Sunrise to Sunset (Daily Routine)
THE ROLE OF THE DAY ROOM
The definition of a Day Room is: - "a room (as in a hospital) equipped for relaxation and recreation where people can watch television, talk, etc" - which sums up a Day Room’s role. This was where the patients could all be together once they were washed/bathed, dressed etc for those not going to work or therapy or other such activities. It was also a place where patients who did work or go to therapy could relax after having carried out their daily activities.
It was also a communal room for gatherings when the patients all needed to be in the same room. This could be for entertainment, visiting from patients’ families/friends or voluntary visitors.
The patients, who were able to, were encouraged to carry out activities such as knitting, crocheting, painting, play card games or dominoes, singing, reading and other hobbies that the patient may carry out in their own homes. Some of these activities were helped by Occupational Therapists when the therapy was taken to the wards for the immobile patients.
Wards that were lucky enough to have an organ, were visited by volunteers who would play it and sing to the patients and encourage the patients to join in.
FOOD AND MEALTIMES
From the opening of Exminster Hospital in 1845 to the closing of it in 1987, food always played a large part in a patient’s life and their recovery.
In the 1800s and early 1900s food was classed as ‘monotonous’. Daily meat and potato dinners, milk and gruel breakfasts and meagre suppers were the typical diet.
The introduction of the National Health Service in 1948 did little to help with the funding for catering. The larger psychiatric hospitals were expected to feed their patients more cheaply than the smaller general hospitals even though Exminster Hospital was at least five times bigger than any general hospital in the same area. Wonford House and Digby hospitals were much smaller than Exminster but they all worked from the same budget. Also, in this year, the Commissioners of the Board of Control noted that 400 women ate together in the female dining room. There were not enough mugs and tumblers and the long dining tables with backless benches were ‘depressing’.
In 1956, the Ministry of Health made a special allocation to provide improvements in catering. The Exe Vale Group received £5,000, which went towards extra equipment and more staff. In September 1956, a sub-committee was set up to study the catering problems in the light of a letter and booklet about ‘desirable improvements in feeding standards’ from the Ministry of Health. These improvements consisted of supper for all patients where possible, a weekly minimum of 5 pints of milk, fresh fruit twice, 3 eggs and for each main meal 6oz fresh meat, improvements to the kitchen and early rebuilding of the Exminster kitchen and stores.
Also in 1956, the patients ate on their own wards in small groups as opposed to one hall as in 1948. A turnaround in 1969 led to Wards 17, 18, 19 and 20 having a large dining space in Ward 17 for approximately 100 patients.
In 1974, the menu was said to read like a hotel menu with a two course breakfast, a three course lunch, cooked tea and a light supper of cake and a hot drink. This was to remain like this until the hospital closure in 1987.
From the early days, Exminster Hospital patients were encouraged to work in such departments as the farm, laundry, kitchen, and gardens and some were 'paid' in tobacco.
Patients who did not work and smoked were given cigarettes and tobacco periodically throughout the day by the nurses because if they were given a packet, would smoke it all at once! Plus, for safety reasons some were not allowed to carry matches or lighters.
Initially, smoking was allowed freely throughout the wards but as time went on and people became aware of the diseases caused by smoking, designated rooms - smoking rooms - were allocated.