Outstanding Society Board member Russell Lease, Director of Horizon Healthcare Homes Ltd, shares some of the innovations being employed by care home staff to ensure that residents continue to live to the full during the coronavirus.
We are all fully aware of the massive changes to all or our lives, as a result of the impact that COVID-19 is having on people’s health and the economies around the world. We cannot ignore the risk to people’s health and indeed the numbers of deaths that are being reported globally.
Working in the health and social care professions, we are probably more acutely aware of the devastating impact that this virus is having on our most vulnerable people in society and the unprecedented measures that we are taking to help prevent the spread of the illness. I believe that anyone reading this will probably agree that the effort involved is colossal.
We receive reports daily via our TVs, newsfeeds and social media of the suffering, the deaths, the strain on services, the lack of resources, and, in particular, the impact upon social care and health services.
What isn’t widely covered, is some of the tremendous work that is happening in the background, within care homes and community settings to enable the most vulnerable among us to continue to enjoy life, have fun and actually use the opportunity to expand upon their social networks and experience new opportunities, albeit in some rather creative ways.
As a board member of the Outstanding Society, I wanted to share some of the innovative ideas that have transpired as a result of the COVID-19 crisis to enable those people that we are trying to protect to continue to life fulfilling lives in the strangest and most challenging of times.
We have received stories from members of the Outstanding Society that have demonstrated great ways to maintain links in the community. One care home in Sussex has maintained links with their local church by forging a pen pal scheme with members of the church community outside the care home. This is enabling residents to maintain those relationships with members of the church whilst supporting their spiritual needs.
A group of care homes for people with learning disabilities in West Yorkshire, meanwhile, has set up a similar scheme so that the people they support can maintain relationships with others as pen pals. Some have chosen to use video calling facilities to speak to their friends in other homes, partake in activities and celebrate occasions together. Amazingly, two people who had never met previously, living in different homes in different towns, have developed a romantic online relationship.
One care home in Leeds has been proactive in supporting others in the community by collecting foodstuffs most needed by a local foodbank and delivering this to their doorstep for those that are struggling financially. The same home has donated sanitary products to local families who are living in hardship and having to make sacrifices in their shopping for items such as this so that they are able to feed their children. Another home manager in Huddersfield has been shopping for the elderly and vulnerable parents of one of the people supported in the home that she manages, as well as leading the home through this period whilst looking after her own family.
Technology has played a massive part in maintaining links with family and friends in many settings. We are all missing loved ones and this resource has been put to maximum use in the form of video calls, messaging and phone calls in a great number of care settings. Some homes are linking with others to hold celebrations such as themed birthdays. There was even a linked VE day celebration garden party.
Additionally, an Outstanding home in Bradford has created its own pub at the request of the people living there and they have also made use of a tree in the ‘beer garden’ to write wishes of what they would like to do when the crisis has passed – a creative and fun way of expressing hopes and dreams and planning for the future. Similarly, many people have been using resources to create time capsules – again, another great way to remind people of what this time was like and a great way to reflect and enjoy life when the crisis is over. Another home has brought the community into the home, by converting a room into different themed settings at the wish of the residents – so far the room has been used as a hairdressers, a beauty therapy salon, a cinema, a restaurant and even a karaoke bar.
We have heard organisations providing online music therapy, bands playing sessions to people in homes via You Tube and Skype, and games and activities being carried out on a regular basis, all linked between different homes. Horizon Healthcare’s care homes have kept their spirits up by making ‘Show me the way to Amarillo’ singalong videos. You can view the videos by clicking on the image above or watching them on YouTube here or here.
One home has been sending weekly newsletters to individual family members about their loved one’s week, in addition to regular video calling. This has been likened to a pictorial postcard, which the people supported are enjoying help create and family members are really enjoying receiving.
Additional staff have been recruited proactively in many homes as a contingency for when things might get really difficult. The response to advertisements has been tremendous and many people who are now enjoying working in social care settings who wouldn’t necessarily have done so if it hadn’t been for the COVID-19 crisis.
The support networks within homes and between homes has been tremendous and I don’t ever remember a time when so many people worked collaboratively between organisations. The response has also been impressive from local businesses and members of local communities who have offered help and support in a variety of different ways, from offering flowers to brighten up the home, to offering essential supplies and even support with essential maintenance cover if needed. One home has just received a supply of face masks which a local school have made using their 3D printer.
There are countless other positive news stories to report – hopefully, as well as the suffering that COVID-19 has brought, we will also remember the amazing work that is being done by staff members on a daily basis in care settings and the relentless efforts of managers to do what they can to ensure the safety and well-being of the most vulnerable of people during this crisis.