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Involvement in the community

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
I would like to ask a question about a person with dementia volunteering in the church or community.
If the person (a gentleman with Alzheimer's) has a background in teaching, child care, fostering, special needs and disabilities of all kinds and is a placid, kind and unfailingly helpful person, is it essential that that person is excluded from assisting in a general way at a mother and toddler group? Intergenerational activity is generally seen as a positive move in this field, and mixing in this kind of way brings all kinds of mutual benefits. In this specific case he would be in attendance alongside me, his wife, who has a more active role within the group. In order for her to maintain her leadership, would it be a risk or threat for her husband to be alongside? The idea of this gentle, kindly, strong and helpful (setting up and clearing away - great asset for furniture and toy tidying) man in his early 70s being rejected from this setting on health and safety grounds fills me with sadness. How could we move forward with this?
Thank you to anyone with experience in this field or who is willing to offer advice and guidance.
Phyl
 

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
847
0
I used to run a mother and toddler group at the church. Personally, I don't think that there would be a problem with your husband attending with you unless his behaviour can be inappropriate (e.g picking up the children or following them into the toilet) or frightening (e.g. shouting, aggression) in some way. At mother and toddler groups the children are accompanied by their parents or carers and so you have no responsibility to look after them - although some adults have to be reminded of this.

I'm sorry to say this but I think that, to avoid potential misunderstandings, I would always accompany your husband to the toilet and would try to use a toilet which is not used by the group if there is one (our church had a toilet next to the church plus a set of toilets next to the hall where the toddler group met - the church and hall were joined by a corridor).

Some mothers (and carers) are very wary of men who are not known to them being near their children but at our group it so happened that the volunteer in the kitchen preparing the drinks was always a man.
 

Grannie G

Volunteer Moderator
Apr 3, 2006
76,051
0
Kent
man in his early 70s being rejected from this setting on health and safety grounds fills me with sadness

This is the crux of the matter @Phyl S. The rules are so stringent now and litigation is rife.

Would it be possible to get round this if your husband accompanied you, not as a volunteer but as a participant in the social activities of the community?
 

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
847
0
I can't see that there is a health and safety issue here unless @Phyl S's husband is unsteady on his feet and might fall on a child or has poor motor skills and might drop something. Safeguarding and health and safety are very important but, quite frankly, they are being misapplied. People with dementia should not be excluded from community settings under the guise of health and safety; that is disability discrimination IMO.

If health and safety is being cited as a reason to exclude your husband then I would ask for a precise explanation of the issues in this case. If necessary, the church can carry out a proper risk assessment.

I'm sure that you are responsible enough to know when it is no longer appropriate to bring your husband along to the group. You can give an assurance to that effect to the church.

If the church doesn't respond appropriately then I personally would stop running the group. From experience I know that it's not easy to find volunteers to run such groups these days but that will be the church's problem! I'm disappointed that a church is behaving in this way.
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
I used to run a mother and toddler group at the church. Personally, I don't think that there would be a problem with your husband attending with you unless his behaviour can be inappropriate (e.g picking up the children or following them into the toilet) or frightening (e.g. shouting, aggression) in some way. At mother and toddler groups the children are accompanied by their parents or carers and so you have no responsibility to look after them - although some adults have to be reminded of this.

I'm sorry to say this but I think that, to avoid potential misunderstandings, I would always accompany your husband to the toilet and would try to use a toilet which is not used by the group if there is one (our church had a toilet next to the church plus a set of toilets next to the hall where the toddler group met - the church and hall were joined by a corridor).

Some mothers (and carers) are very wary of men who are not known to them being near their children but at our group it so happened that the volunteer in the kitchen preparing the drinks was always a man.
Thank you Violet for your thoughtful reply. I am very happy for people to be blunt, honest and direct, as the H&S issues are clearly crucial. You have identified several important issues there and all of them are on my radar. The managers of the club are seeing some issues as red flags which I think are capable of being resolved through good understanding and sensitive handling on all sides. Would your male volunteer have had to be DBS checked? Was there ever any major issue arising out of having a male helper?
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
I can't see that there is a health and safety issue here unless @Phyl S's husband is unsteady on his feet and might fall on a child or has poor motor skills and might drop something. Safeguarding and health and safety are very important but, quite frankly, they are being misapplied. People with dementia should not be excluded from community settings under the guise of health and safety; that is disability discrimination IMO.

If health and safety is being cited as a reason to exclude your husband then I would ask for a precise explanation of the issues in this case. If necessary, the church can carry out a proper risk assessment.

I'm sure that you are responsible enough to know when it is no longer appropriate to bring your husband along to the group. You can give an assurance to that effect to the church.

If the church doesn't respond appropriately then I personally would stop running the group. From experience I know that it's not easy to find volunteers to run such groups these days but that will be the church's problem! I'm disappointed that a church is behaving in this way.
Thanks for your further reply. I absolutely agree about the blurring of the issues with regard to safety and disability, and it does border on discrimination in my opinion too. I remain hopeful that there can be a good exploration of this within the group.
 

jennifer1967

Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
11,679
0
Southampton
Thank you Violet for your thoughtful reply. I am very happy for people to be blunt, honest and direct, as the H&S issues are clearly crucial. You have identified several important issues there and all of them are on my radar. The managers of the club are seeing some issues as red flags which I think are capable of being resolved through good understanding and sensitive handling on all sides. Would your male volunteer have had to be DBS checked? Was there ever any major issue arising out of having a male helper?
all volunteers should be DBS checked. we had a male creche worker years ago and although was viewed with a bit of suspicion, he was a very good creche worker and its actually good to have that role model especially for boys
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
This is the crux of the matter @Phyl S. The rules are so stringent now and litigation is rife.

Would it be possible to get round this if your husband accompanied you, not as a volunteer but as a participant in the social activities of the community?
Thank you for your reply. Do read the other discussion in this thread if you like because important issues are being acknowledged and highlighted. It is a matter that I have been 'fighting'/'challenging' in relation to what my husband can and can't participate in, in our community generally, and find that education is important as people make so many assumptions when they hear the word 'dementia'.
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
all volunteers should be DBS checked. we had a male creche worker years ago and although was viewed with a bit of suspicion, he was a very good creche worker and its actually good to have that role model especially for boys
I agree about the DBS, and my husband has had very many of these along the way. Nothing would come up from a police point of view, so getting past the possible prejudice of the managers is maybe the biggest challenge
 

Bunpoots

Volunteer Host
Apr 1, 2016
6,321
0
Nottinghamshire
Hi @Phyl S

I'd like to add my perspective. Slightly different as I was a childminder and I used to get frequent visits from my dad while children were in my care. They enjoyed his company and he theirs. They were never left alone with him and for many years knew him as "Grandad" even after his dementia had been diagnosed.

Eventually it did become problematic - he started trying to give toddlers and babies inappropriate things like coins and mints and got annoyed with me when I said they weren't safe. By this time I was visiting him as he could no longer drive. It was a shame but I had to stop taking the kids to see him.

Dad had been a teacher and enjoyed the company of children so I felt sad for him when it had to end but, as I'm sure you know, safety has to come first.

I'm sure your husband will do fine for a while accompanying you, especially as the parents are responsible for their children - not you. I hope you both manage some enjoyable, fulfilling times until it it time to quit.

I hope those in charge will be willing to give it go. I faced prejudices from some quarters about my dad's dementia but, while he was still in the early stages, managed to persuade people to let him try whatever and he caused no problems.

Good luck!
 

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
847
0
DBS checks are another thing that's gone a bit mad. It reached the point where anyone who came within six feet of a child got one but the system got totally clogged up and I recollect that guidance was issued advising that certain types of volunteer who were not left alone with / looking after children didn't need one (e.g. someone preparing refreshments at a weekly group). There was never an issue with male volunteers in the kitchen. Over the years a few men came along to the group with their children and grandchildren and I made a special effort to make them feel welcome.

What red flags have been raised by the managers?
 

jennifer1967

Registered User
Mar 15, 2020
11,679
0
Southampton
i dont think that it should be just men that are suspicious. i have had numerous DBS and both men and women should be treated equally in that respect. i seen in the news when female nurses/ nursery teacher has been jailed for abuse. any one who is in a position of trust be it staff or volunteer should be checked. if he is not left on his own with a child or doesnt demonstrates inappropriate behaviour, the group could benefit from his experiences and he would take a lot from the children.
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
DBS checks are another thing that's gone a bit mad. It reached the point where anyone who came within six feet of a child got one but the system got totally clogged up and I recollect that guidance was issued advising that certain types of volunteer who were not left alone with / looking after children didn't need one (e.g. someone preparing refreshments at a weekly group). There was never an issue with male volunteers in the kitchen. Over the years a few men came along to the group with their children and grandchildren and I made a special effort to make them feel welcome.

What red flags have been raised by the managers?
I am due a meeting tomorrow to talk it through further - do you know where that guidance can be found?
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
i dont think that it should be just men that are suspicious. i have had numerous DBS and both men and women should be treated equally in that respect. i seen in the news when female nurses/ nursery teacher has been jailed for abuse. any one who is in a position of trust be it staff or volunteer should be checked. if he is not left on his own with a child or doesnt demonstrates inappropriate behaviour, the group could benefit from his experiences and he would take a lot from the children.
You are certainly right to underline that, thanks - people are always much more ready to think of males in this respect, and the whole picture should be considered
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
Hi @Phyl S

I'd like to add my perspective. Slightly different as I was a childminder and I used to get frequent visits from my dad while children were in my care. They enjoyed his company and he theirs. They were never left alone with him and for many years knew him as "Grandad" even after his dementia had been diagnosed.

Eventually it did become problematic - he started trying to give toddlers and babies inappropriate things like coins and mints and got annoyed with me when I said they weren't safe. By this time I was visiting him as he could no longer drive. It was a shame but I had to stop taking the kids to see him.

Dad had been a teacher and enjoyed the company of children so I felt sad for him when it had to end but, as I'm sure you know, safety has to come first.

I'm sure your husband will do fine for a while accompanying you, especially as the parents are responsible for their children - not you. I hope you both manage some enjoyable, fulfilling times until it it time to quit.

I hope those in charge will be willing to give it go. I faced prejudices from some quarters about my dad's dementia but, while he was still in the early stages, managed to persuade people to let him try whatever and he caused no problems.

Good luck!
I appreciate your contribution; I am not trying to kid myself that everything will be hunky-dory for evermore and have both eyes open to potential problems further down the line. I would like to think that we can resolve this and create a plan which will guide us going forward. Thank you for your good wishes
 

MartinWL

Registered User
Jun 12, 2020
2,029
0
65
London
Reading through this there is something important missing. What reasons have been given why your husband is unsuitable to take part in these activities? This is a very difficult matter to comment on without knowing the man personally.
 

Phyl S

Registered User
May 24, 2022
12
0
Reading through this there is something important missing. What reasons have been given why your husband is unsuitable to take part in these activities? This is a very difficult matter to comment on without knowing the man personally.
Your question is totally valid, thank you, and I have just explained that I am due to have a further exploration of this tomorrow. I am grateful to all those who have helped me so far to put things into useful perspective and prod me to consider all angles. I am confident that there is no major issue that I am sweeping under the carpet or hiding from those in this debate, and I hope I will gain more understanding soon.
 

jugglingmum

Registered User
Jan 5, 2014
6,305
0
Chester
I don't think male or female matters here and neither does former occupation or age. It is how the PWD interacts with the group.

The purpose of a parent (I think mother is outdated) and toddler group is to provide a safe environment for children to play and interact with each other as part of their development and a safe space for parents to socialise with each other whilst their children are kept busy, albeit they are still responsible for them.

My son was 8 when my mum had her crisis. With what I know now about dementia, her behaviours which caused issues when she came to my son's tumble tots group when he was 4 were dementia related.

It isn't clear if your husband has been volunteering and asked to stop or if this is something new for him.

There might be issues raised by parents with the managers that haven't been explained to you fully.

The managers responsibility is to ensure the parent and toddler group is run for the benefit of the users ie parents and toddlers not for the benefit of the volunteers. I'm aware my mum was asked to stop helping at various church groups before diagnosis and I fully understand why.
 

Violet Jane

Registered User
Aug 23, 2021
847
0
@Phyl S, I don't know where that guidance was from. I assume that it came from the safeguarding unit or whatever it is called of the church central authority. That was a few years ago now and things may have changed. In any event, if an up-to-date DBS check is the only barrier to your husband's presence then one can be applied for.

@jugglingmum, I agree that toddler groups are run for the benefit of the parents and carers and children but they should be able to accommodate volunteers and users who are neuro-diverse, have mental health problems or have dementia. Would you exclude an autistic parent or a volunteer who discloses that s/he is schizophrenic on the basis that s/he is a bit 'odd' or something might happen? It is key that the adults are attending with, and are supervising, the children in their care. It is good for children to learn that there are different types of people living in our communities. In certain European countries there are nurseries and care homes on the same site and the children and the care home residents spend time together, which is considered beneficial to everyone. Of course, if behaviour is genuinely unacceptable in the setting of a toddler group then a person with dementia will have to be asked to give up his/her role.

I think that @Phyl S will need to ask for precise details of the so-called red flags and any concerns which have been raised which amount to more than mere narrow-mindedness.
 

jugglingmum

Registered User
Jan 5, 2014
6,305
0
Chester
Of course, if behaviour is genuinely unacceptable in the setting of a toddler group then a person with dementia will have to be asked to give up his/her role.
This is my point and I didn't say that PWD should not be able to volunteer at a toddler group.

I had a babysitter for my children who was diagnosed schizophrenic, she was late teens/early 20s and her parents supervised her from a distance and advised me to stop the arrangement at an appropriate point (the illness tends to progress from first arising in late teens her parents explained - her birth mother was schizophrenic). She turned 40 last year and I attended her wedding in the autumn - but she can no longer live independently and has a support worker for one day a week. Things change and you have to be aware of the changes.

In the nursery/care home setting there are paid staff to supervise the children and paid staff to supervise the elderly residents and the film clips I have seen from this country and Europe show very managed situations.

In the context of a volunteer there should be no requirement for supervision or management.

As I stated my mum was diagnosed when my son was 8, but she was showing dementia behaviours that were inappropriate around young children from when my son was 4. My nephews were 4 and 6 when my mum was diagnosed. My mum regularly looked after my children when they were little but around the time my son was 4 she was no longer competent to do this unsupervised.

A parent and toddler group is not set up to supervise a PWD's interaction with the children and is an important safe space for parents to be able to relax if they are non working and alone with their young children all day. It is also an important space for toddlers to paly freely.

There were many dementia behaviours exhibited by my mum that were tolerated in wider society but meant that not only could she not be left unsupervised with my 8 year old, I also had to actively manage and prevent them as they were causing harm. The same applied with my 4 and 6 year old nephews in the 3 months from mum's crisis to moving into her own flat - she spent alternately a fortnight at mine and a fortnight at my brothers. In fact her behaviours were more damaging to the younger children as my 8 year old did have some comprehension.

My mum volunteered at many church groups, she stopped helping with the toddler group a few years before she stopped helping with the cafe. I lived 200 miles away and I don't know if she was asked to stop with the toddler group but I do know she was asked to stop with the cafe. With what I now know about dementia I think both stopping points were appropriate for the overall benefit of the users and volunteers.

I haven't gone into details of mum's behaviour but it is necessary to consider what is appropriate in different contexts to not cause harm or curtail activities.