Good news can be hard to find in these times. Here we meet Yorkshire-based artist, Nigel Proud, who is spreading rays of hope with his picture-perfect portraits of local heroes keeping the community ticking during the pandemic.
The coronavirus pandemic has hugely impacted community support services, and its local heroes who have kept these communities running. This is exactly what painter Nigel, based in Shepley village, Kirklees, is keen to emphasise. He is painting a series of portraits of local heroes in lockdown: GPs, postal workers, hairdressers and even one of Dementia UK’s very own Admiral Nurses – Rachel Korosi.
The idea came from an original project Nigel did to paint free portraits for NHS heroes. Nigel soon realised that other members of the community were not getting recognised for their selfless contributions.
“Out of all of this came my idea for the ‘Heroes of Shepley’ Collection – free portraits for people who have kept my village going through the pandemic. It is very much a celebration of their achievements in these extreme circumstances,” Nigel says.
Admiral Nurse support
After Rachel was nominated by Dementia UK, Nigel packed his easel and brushes and went off to meet Rachel. However it wasn’t until halfway through Rachel’s portrait when Nigel asked if she is the same Rachel supporting his mother-in-law with dementia and his wife. By a stroke of coincidence, it was!
Rachel started supporting the family following the diagnosis of vascular dementia in Nigel’s mother-in-law. They needed practical and emotional help to support some of the more challenging symptoms of dementia in his mother-in-law. This included hallucinations, delusions and denial from his mother-in-law that she even had the condition.
Rachel gave them advice on how to distract her when angry or anxious, constantly keeping in touch with them during lockdown to listen and address their concerns, and even ringing up the council to quicken their access to support. Nigel says that without Rachel, the family would have been more stressed, anxious and completely worn out.
How support from an Admiral Nurse made a difference
Nigel continues: “Admiral Nurses do an amazing job and all family carers affected by dementia should have access to one; they completely understand dementia and its effects on the person diagnosed and the wider family. Quite simply: they are a lifeline.”
Rachel has played a pivotal role in providing support to families with dementia at a time of reduced support services. Without stimulation from community activities like coffee mornings and singing sessions, the symptoms of people with dementia have become more pronounced. The absence of respite has also meant that carers are storing up significant amounts of emotional distress.
Commenting on the importance of her role in supporting families with dementia, Rachel says: “I consider myself very lucky to be an Admiral Nurse. Together we work to help families understand what dementia is, what changes in symptoms and behaviour mean, and how to cope with some of the most difficult aspects of caring. Dementia is so unpredictable so I am there to support families through these transitions and together we can plan ahead for what the family might need in the future.”
To be recognised by the local community through Nigel’s portrait was an honour for Rachel. She knows only too well how much her work with families and the pressures they face have significantly increased in the pandemic.Rachel continues: “Being part of our local community has never been more important in these times of Covid-19 and the restrictions it has brought. Understanding what strengths our community has that can make life just a little easier for families has been a critical part of my role. We are working with imagination and enthusiasm to find ways of safely supporting families. Admiral Nurses have never been busier.”
Nigel hopes to have an exhibition of his ‘Heroes of Shepley’ collection whenever safe to do so and to allow people to see how communities have come together at such an extraordinary and challenging time.