Innovation in care homes at a time of crisis

Featured article - 09 June 2020
By Amy Simpkins, Communications Officer and Pamela Holmes, Care Home FaNs, both at My Home Life England

Amy Simpkins, Communications Officer and Pamela Holmes, Care Home Friends and Neighbours NW London

At the start of the COVID-19 crisis, deaths within care homes were not reported in the daily statistics. It was as though these mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers were not quite important enough to include in the national total. Finally, this changed. Media coverage of care homes changed too. For the first time, we’re hearing more of the positive stories – the child playing noughts and crosses on the window of her grandmother’s care home room, and the carer who had a photo of a resident’s late wife printed onto a cushion, so he could still hug her goodnight. We must strengthen and sustain this view of care homes and ensure that it continues.

As those within social care field know, innovative practice in care homes was already happening every day, and this has continued through the pandemic. In the absence of face-to-face visits, staff are now using social media to timetable slots for residents and relatives to link up and enjoy relaxed chats. Activities Co-ordinators are meeting the needs of isolating individuals, for example by giving each person their own plant to care for in their own room. There are re-imagined group events so that celebrations still take place including corridor VE Day parties, with each resident participating from their decorated doorway. Staff are continuing to help residents from all faiths meet their spiritual needs, for example by embracing online services. Many of these innovative and compassionate practices are highlighted in our new You Tube series, Conversations with Care Homes. Drawing on conversations with over 1500 managers who’ve been through the My Home Life leadership programme, we share a range of stories, tips and techniques that care home managers across the country are using to promote quality of life for their residents, relatives and staff.

Although care home doors are closed to outsiders, community engagement is still possible and remains hugely important. Feeling connected to the local community is vital in making residents feel that they belong, and we’ve developed ways this can happen safely and effectively during the pandemic. As part of our Intergenerational Linking Project in partnership with The Linking Network, we’ve produced a series of free, fun online resources for remote intergenerational linking that keep young and older people connected when face-to-face linking isn’t possible. We’ve launched social media campaigns such as Geranium Joy, encouraging the public to drop a plant at their local care home and show staff and residents that they aren’t forgotten. Our Care Home Friends and Neighbours programme offers more resources and links to innovative practice.

We want to make sure care homes are known for the support they give every day to people who live, die, visit and work in care homes. We encourage the community to connect with their local care home, and we want to see changing attitudes, with care homes recognised and cherished by society.

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