for the unit, which is fabulous. We’ve also been in touch with local high schools that deliver beauty therapies, so we’re going to have a manicure service for our patients as work experience for these students.

Tell me about your involvement with Didsbury Arts Festival

We’ve just started an exciting new arts project. Therapist, Brenda Mallon, from DAF, comes in for weekly workshops around the subject of ROOTS, this year’s DAF festival theme. She introduces various objects – such as baby shoes, a pair of green clogs, a cobbler’s last – to spark memories and encourage patients to talk about their own roots and their thoughts and feelings about past and present times. Patients may produce some creative writing, a poem or a piece of art work. The intention is to display this work as part of DAF 2017. It’s been a big education for my staff to listen to patients’ tales from wartime and different eras. One of our patients has diaries that she’s kept every day of her life from the age of seven years. She’s 91 now!

Why is creativity important?

People who have been unwell can be depressed; creative activity stimulates their minds. Many of our patients suffer from dementia, which affects short term memory, but long-term memory is active. Dementia also affects concentration, so giving patients an hour or two of close focus, using fine motor skills, is hugely beneficial.