Going the extra mile to lift spirits in care homes during the coronavirus pandemic

Care homes across the country have closed their doors to visitors in a bid to shield their residents from coronavirus but staff, family, friends and even strangers are coming up with creative ways to stay in touch and keep the residents entertained.

Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 2:33 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd April 2020, 2:35 pm
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The crisis has led to many older people using technology for the first time to see their loved ones.

Beechwood Grove Care Home In East Dean Road near Eastbourne, closed its doors to visitors last month but the 60 residents are still able to see family and friends thanks to the home’s use of technology.

Irene Goddard is 91 years old and has four children scattered across the UK. Irene is managing to keep in touch with them all during lockdown with weekly online appointments via the home’s iPad.

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Her son, Mark, is 480 miles away in Glasgow from where he and his wife, Pat, play music and sing for their music-loving mum.

Mark said: “She loved to sing and was always involved in her local church choir.

“One of her favourite activities at Beechwood Grove is going to the Music for Memory group so we thought she’d enjoy some tunes from us via Skype.

“She has dementia so she’s not always looking at us but we can see her feet tapping and it’s lovely to be able to see that little giveaway that’s she’s connecting with – and enjoying – what we’re doing.”

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Cath Adams, lifestyles manager at Beechwood Grove, asked Mark and Pat to record their performance so Irene could enjoy it again, and shared it with her and her fellow residents in the home’s cinema.

Cath said: “She absolutely loved hearing them play Getting to Know You and the Carpenters’ song, Top of the World. She danced around the room and proudly told everyone, ‘that’s my son!’.”

The home is also sharing residents’ messages with family members on its Facebook page and has started a pen pal scheme, inviting members of the community to send in letters.

Former professional musicians, Mark and Pat are planning their next performance for Irene and are choosing which songs to play.

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Blue Door Nursery in Seaford, East Sussex, usually meets up with residents of the nearby Nova House Care Home and during this time is sending Easter treats and plants to the residents to keep in touch and let them know they are thinking of them. It is a whole community effort, as the plants have been donated by Paradise Park in Newhaven.

A Hastings care home is keeping families up to date with its latest news by issuing its own newspaper.

Hastings Court, in The Ridge, has also closed its doors to the loved ones of residents, but they are still able to get a window on day-to-day life through the Hastings Court Crier, a weekly newspaper written by the residents.

The editorial team meet each week to decide on the stories they’re going to cover and which articles to include.

The newspaper is the brainchild of the home’s Lifestyles team, led by Kimberley Mann.

She said: “It’s keeping residents occupied as we can’t invite our usual entertainers in and it’s another way of keeping families in touch. They used to pick it up in the bistro here but now we can email copies out to them.”

Carers at the home said the newspaper was unleashing residents’ creativity. They go around the home and interviewing people, so it is building their confidencet too. Georgina Gamble, home manager, said: “The paper’s been up and running for four weeks and already we’re seeing such a change in our residents.

“People don’t move into residential care because they’ve come to the end of their useful life. This newspaper, and our political discussion group, The League of Residents, are showing how engaged people want to be and the benefits it brings them.

“It’s also helping them to get to know each other.”

Hilda Wright likes to spend her time in her room so involving her in daily activities can be difficult. To include her in the project, the team have made her the Crier’s agony aunt.

Kimberley said: “We bring her people’s daily dilemmas from a post box we’ve set up downstairs. She feels part of what’s going on and her advice can be very amusing.”

iPads and laptops are keeping residents at Sussex care homes connected with their family members during the lockdown.

Residents at Westlake House Care Home in Horsham are one of those home are currently breaking new ground by using Skype, Facetime and WhatsApp. Residents are also receiving emails, phone calls and letters.

Julia Christodoulides, general manager at the home, said: “It is so nice to assist the residents connect with their families, friends and loved ones, helping them to feel as loved and thought after as ever. The health and wellbeing of our residents is, as always, paramount to us.”

Staff at MHA Greenways in Bognor Regis have been treated residents to a special performance of a High School Musical classic. The residents watched from their windows and gardens and staff say they enjoyed watching it and it made them smile.

Helen Lawrence, acting home manager, said: “It is a confusing time for us all, but we are trying to keep calm and carry on with normal routines as much as possible. We have implemented new activities such as Skype calls to families to ensure the relationships with their families are maintained.

“This dance really boosted everyone’s motivation that day. It was fun and a little light relief from all that is going on at the present time.”

A woman from Steyning has come up with a novel way for members of her local community to show their support by launching a donation-box initiative.

Barbara Buchanan, who used to work at Croft Meadow care home, Steyning, came up with the idea of a donation box with her sister, Lillian, in the hope that members of the public could leave treats and gifts for those working and isolating at the care home.

So far, residents and staff at Croft Meadow have been treated to chocolates, flowers, arts and craft materials, and even a bottle of Pimms.

Barbara said: “People have been leaving items in the ‘Sunshine Box’ outside the home on Tanyard Lane while they’re out on their daily walks. Staff are checking it regularly, cleaning the gifts that have been donated and putting them to good use inside the home. It is wonderful to see how people have responded to the idea.”

Sunshine the Dog is one of the Croft Meadow mascots and has lent his name to the initiative.