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care services and care homes

Like many people, I like to feed the birds in my garden. They eat about a kilogram of seeds every week from two bird feeders. What I like about the feeders is that they discriminate in favour of the smaller birds so the outsize, gutsy, who-ate-all-the-pies types, like woodpigeons and magpies, have to root round after the crumbs from the littleuns’ table. There’s also a supply of peanuts hanging from the eaves, which not only attract tits, as you’d expect, but also a woodpecker, who comes early in the morning and bangs the wire holder as if it’s a tree trunk. No need for the alarm clock there then.

You can of course buy bird seed from all sorts of places, pet shops, supermarkets, market stalls, and our wonderful local Handy Centre. There are good stocks and lots of people seem to buy in similar quantities to me. All of which sets me wondering about where all this seed comes from. An even bigger question is how do farmers manage to get adequate supplies of seed? One day they are ploughing a field, the next day it’s been sown with something or other. This must take a lot of beans or wheat or potatoes or whatever. Obviously they are supplied by agricultural seed merchants, but this just begs the question as to where they get it from. The mind boggles slightly as to the quantities of seed that must be involved. There must be lots of plants grown exclusively to produce seeds, so not every crop you see growing is going directly to produce food. And does this mean that there are people growing crops just to make bird seed? Somehow, I doubt it but there must be a point at which seeds for bird feeding are diverted from the rest of the agricultural chain.

Does this have anything to do with dementia? Maybe a couple of things. One is that it is OK to provide enhanced access to a service for people or creatures who would otherwise be disadvantaged. On the one hand, robins and sparrows get access to food that would be gobbled instantly by larger birds. In the case of older people or people with dementia, it is perfectly fine to offer a service specifically for them as it is likely that they might be disadvantaged otherwise. What may be important is not to overdo this because it’s also important that people with dementia have access to mainstream activities.

More important, perhaps, is to reflect on the complex infrastructure that lies behind both the provision of seed to garden birds and the provision of care to a person living with dementia and their family. For it to work requires a lot of attention at the individual level (where to site the feeder? what are the individual’s needs?) but also it requires considerable organisational back up (who employs the dementia worker? what training have they had/do they need?). The organisations involved in providing dementia care may be large, e.g. NHS Trusts, local authorities, but they can also be small, such as some community care providers or care homes. Irrespective of the size of each organisation, they are all nested in a complex web of commercial, professional and other relationships, overseen by a regulatory framework. So does dementia care share some of the challenges of getting seeds from wholesale to the level of the individual beak?

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