Priceless gifts of warmth and laughter

“We don’t remember days, we remember moments.” Cesare Pavese

I have been fortunate to have visited St Matthews Care Home in Redbourn to photograph Harpenden’s most inspirational woman, Janet Crawley, at work, caring for her beloved residents.

These visits touched my soul.

You know the feeling you sometimes get when you don’t know whether to laugh or cry?  You just know you’re filled with emotion, but you feel as if you’re up and down at the same time?  This is how I felt when I watched Janet, absolutely luminous with warmth and laughter, sprinkling her glow like fairy dust onto her elderly charges, watching the magic light up their eyes, and their smiles come out, like the sun breaking through morning mist.  Just for a moment.

Janet is passionate about giving her residents, some with dementia, moments of warmth and laughter – gifts that make their lives brighter.  Some of the dementia-sufferers have told her about the terrible fear and frustration of not recognising one’s surroundings, or even loved ones, and Janet does all she can to bring a little bit of the familiar into their lives:  soft toys, singing war songs and reciting famous poems – such as ‘Daffodils’ by William Wordsworth – armchair yoga and a good old chat about years gone by when a tin bath was used by the family, or what it was like in air raid shelters or being a child evacuee.

What I particularly loved was hearing some of the stories about the independent residents at St Matthews.  Janet spends lots of time appreciating their memories and lifetime achievements – which they find comforting and reassuring.  One of the ladies is teased as she was once asked out by David Attenborough.  Janet wrote to David to tell him about her memories and the lady in question is now famous for being the only person at St Matthews who receives birthday cards from David Attenborough!  How wonderful it that?

The home also works continuously to involve the local community – all ages are welcome – and one of my visits coincided with a toddler session which was riotous and super-endearing for everyone present.

The portrait series below says more about Janet than I ever could.

If you would like the images taken during my visits, please click here to download the app to a digital device or phone.

Thank you Janet, for sharing all you do with us.  For inspiring us with your passion and commitment.  For working so hard to increase awareness of dementia, which is affecting more and more people.  You’re one in a million.

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