Form1 CEO, Steve Shirlaw, spent years visiting his nan in her Aged Care home. The time he spent there inspired a beautiful idea and a wonderful new initiative called, Cards for Connection.
Form1 CEO, Steve Shirlaw, was regularly visiting Residential Aged Care facilities when his Nan was moved to one that would become her forever home. The family visited often, and Steve recalls sharing inspiring moments with the elderly woman who meant so much to him.
“Nan was an incredible woman,” he remembers fondly. “She was an amazing mother, Nan and Great Grandmother. She endured a lot in her life and lived life to the fullest. She was generous, fun to be around and incredibly talented. Everything was done the old fashioned way. Nan was someone we looked up to and someone we could always rely on.”
Visiting a loved one in an Aged Care facility, whether it’s a mum, dad, grandparent or close friend, can be confronting in many ways and Steve has seen, first hand, the experience families endure.
“Personally, I have worked in these facilities for many years. Going from one place to another, seeing a range of residents and their families. Some are very active, mentally alert and into life. I really enjoy having conversations with them and hearing their stories,” he says.
“Then there is the other side. Residents who are extremely sick, frail, or not able to communicate. Some may be struggling with Dementia. I used to wonder about these people a lot. The feeling of sadness, for those who were once so strong, and now suffering through their days, was deep and real,” he reflects.
Then it was Steve’s turn to visit someone he loved.
“Nan was admitted to a facility where she spent the rest of her life, until she passed away. Then it was my turn to visit a facility and spend time with a loved one. This was very different to being a contractor and working beside them.”
New ways to connect
Like many families, Steve and his made an effort to visit Nan often, sometimes on their own and at other times all together.
“On many occasions, we arrived together as a family, all of us gathered around Nan and it was beautiful. But some days,” he says, “Our visits felt awkward and conversations seemed lost. Many times I questioned, ‘What will I say next? What question will I ask her?’ This wonderful woman with so many stories to share.”
It’s common to feel a range of emotions when a loved one moves into care, including guilt, abandonment, fear of the unknown, denial and sadness.
“Sometimes I would be flooded with feelings of guilt,” admits Steve. “I struggled with this because she was a person I loved so much. I know she looked forward to our visits, yet sometimes I didn’t know what to say when I was there.”
As the years went on, Steve watched his Nan became less coherent, and their time together got harder. “Then my nan passed away. She was 99. Like I said, my nan was tough.”
Empowering Memorable Conversations
Facing his own emotional struggle, and spending time with a loved one in care, inspired Steve to think outside the box.
“One day, it came to me. What if we had another way to communicate with special people in our lives? What if we had a tool that prompted us to ask a question or jog a memory? What if we could ignite a memory that made them smile? We all love hearing stories, and most of us love telling them,” he explains.
From a place of curiosity Steve came up with the idea for Cards for Connection. A pack of cards people could play together, one-on-one or in a group, that would spark emotions, memories and conversations. Questions, games and ideas that could encourage connection with another person, regardless of age. A game that encourages families to play, share and connect.
“That’s exactly what Cards For Connection is,” says Steve. “A game that’s fun where you can learn so much about others by playing with them.”
Play, Share, Connect
If you are currently visiting someone in Aged Care, Steve invites you to reflect on your experience. “I would ask yourself these questions. How are my visits? How is the wait? How does my loved one feel when I leave the room? And how could I make this experience even better?” he says.
Last year Form1 set about bringing Cards For Connection to life, and with the help of an amazing team, suppliers, friends and clients, who helped with research and feedback along the way, they have now come to life.
“We’re excited to get them into as many Aged Care facilities as we can,” dreams Steve. “I hope they give everyone who uses them a great deal of pleasure and memories they will cherish forever. I hope they open up communication and start conversations like never before.”
“I will be extremely proud if they make a difference to all who play them and I’ll think of Nan if I see you playing them in your facility. I know she’d be proud and this simple, fun idea is something she would have loved.”
Cards for Connection are available now. All profits will go to a Form1 charity of choice. Please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and to order.