North East Connected

Toolkit a hit for former council plumber with dementia

A TOY toolkit has proved a success for a former South Tyneside Council plumber with advanced dementia.

Harry West, 75, who became known as “the plumber on a bike” during his 26 years of service for the council, was given the gift by staff at Willowdene Care Home, on Victoria Road West, Hebburn.

Harry has lived at the home since March 2017 and, despite having difficulties with memory and communication due to dementia, is always looking for something to fix.

Staff recognised his need for something to occupy his mind beyond normal activities, so decided to buy him the toolkit from a specialist retailer, Activities to Share.

Containing wooden tools, such as a hammer, spanner, pliers and a drill, the set has helped spark memories of fixing things.

It has also had therapeutic benefits for Harry, who is always very active, walking around the home and informing staff of repairs he believes are needed.

Christine Chandler, activities coordinator at Willowdene Care Home, said: “Harry tinkers in his room with his tools. He always says to me I need to get something fixed. Then he gives me a list of jobs he wants me to do.

“Harry is always walking round the home, but he wears his shoes out or his feet get sore. We identified that he needs things to occupy his mind over and above the normal activities on offer and thought the tools would be a good idea.

“He loves it as he remembers what it’s like to fix things. His daughter said he was measuring everything yesterday in his room. She said it’s great.”

Harry’s daughter Angela Groark said: “His mind is always on the job, despite his dementia. When he walks around, he’s always measuring and counting, telling me what I need and how much.

“He was diagnosed about eight years ago, a few years after leaving his job as a plumber at South Tyneside Council in 2005, after 26 years.

“He was well known locally as he went to all his jobs on his bike. Everyone knew the plumber on the bike.

“He was always doing things if he wasn’t out on his bike or walking. He did a lot of work in the house, always decorating or in his shed fiddling with tools and helping us with our houses.

“The toolkit was a brilliant idea. He loves it. He just looks and touches the tools if someone gets it out.”

Michael Beaney, home manager at Willowdene Care Home, said: “We always create a personalised care plan for our residents, enabling us to get to know them, their needs, likes and dislikes.

“This begins with an individual assessment, where we talk to the resident and their family members.

“With Harry, we knew he’d always been very active and loved tinkering and DIY, so we wanted to do something to make that connection with his past.

“The toolkit has been a big hit and has given staff another way to communicate with him and get involved in the things he loves.”

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