Wearside Matters – Meg out of dog house and into home

Marylin Rattray. Picture by Gilbert Johnson

Marylin Rattray. Picture by Gilbert Johnson

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A residential scheme designed for people with dementia has kept a Sunderland woman united with her beloved furry friend.

Marylin Rattray, 64, who lives in Seafarers Way, in the east end of the city, has settled into a brand new apartment with beloved pooch Meg by her side after the Sunderland extra care home allowed her to move in with her pet rescue dog.

Marylin Rattray, known as Maz, with her companion Meg. Picture by Gilbert Johnson

Marylin Rattray, known as Maz, with her companion Meg. Picture by Gilbert Johnson

The Moor Terrace extra care scheme, which boasts 38 individual apartments, is one of only a few in the city to permit pets, which allowed Sunderland born Marilyn – or Maz as she is known – to set up a happy new home with her companion.

Maz said: “I don’t know what I would do without Meg, so moving here without her wouldn’t have been an option.

“It’s great to have her here with me and everyone in the centre loves her. She is everyone’s pet dog.”

Meg, a Patterdale Terrier, has become part of the furniture at Seafarers Way, which is also home to a resident’s parrot. The scheme welcomes pets, meaning Meg has become a firm favourite with fellow residents.

Maz, who grew up in Sunderland but spent her life travelling with her fisherman husband, found out about Seafarers when she passed the centre on her way to attend classes to improve her reading and writing, something she had lost the ability to do after an accident.

“I was forgetting my medication and meals, so I needed to be somewhere that would take care of me.

“Meg and I moved into Seafarers only a few months ago, and we have both settled in really well. It’s like one big happy family. I love it here and have made some really nice new friends.”

The scheme, which was opened in 2014, is home to people living with dementia, offering a supported environment, but with apartments that allow residents to remain as independent as they can.

Seafarers offers an almost daily programme of entertainment, including movie afternoons, musical entertainment from live acts and pampering session to ensure that every day is entertaining for residents.

Many of the activities organised by the Seafarers Way team are designed specifically for people living with dementia, with reminiscence being a key focus, to help evoke positive memories.

Dale Thompson, regional operations manager at Inclusion Housing, which runs Seafarers Way, said: “For many people living with dementia, having their pet with them – with whom they share an emotional attachment – is a huge source of comfort.

“At Seafarers Way, we recognise the importance of catering for the social and emotional needs of our residents and so being pet-friendly is one way of doing that.

“We’re delighted that it has made such a big difference for Maz, and other residents who live at Seafarers Way.”

The scheme was commissioned by Sunderland City Council, and is one of nine developments in Sunderland.

Councillor Graeme Miller, Sunderland City Council’s cabinet member for health, housing and adult services, said: “The scheme is a fantastic example of a place that not only thinks about the health needs of its residents, but also the social needs to keep them happy and fulfilled.

“Schemes like this, and others across the city, are genuinely transforming care in Sunderland, and through partnerships with organisations like Inclusion and Housing & Care 21, we are seeing the city deliver the best standard of care possible to what is an aging population in Sunderland. We are delighted to be associated with such a special scheme.”

For more information about Seafarers Way, contact Inclusion Housing on 01904 675 207 or email tenancies@inclusionhousing.org.uk or visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/extracare, call 0303 123 1052 or email the scheme manager Reagan Wade at Reagan.wade@housingandcare21.co.uk

The P Word

I’m Jane – a mother of two, from Sunderland. And I want to talk about the P word.

Who has felt peer pressure to be the PERFECT parent? I have. And I can almost hear other parents out there saying the same thing!

The Perfect Parent Pressure is unlike anything else you’re likely to feel. I’m married, and I know for certain I’m not the perfect wife. Far from it – I can be a nightmare to live with. I am a daughter, and I accept that I have been less than perfect at that too! I’ll never forget my poor mam and dad’s face when they opened the police letter I had picked up at 14, for drinking in the park with my friends! I’m not a perfect friend, colleague, or person even. And all of this is fine with me. I don’t feel the need to try harder. I am what I am. But something about parenthood makes you aim for perfection. Nothing less will do.

Despite the fact that there is probably not one right or wrong way to parent, it’s amazing how having a baby can make you question everything. In fact, the second you have your baby you are thrown into a world full of questions as you try to be the perfect parent. Should I breastfeed? Will I spoil my baby if I cuddle her too much? Should she be talking by now? Surely the perfect parent would know all of this?!

And that pressure is turned up a notch when you get it wrong. I remember the first time I realised I had got it wrong. It was when my little girl, Abbey, was nine months old. I lay her on the sofa, and turned away for a split second, and the next thing I heard was a bang. She had rolled off the settee and was wailing and crying – more from the shock than anything else I think. That split-second decision had been wrong. And for days after it happened I thought about little else. What was I thinking? Why did I put her on there and look away? Was I a bad parent? What would other mams say? I’d judge me!

As any parent will know, the second you become a mam, your instinct is to protect your children. Some in-built thing makes you leap to their defence if someone picks on them; scoop them up when they fall; cuddle them in tight and comfort them when they cry. But what about when you make them cry? What about when you get it wrong?

Last week marked Family Safety Week, which you might think is someone else telling you how to be the perfect mam, dad or carer! But it’s not. Perfect parents are about as common as perfect wives; husbands; daughters; sons; friends; colleagues and people. In other words, they don’t exist! Parenting is the hardest job in the world – that is why there is so much advice out there for parents – not because people want to tell you what to do, but because it’s a well known fact that parents need support. And the quest to be perfect needs to stop!

Getting it wrong is sometimes easier than getting it right and we do need advice and tips to help us along the way. We all make mistakes, but what Family Safety Week is about is to give us pointers that can minimise the risk of us getting it wrong, and keep our little ones safe. Sometimes it is just about looking at the world in a different way. We forget what a dangerous place our homes can be for babies and toddlers – whether it is popping your baby down and turning away from a few minutes; that split second step out of the bathroom which could mean your child slips under the water; or leaving your straighteners on and your little one touching them. It’s easy to create risks without even thinking about it.

The thing we need to remember though is that real parents do make mistakes. It doesn’t make us bad parents – it makes us human. Let’s looks at where we can learn, through weeks like Family Safety Week – by the way, there are lots of useful hints and tips at www.familysafetyweek.org.uk – and stop trying to be perfect. Let’s just be parents. Perfectly imperfect, but learning all the time.