Why we do what we do- Michelle Dunne

Having been a member of the Fit For Life Team for a number of years now, I realise that we’re in a very unique position, where we get to help people achieve things that they themselves never thought that they would; like the 94 year old lady in Cork who apparently is “too old for exercise”, but recently pinned a certificate of achievement to her bedroom wall after having completed (and loved) her first Fit For Life Summer Olympic Games; or the gentleman from Kildare who recently began walking independently again after being told that he probably never would. They say that hard work pays off, but how could anything possibly be more rewarding? 

During our average day, we meet some of our society’s most colourful characters. They come from all over the country, and what they have in common, is that they are now residents in the nursing homes and communities where we work. We show up every day to offer our help and experience and if we’re lucky, they’ll choose to share some of their experiences with us too. Older people have so much to offer and I’m proud to be able to say that as a Fit For Life team member, I’ve formed some fantastic relationships with some fascinating people. We get to learn from women who were nurses during the war and men who fought in them; about what life was like when only the town doctor had a car and large families were reared on a shoestring budget. And about the friends and neighbours who made them laugh. I’ve heard stories from people who found and married the love of their life, and those who couldn’t marry theirs because, for different reasons, it was deemed unacceptable at the time and this is just the tip of the ice-berg. I’m constantly learning and being surprised by some of the hilarious, insightful, sometimes sad and often amazing stories that I hear from our residents every day. 

 Meanwhile, we aim to pass on all the things that we’ve learned about the human body – how it works, why it may not be functioning as it should be, and most importantly, how to get the most out of it and reclaim something that many of us take for granted: Independent living. 

For some it may be as simple as being able to put on their own jumper in the morning. For others, well ... you’ve heard about our Olympic Games.  

Our aim is simple: We want everyone to be able to get the most out of themselves, maintain their independence and achieve their goals (and then set more!) But this doesn’t just extend to the nursing home residents. What about the hard working care assistants, nurses, cleaners and kitchen staff, without whom, the homes that we visit simply couldn’t function? They spend their days ensuring that the needs of other people are being met. But what about their needs? If a resident is un-able to do something for themselves, then the staff will do it for them. If they cannot get out of bed by themselves, dress themselves, stand up by themselves, or get themselves from A to B, then yes, the staff will do it for them. They are constantly moving loads, regardless of the weight and stubbornness of that load. If they don’t have the means and the know-how to do it properly, then they too will find themselves losing their own function a little at a time. Or of course they’ll be fine – until the simplest task leads to a debilitating back injury. We like to get involved well before that happens and do everything we can to ensure that it doesn’t. 

By maintaining as much of the resident’s independence as possible, this of course cuts down on the workload of nursing home staff, which is a win/win for all involved. But what else can be done? 

Over the years we’ve developed so much as a company that now, we’re not just working with the residents. We also work very closely with staff, providing them with Manual Handling training, People Handling, Falls Prevention training, Seating and Positioning, Dealing with Dementia and Challenging Behaviour, just to name a few. We help to implement best practice in all areas of our expertise, and with a multi-disciplinary team like ours, we’re covering more and more of these areas every year. 

But it’s not all about what goes on in our nursing homes. In fact, why do people usually make the decision to become a resident in a nursing home in the first place 

Here’s that word again: Independence. Most people become nursing home residents, because they’ve lost some, or all, of theirs. Of course there are times when this is outside of any of our control. But there are things that can be done, and again, we’d like to help. 

If you’re feeling un-well, what do you do? You go to the doctor. If you have a toothache, you go to the dentist. If your balance is faltering and you’re becoming worried that you might fall; maybe you already have. What do you do? You begin a Fit For Life stand strong programme in your community. You can talk to our OTs about things that are becoming obstacles in your daily life. We can do whatever it takes to prevent the fall that could quite possibly alter your life. Of course, this situation doesn’t apply to everyone. Our stand strong groups are for anyone looking to improve their overall health and confidence, in a fun, sociable environment with on-hand expertise from one of our many therapists, who would be happy to advise you on any concerns that you might have. 

Have a browse through our site where you’ll get a brief introduction to our team and some of what we do, and please get in touch any time. We’d be delighted to hear from you!