The magic circle of relationships as an Elderflower

Dippsy & Sweetie Pie Elderflower

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I started my career as Dippsy Elderflower. Now seems like a very good time to reflect on the amazing journey Dippsy and I have been on together since then.

First and foremost let me say that I absolutely ADORE Dippsy. She is the best alter-ego and companion I could possibly wish for. Without Dippsy I would not get to play, dance and sing with such abandon every week. However, Dippsy would not even exist in all her glory were it not for all the other extremely generous and indulgent members of the Elderflower Clan, the absolutely fabulous ladies and gentlemen we meet on every visit, the tremendous support and appreciation of the tireless staff at the units we visit, and, last but far from least, the wonderful folk at Hearts & Minds HQ.

Relationships lie at the very heart of being an Elderflower. They exist on many levels and each creates its own ‘magic circle’ of give and take. For me the ones that provide the foundation for my work as an Elderflower are the professional and personal relationships I have developed with my practitioner colleagues at Hearts & Minds, supported by the artistic and management team at Hearts & Minds HQ. These relationships are vital for our working environment. Through sharing an ethos, practice and understanding of this specialized work we can easily discuss strategies for working together in specific situations, the outcomes of visits, and our successes and challenges.

We can warm up together, singing non-stop on an hour and a half car journey, or have a good laugh together at the suggestion that our Elderflower counterparts have blown the entire family Christmas budget on a night out, or banter back and forth as we change into our costumes, transforming from our real selves to our Elderflower selves. Chats about our lives outside Hearts & Minds lead to a greater understanding of who we are, our backgrounds, our interests, our other work, our families, and in this process we discover some truly amazing connections. Who would have thought that one of the other practitioners and I both have family connections to the same very small town in Canada! A small world indeed! These connections feed into our partnerships and get shared through the Elderflowers with the ladies and gentlemen.

An essential relationship is that of Dippsy Elderflower to all the other Elderflowers. She is their one and only Aunt who has arrived via Canada and Hollywood, and has landed in a veritable sea of nieces and nephews! They are all quirky and unique and she has spent the last two years forging relationships with each of them as they vie for attention and curry favor, striving to make it to the top of her favorite niece or nephew ladder. Each of these relationships is different. But they are all wonderful and would not exist without the understanding and trust that has been established through the personal and professional foundations.

Another vital relationship is with the staff at the units we visit. Without their commitment, appreciation and understanding our work could ring hollow. We rely on them to give us referrals and insights into the ladies and gentlemen we visit, without which we could not tailor our visits to the needs of those living with dementia– and sometimes members of their families – nor could we have follow-up discussions with the staff.

And now we come to the most important relationship of all – the relationship of Dippsy and the entire Elderflower Clan to all the ladies and gentlemen we visit. I cannot fully express the joy of seeing a gentleman’s eyes sparkle and face light up when Dippsy swoons after he has kissed her hand, or the pleasure of having a lady join in with strong full voice with the words of any song that we sing, or the dances Dippsy has shared with many ladies and gentlemen during which they abandon sticks, other walking aids or chairs to enjoy the sheer pleasure of dancing with another person, or the moment when the stress on the face of a lady nearing the end of life melts away to the tender strokes of Dippsy’s hand and the soft song sung by my partner. She suddenly looks years younger.

The magic circle of these relationships, the giving and receiving and sharing, represent the very essence of what it means to be human. Put together they truly create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. It is a microcosm of how we should be in the world, and it is a privilege to operate with all these truly wonderful human beings in this microcosm of Elderflowering.

Sheila Macdougall – Dippsy Elderflower