“I like to give people a better quality of life,” says Amanda Gallacher, the Locksmith® at Berryhill Village. And that is certainly what she has done for scores of residents during the past five years.
Her role is to implement ExtraCare’s Enriched Opportunities Programme®, working with residents who experience dementia or other mental health issues, and to look after their well-being. She sets out to unlock their potential and unpick any issues they have in their lives.
“I’m a very positive person,” says Amanda. “I’m jolly, never miserable, never quiet and that’s what they like. I think personality makes a difference in the job. I enjoy everything about it. I want that person to be looked after properly and cared for the way they deserve.”
Amanda helps her poetry group write about autumn, she plays CDs and vinyl records for her music therapy group and enjoys watching them tapping their feet. “Residents with quite severe dementia know the words to the songs,” she says. She organises colour therapy sessions and plays board games with the residents.
She plays skittles with one resident who has dementia. “She beats me every time,” says Amanda. “She’s brilliant at it. It takes her straight back to when she was brought up in a pub. It just makes her laugh, she loves it.”
Reminiscence and biography also play an important role in Amanda’s work. “I spend time with the residents and discuss their life history and what they are interested in,” she says. “I find out what they enjoy and then I can put things like that in place for them. Then they have a purpose in life.”
She has a reminiscence box which she uses to discuss memories. There is everything in there from old newspapers to laundry blue and carbolic soap. Amanda is also planning to run light therapy sessions for residents who dread the darkness of winter.
Amanda had a background in caring before she came to Berryhill Village in 2008, and her previous roles included being a senior carer and a community care worker.
She loves coming to work every day and has seen the difference her role has made to residents. “Families come up to me and say thank you,” she says.
Amanda had a close bereavement when she was 17. Now at 42 she still remembers those feelings of loss. She uses her experiences to talk to residents who have been bereaved. “I can see their faces light up because I understand how they feel,” she says.
“It’s brilliant to see the difference I make to people. It makes the job worthwhile, it’s uplifting for me. I like to make people happy. I don’t like seeing people upset. Things can be changed, there’s always something that can be done.”