Tim Lloyd-Yeates

Tim at session black and whiteTim Lloyd-Yeates was an extraordinary man whose life enhanced hundreds if not thousands of others because he was possessed of a rare combination of insight, generosity of spirit and sharp intelligence.  It hardly seems possible that he has gone – a gentle giant felled by acute myeloid  leukaemia at the far-too-young age of 48.

Many of us have followed his progress in the last few difficult months via his characteristically upbeat tweets.  Not one was negative.  Through the few tiny ups and many downs of chemo and the seemingly great news that his bone marrow transplant had grafted, he relayed what turned out to be the final chapter of his life.

As a tribute to Tim I’m reposting a blog that I wrote about him last October.   It was, I said then, the story of how a (very tall) man found his vocation.   That it proved to be so soon over is sad beyond words.

It started in 2000 when an indomitable woman moved into a care home that failed to see her for who she was.  Nine years later – via France and India – her son-in-law Tim Lloyd-Yeates set up a charity dedicated to improving the lives of older people in care.

Last year alone Bristol-based Alive! delivered 2,500 specialist dementia activity sessions – such as Virtual Wishes, Out of the Frame, Museums to You – in 300 care homes across nine counties in the South of England.  To make a donation in memory of its founder, click here.

The website’s homepage features Paint Pals, an intergenerational project in which children make monthly visits to a care home to paint and share time with the older people.   In a video, a care home manager describes how the children’s visits make her residents “come alive”.

Take a look and see for yourself.   Young and old have a connection: the youngsters have patience and tolerance; the older people are simply themselves, a bit slower than they once were, not so talkative or confident.  Each brings out the best in the other; both have time, without judgement – valuable assets that most working age adults simply don’t possess.

While Paint Pals is certainly clever, and very effective, it’s not complicated or expensive.   It’s simple, and it’s largely about people making connections – which brings me back to the beginning of the story: to Tall Tim, his mother-in-law and her inadequate care home.

Shirley was 62 and had brain tumours, speech dysphasia and dementia.  Tim and his wife were expecting their first child and Tim was working in the City.    Two days after Shirley went to live in a care home recommended by her GP, Tim visited her.  He was struck by the fact that the home was operating at two speeds.

“The staff were running about with too much to do, while the residents were moving around in slow motion – and there was no connection between the two,” he explained.   The old people were sitting in a circle, staring into space, in a room heated to 90 degrees.  At 9.30am Shirley was watching TV from a wheelchair.  Tim had never seen her in a wheelchair before.

“Shirley was an indomitable woman,” he told me.  “She didn’t own a big TV, she was a radio person who loved being outdoors.   So she was receiving the antithesis of everything she would have wanted – and what this told me was that the care home didn’t know who she was”.   A realisation that proved the catalyst for all that Tim went on to achieve – at the heart of which lies (if you haven’t already guessed it) good old-fashioned person-centred care, with a bit of up-to-the-minute touchscreen technology thrown in for good measure.

For though Tim intervened to improve matters for his mother-in-law, her final months spent living in care weren’t good, and Tim knew it.  “I was 35 at the time and it left me with a burning sense that everyone, especially me, could have done better.  It fired me up and stayed with me”.

Over the next four years Tim gave up his City job and, using the small inheritance that Shirley had left them, the family travelled to India and France, where they lived for four years.  All the while Tim was reflecting on his mother-in-law’s bad experience and learning everything he could about health and social care policy in the UK, and about dementia.

Once back in England, Tim put his newfound knowledge into practice.  He became the general manager of a company facilitating music, poetry, quizzes and physical activities in various care settings – and he found his vocation.

“For the first time in my life I felt that I was in a place where I belonged.  I discovered I had a talent and a desire to connect with older people and those living with dementia”.

When the company franchised the model Tim decided to leave.  He was “as skint as a church mouse” and had a young family to provide for, but he had a vision.   He didn’t view the work he was doing as a business, but a social service.

He started phoning care homes in the south-west and as soon as one of them expressed interest, he armed himself with a wheelie bag full of song sheets, quizzes, poems and a CD player and set off on public transport to meet them.  Once inside, he engaged with the residents, many of whom had dementia, by kneeling down so that he was at their eye level and using non-verbal methods of communication to gain their confidence.   Every home he visited in those early days remains a client – and everyone in them called him Tall Tim.

alive! logo - largeThree years into this form of private practice and with the help of two pivotal people, Philip May and Richard Pendlebury (both remain involved), Alive! became a registered charity.  It now has ten staff and 15 presenters skilled in the Arts and non-verbal communication techniques who, between them, facilitate thousands of activity sessions and have trained 500 individuals in 70 care settings to deliver the sort of respectful, stimulating and person-centred care so sadly lacking for Shirley.   Tim told me that training others to continue the work was vital; otherwise, the beneficial effects of the sessions would be merely transitory.

In 2009 the story took another twist when Tim met a care home resident called Dorothy.  She was confused and, seeking to calm her, he asked what one thing she would really like to do.  When Dorothy said she wanted to see the Bay House hotel in Scarborough, Tim thought of the iPhone he’d just bought.  He took it from his pocket, typed in Google maps, found the hotel and showed it to her.  Dorothy instantly began telling him, lucidly and fluently, all about this significant place from her past.

It was, said Tim, a light-bulb moment.  “I had the first inkling of what the Internet and intuitive touchscreen technology could do for older people”.   A year later Tim and Andrew Morris launched Memory Apps for Dementia – a partnership that identifies and uses touchscreen technology to improve the lives of those with memory problems.

Now iPads form an essential part of Alive!’s work.  “It’s the people in the room who have the knowledge,” Tim said.  “They hold the answer.  It’s easy to get caught up in the activities – in Paint Pals or iPads for their own sake – but they are just tools, just a bridge to the person who has lost his or her energy or identity”.

The person – the individual – holds the key to everything that Tim, Alive! and Memory Apps set out to do.   As he told me, “Everyone is unique.  Let’s stop pretending otherwise.  How can you serve people if you don’t know who they are?”

It was a typically spot-on question from a man I was privileged to know and whose story, when I wrote it nine short months ago, I never dreamed would be so cruelly cut short.  It’s left to the rest of us now to ensure that Tim’s legacy for those who are old and frail or who might have dementia lives on (tall, proud and wonderful as ever) through his work.  To donate to Alive! click here.

10 Responses to Tim Lloyd-Yeates

  1. Caron Sprake 14th July 2015 at 2:15 pm #

    That was so sad to read Pippa. I really hope Tim’s legacy will live on in the work he started. Thank you for sharing this again and so sad to have lost an inspirational man.

    • Pippa Kelly 14th July 2015 at 4:36 pm #

      Thanks Caron. Yes, it is unbelievably sad. A Russian friend once told me, “God takes the best” and it’s rarely been truer.

    • April Lewis 14th July 2015 at 7:08 pm #

      Just to confirm that Tim’s Legacy will indeed be continued. I have received an email in saying just this. Thank you for such a tribute to Tim Lloyd- Yeates. April Lewis Activities Coordinator at Summer Lane Care Home. Weston Super Mare.

  2. Alise Kirtley 14th July 2015 at 8:47 pm #

    Tim is a rare and stunning beacon of hope and inspiration.

    In an interview with him about older adult wellbeing, he told me…

    “If you make the effort to get to know someone in an unhurried way, most of the elements of the disability, most of the time, can be overcome and people can communicate”

    “You can’t be doing this for the money. You have to be coming from a space of love. Even just using word ‘love’, some people are uncomfortable – but that’s the truth”

    “It’s actually about time, connection, open body language, getting down to someone’s level, touch, being enthusiastic, having a positive intention for your relationships, and being congruent – doing what you say and if there’s something you can’t do it, saying you can’t do it”

    Tim lived by these words with absolute integrity. He will be sorely missed.

    • Pippa Kelly 15th July 2015 at 8:55 am #

      Thank you Alise – that quote sums up Tim completely. x

  3. Michael Jessup 15th July 2015 at 9:50 am #

    Michael Jessup It’s easy in life to look up to those talented people, who can kick a ball about, light up the big screen or belt out the latest chart hit, to want to be like them and find fame, to hero worship.
    Tim Lloyd-Yeates gave of himself with a huge heart and the ability to really reach out to people, who have often lost so much of themselves.
    I remember meeting Tim at a course about dementia and was lucky enough to be on his table. He had just started Alive!.
    He talked with such passion about his aims and it made perfect sense to get him to come to Humphry Repton House.
    The thing I will always remember on Tim’s visits was how he lit up a room and most of all how he learnt every residents name.
    A practice all the Alive! team have aimed to follow.
    Tim has left a huge hole in the world of Dementia, but a wonderful legacy.
    We have lost an innovator, and a wonderful human.
    I am very happy to call Tim a friend and to say that he is one of my heroes. Thanks for everything Tim. Xxx

  4. Debbie 16th July 2015 at 11:39 pm #

    Tim was a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s society at a carers group with me. He was a lovely guy. Bless you Tim, you or your lovely family didn’t deserve this. x

  5. Big ian 20th July 2015 at 9:45 pm #

    A fitting tribute to a man who stood above the crowd in many ways. His legacy will be found as smiles on the faces of the people who met him.

    I can’t believe he’s gone…i can still see his smile & hear his voice.

    We’re all richer for knowing him & he’s certainly left a big mark on me…a gentle, caring, genuine man whose gifts should be cribbed by all of us.

    Goodnight bonnie lad
    You’ve left a big hole in our futures
    Sleep well

  6. George Moss 21st July 2015 at 3:01 pm #

    Tim you were truly a giant, such a pleasure to spend time with you on BCfm Silversound but far more important just to be in your company was so much well spent,We had many amusing stories we shared and you will bye truly missed by me and I am sure everyone who had the pleasure of spending time in your company.

  7. William Davies 12th March 2017 at 7:46 pm #

    Hello Pippa,
    I wonder if you could put me in touch with Tim’s wife and daughter. I was a school friend of his. Indeed we were best friends for a couple of years. I have only just found out of his passing and would like to speak to his wife and daughter, just in case they wished to know something of who he was and how he was, before either of them knew him. It was a shock to find out and has quite affected me. If I can help at all, I would like to.

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