Rituals and routines are important and one of mine is that as I get my 2 and ¾ year old daughter up in the morning (the ¾ is important in nursery politics) I ask her did she have any dreams. She usually – unless grumpiness is present due to the early rise – says ‘Yes.’ When then asked ‘What about?’ She replies, ‘Monkeys and crocodiles’. Never ‘Crocodiles and monkeys.’

I am one of these folks who has never been able, with the odd exception, to remember my dreams but I know that the world of dreams is a very important part of our health and wellbeing. Yet despite years of analysis and debate from Jung to Wallace, why we dream remains one of the great mysteries of psychology. Some say its to do with consolidating our memories, others that dreams provide an enactment of threats to prepare response, and yet others that they are to do with regulating our emotions. Hundreds upon hundreds of books have been written about dreaming not least around the belief that dreams are a gate to greater insight, and in some cultures that they provide insight into the future in the nature of being premonitions.

Not surprisingly I am not going to discern that mystery today – give me some more sleep and I will try.

But there is another sense in which we talk about dreaming and that is the imagining of a world or a reality which is different to the one we are currently experiencing. Perhaps this sense was best encapsulated by Martin Luther King whose immortal speech, ‘I have a dream’ led a people to struggle and gain freedom from discriminatory law and behaviour in the 1960s Civil Rights movement.

Today is the last day of the inaugural Care Home Week and it is about ‘dreaming…’ It is a day where you are invited to dream with your imagination firmly rooted in reality about a new future and about different possibilities for the shape and life of care homes in Scotland.

We know the challenges that we face with an ageing population and reducing resources. We know the need to attract more and more committed individuals to work in our care homes and to properly reward and respect those who dedicate their lives to the work of care. But we also have, in the midst of challenge, to give space to be able to dream. We have to have the power to imagine better.

What do we want care homes to be and to look like?

Might we dream of a time when the old are not just considered as recipients of care and support but are recognised as contributors and valued citizens with still much to give?

Might we dream of a time when the physical care home building was a place at the heart of our community with doors open in safety to a neighbourhood which saw it as a place of happiness and enjoyment; of value and worth; of insight and surprise?

Might we dream of care as being seen as a critical role for our society intrinsic to making us a human community, well-valued, with good status and appropriate remuneration? A role held equally by men as by women, by the young as well as those not so young.

Might we dream of care homes being sufficiently resourced that they are able to be properly staffed so as to offer excellence in the care and support of conditions as diverse as dementia or multiple sclerosis or cancer?

Might we dream of care homes as places where poets and painters, musicians and politicians, dancers and dreamers live and spend their time? Places where death sits as comfortably as life, where honesty abounds and risks are entertained?

Might we dream together and make our dreams for care homes a reality for as John Lennon once said:

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.

Happy care home dreaming.

Donald Macaskill

@DrDMacaskill