Our blog features real-life stories from those living, dying, working and visiting care homes across the UK. If you’ve got a story you’d like to share, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good practice blog
Student Hubs is a national organisation which supports students to tackle social challenges, learn about issues and connect with each other. The Bristol Hub, which supports the students of the University of Bristol, has been collaborating with My Home Life as they work towards creating stronger relationships with care homes in the south west of England. Bristol Hub has created the Linkages initiative which aims to encourage intergenerational relationships between students and care home residents. This then allows older and younger people to share their stories and time with each other. This has proved to be hugely beneficial for both age groups involved. University of Bristol and Bristol Hub’s volunteer, Kerri, spoke to MHL about their work.
Kerri Warne has written about her experiences of working with older people living in care homes through the Bristol Hub and why it’s so important to get involved:
“In the third and final year of my degree at the University of Bristol I decided to make full use of the wealth of volunteering opportunities available to me. I have always been interested in volunteering in care homes and social isolation amongst older people is an issue that particularly concerns me. As the world becomes more reliant on technology, and the importance of face-face communication seems to dwindle, many older people feel disconnected and lonely.
LinkAges is a scheme that forms part of the Bristol Student Hub network. The volunteering programme aims to tackle social isolation amongst older people living in care homes. Student Hubs on a national level work with local care homes to partner University students with residents who would like a visitor. This scheme has created a mutually beneficial opportunity for both students and residents. There are a variety of projects for students to get involved with, Student Skills Swap, one-to-one visits, and IT assisted sessions to name a few.
I decided to sign up to LinkAges and I now visit the Garden House care home at St Monica Trust once a week to spend an hour or so with a resident. In this time westart getting to know each other, discussing hobbies and interests as well as taking part in any activities that the resident would like to get involved in. The whole experience is great, it’s very easy and the care home staff are incredibly helpful and welcoming.
Being a LinkAges volunteer was especially important to me during the revision period and it was always very refreshing to spend time out of the University bubble. Volunteering has widened my perspective and I have learnt how to adapt my communication skills to the different and changing needs of the residents. I have gained confidence in forming new relationships with older people, but overall, I have enjoyed spending time in the care home. I get to listen to interesting stories about the residents’ lives and my eyes have been opened up to a completely different lifestyle to my own.
I urge all of you to try something new today, give a small portion of your time to older people living in care homes. There’s never been a better time to get involved”
Thanks to Bristol Student Hub and Kerri Warne for the creation of this blog.
Llys Hafren is making it their mission to change people’s understanding of what older people can do. As a support worker at Llys Hafren, Charlie highlights: “A general misconception of older people living in care homes is that they can’t look after themselves, can’t participate in activities, and can’t go out into the community, but that’s definitely not the case for every resident.”
For the last nine months Llys Hafren have been working with their local volunteer hub connecting residents with clubs, groups and individuals who are based in the community. “We simply contacted our local volunteer hub and asked them to assist us in finding interested parties to connect with our residents and it all went from there”. It has proven to be an innovative decision and life changing for the residents, as Charlie explains:
“Before a resident comes to us we go out and assess their needs, this includes their likes, dislikes and hobbies. It was during this assessment that the relatives of a particular gentleman shared that it was important for him to run regularly. Not many of us would associate sport with older people living in care homes and yet, for one resident, it’s been a life long love”. Llys Hafren worked with the volunteer hub to find out how together they could keep their resident’s passion for running alive, whilst continuing to keep them safe and ensure their needs are met.
So how do you ensure the safety and wellbeing of an older person in this scenario? Charlie explains: “When reflecting on how to meet the needs of this particular resident, one of our Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends facilitators, who is also part of the local volunteers hub, suggested we contact our community running club. The running club were more than happy to support the resident joining the group.” However, before the resident began running, a representative from the running club came to visit the resident and met with the care home’s manager and staff so they could establish how, along with the resident’s family, they could practically facilitate the resident’s passion for running. Due to the hard work and dedication from the home and the running group, the resident enjoys runs of up to half an hour, every week. The home feels that this activity keeps the resident feeling contented, physically enabled, and offers continuity from their life before they moved into Llys Hafren care home.
Why not ask your local volunteer hubs what they can offer your care home?
My Home Life extends its thanks to Llys Hafren care home, its residents and Charlie for putting together this blog.
The Research and Teaching Fellow at Ulster University, Sarah Penney, has been sharing her delight at winning the ‘Learning in Practice Award’ at the Nurse of the Year Awards 2017, hosted by the Northern Ireland (NI) Royal College of Nursing.
These awards provide the opportunity to highlight excellence within nursing in NI and the contribution that nurses make to the health and well-being of the people of NI. The prestigious event was held at the Belfast Culloden hotel, where many health and social care professionals came along to the awards, celebrating and sharing in the successes and outstanding achievements of NI nurses.
Sarah Penney, who is a NI representative for My Home Life, achieved the ‘Learning in practice’ award for working with Care Home’s focussing on their leadership skills in order to improve the quality of life for older people living in these settings.
In fostering positive relationships with Care home’s and their proprietors, Sarah managed to have care home managers released to attend a leadership development programme, where staff benefited from monthly action learning sets and practice development workshops. The programme created strength and resilience in the care home managers and improved their leadership skills overall.
The success of the programme also led to further work under the practice development strand. Initiatives such as revision of the pre-admission assessment protocol and the production of a short film promoting best practice was also achieved. Additionally, Sarah’s work and experience, coupled with the dedication and enthusiasm of the care home managers, enhanced their understanding of the need to maintain the dignity and individual identity of patients with end-stage dementia and/or severe communication difficulties. Sarah also facilitated the direct involvement of patients in decisions about their care.
MHL would like to congratulate Sarah in her wonderful win and to thank her for her continued passion and dedication to her work.
Do you want to stay cool as a cucumber this Summer?
MHL have spoken with Milton Keynes Care Home managers who have shared their top tips of how to keep stress away this summer!
Why not try and see for yourself?
Help your team to reach and identify solutions.
Doing this give teams confidence and prevent people from always relying on you for the answer.
- Create time to reflect, keep a reflective diary?
Try not to take work home.
Our thanks goes to the Managers of the My Home Life Milton Keynes Leadership Support Programme for their suggestion and thoughts to help others.
Let us know how you got on by leaving a comment or getting in touch with us email@example.com
Blakesley House Nursing home have been working on improving their End of Life (EoL) services for residents. Throughout their strive to be better, they’ve achieved recognition for the second time from the Gold Standard Framework (GSF) Hallmark and have received the GSF Platinum award 2017-2020. Blakesley are among 20 care homes from across England to win this prestigious award from the National GSF centre.
Karen Agbuya has worked for Blakesley house since 2015 and spoke with My Home Life (MHL) about her journey as a care assistant working with older people.
Karen has worked with many residents facing end of life, she thinks it’s important to support people to have a ‘Good Death’.“For me the experience of a resident passing away is always an emotional and personal one”.
Karen explained to MHL that Blakesley House has worked hard to change and improve their offer of support to residents who are at the end of their life. “The most significant change to our practice was to have more ‘conversations’. Talking with a resident about what they’d like at the end of their life is important to them and, to me as a carer. By having these conversations sensitively (and there is likely more than one) and, early on, it allows residents to feel heard, settled and comforted that all has been taken care of.
Karen explained that Blakesley House use Advanced Care Planning (ACP) techniques to capture their residents plan for EoL, she said “advanced care planning avoids confusion if a resident becomes ill quickly and perhaps is unable to communicate their wishes to us”. In speaking with Karen her passion around supporting people facing EoL was impressive. Her honesty when talking about residents advanced care planning was refreshing to hear. “Conversations with older people around death and dying is never easy, but by having them its often a relief for residents. To know everything is done and planned for, is a big comfort to them”.
Some positive experiences Karen’s shared with residents at the end of their lives have been, “Seeing a resident’s ACP through, has created a sense of calm in their final hours. Some ACP’s have requested things such as having a bath. Residents in their final hours have found bathing to be a relief from pain and discomfort. I’ve also provided things such as, fresh linen, made sure the resident is comfortable and dressed to their liking. I’ve applied makeup to ladies before as it’s important to them to look nice, I’ve also been asked to provide music, this often plays in the background in someone’s final hours, and we’ve been told by residents this offers them a feeling of peace and comfort at the end. Key in our minds is keeping people comforted and cared for”.
Margret Lane Manager and owner of Blakesley House expressed her delight that her team won the GSF award and is proud of their continued passion to learn, reflect and improve. MHL asked Margret, what was the single most important thing she changed that cost nothing? Margret replied “encouraging teamwork in the home has had the biggest impact to our overall service. This dynamic, safe environment developed by the team, has created a supportive space for all the staff to grow and improve, and all of this directly improves the overall experience for the resident.
MHL feels it’s important to recognise that supporting older people living in care homes at the end of their lives is something health and social care professionals do every day, proudly, compassionately, quietly and without fuss. We would therefore like to thank them, and congratulate Blakesley House on winning their award and striving for continued improvement. Well done.
Our thanks goes out to Blakesley House Nursing home for taking the time to speak to My Home Life about their experiences.
Wales has been creating magic with older people living in care homes by using the arts as a platform for engagement and meaningful activity. The cARTrefu project has been supported by My Home Life Cymru to provide training for the artists involved. David Cutler, Director of the Baring Foundation has created a Blog explaining the work that has taken place and why its being further developed in Wales as a key resource for older people.
Click the link below to find out more.
My Home Life spoke with a manager of a recently rated ‘Outstanding’ Dementia, Nursing, and residential care home, they kindly shared the key ingredients they needed to reach an ‘Outstanding’ rating.
“Thing’s in the home improved when I was out of my office, it made me visible to staff relatives and residents and most importantly, involved me in the home”.
Being out of the office allowed me time to get to know my residents and see first-hand what was happening in the home. Last year I attended a My Home Life Leadership Support Programme, it allowed me to focus on my personal development in becoming a healthy, confident coach and leader. The programme allowed me time out of the home to network with other care home managers, reflect on my leadership skills and learn new methods of communication with staff. All this has created a more open, empowered culture in the service. “It all begins and ends with quality Leadership”.
“Resident involvement in the daily running of the home was pivotal in creating a person centered environment “.
The manager said, to reach ‘Outstanding’ the care home moved towards providing consistent capture and feedback of relative, professional and resident comments regarding quality in care. I explained to MHL the need to always involve the resident’s in all aspects of care home life, from individual care planning, to events planning for the care home.
“Making time to listen to relatives, residents and staff members is extremely important to me”
I explained that using this time allows me the opportunity to feedback and meet or realign expectations which, overall improved the experiences of those living in, visiting and working in the care home.
“Just be yourselves, it’s enough”
I often speak to staff about the importance of maintaining a ‘normal’ day’s routine when being inspected. Every day I see my staff shine with talent and initiative, I want to ensure staff know an inspection day is no different to any other day. “The key is managers being confident in their staff’s abilities”, this comes from investment in quality training, and the development of a positive culture of openness and good relationships.
“Always support the questioning, challenge and reflection of why things are done in a certain way”
Reflective practice is the final key ingredient in reaching ‘Outstanding’. All people living, working, and visiting the care home are encouraged to feedback and question practice. The Manager explained that with questions, comes learning, with learning comes change, and then innovation. This is why we always want to develop our skills, share our knowledge and learn from positive and negative experiences.
“It’s not a job, it’s what we do here”, a statement of which truly embodies the positive values of caring for older people living in care homes.
My Home Life would like to extend its thanks to the manager who assist in the creation of this blog.
Our home held an older persons services information drop in afternoon in which we invited in local organisations and support groups to discuss services available to older people in the area and opened the event to members of the public.
We held the event in our home to provide a relaxed, comfortable space for people to come in and seek advice.
Representatives from the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK, Care and Connect North Tyneside, Equal Arts, and the North Tyneside Carers Centre met with guests to discuss their services and the help, advice and support available in the area.
Why did you decide to hold the event?
We thought that this would be a great way to connect with organisations relevant to our residents and their families and friends, as well as provide the opportunity to showcase the works of Older Persons advice, support and social groups in the area and help inform local people of the resources and support available and equip them with the knowledge of where to go for help and further information. The open day also offered a networking opportunity for local older persons groups, as well as older people living in the area.
What was the impact on the professionals/residents and staff?
Following the event we received an email with some lovely comments about the event and the home from the Chairman of North Tyneside. The staff were very proud.
We also had some new visitors from a neighbouring sheltered accommodation complex who said they’d like to come along to our weekly coffee morning and future events which is great for our residents who like to make new friends.
What have you learnt about the power of community engagement?
As care homes we often think about how getting involved in the community can benefit our residents and our home but we also have so much to offer our communities too. As part of day-to-day life we form many close relationships and networks in our area, from our visiting healthcare professionals, to local suppliers, to our local authority, to community groups and churches involved in our activity provision.
We can use our connections and shared knowledge to help benefit people living locally and better our communities as a whole.
Thank you to Joanne Rossiter, Maria Mallaband & Countrywide Care Homes.
I remember talking to one of our prospective residents at one of our care homes telling me about her “life of ever decreasing boxes” as she put it.
From a large family property to a downsized house once her children had left home, then to a small warden controlled flat and now to one room in a care home. The prospect was not an attractive one – she then mentioned her final box as she departed for where ever we go next! Whilst she was not sad about this it did carry some pathos and one we care home owners must heed in how it feels to come into 24/7 care, ‘when the time is right’, as I am prone to say.
We have just marked National Dignity Day on the 1st February in our homes with some really relevant, entertaining and powerful points being made by residents, staff and visitors. The words mentioned in our conversations included Choice, Privacy, Respect, Rights, Control and Empowerment, and all of these we feel can be regarded as key messages underpinning how we ensure that the ‘inner sanctum’ of a residents bedroom looks and feels just right for the person moving in.
I believe it is one example of how partnerships between the person moving in, their families and their loved ones working with us must combine wants and needs to create a familiar, safe and idiosyncratic expression of who they are with perhaps treasured memories and possessions. We will always encourage people to bring special items of furniture (if space permits), photographs and ornaments too. Colour and clutter we like, with a principle of being age appropriate as well as risk free being considerations of course.
The point about space can be an issue; in our older homes we don’t have standardised room sizes – we will always argue that homely homes need character and without these variations we teeter on institutionalised care in purpose built units often designed for upward of 60 residents – which I will always be sceptical in terms of how homely these industrial style care settings can be. The balance between what a person is used to needs in later life may also need special consideration. The combination of homely versus perhaps a swish hotel like environment and the impact these can have on comfort and atmosphere is also important to discuss. We will always aspire to balance appropriate expectations with the views of others, crucially to get their new home right for the person now living with us.
When a person is coming into a care home to live we want to see it as just that – a place to live.
Some of our folk prefer to spend lots of time in their room watching TV, reading, doing puzzles, resting, or entertaining as many do – others will leave their bedroom early in the morning and return late at night after a day spent in communal areas busying in a more social way. You may see some rather spartan rooms as much as those full of reminiscent relics of a full and adventurous lives. Much of this will come down to how able families are to help provide content for their loved ones. Our part is to do all we can to encourage personalised rooms befitting the person staying with us. We must also recognise changing needs including how we store essential items like creams, toiletries and, for many, personal care items such as continence pads for those that need them – dignity must always be protected – we must also take account of mobility aids and potential needs changing such as when a high low bed may be required for assistance getting in and out of bed if a person becomes less able.
Overall the transition from a person’s own private home to a shared environment of a care home has a huge emotional impact on all involved.
Moving to a care home is often an unplanned event following a hospital admission or after health care decline or event. Older people should be open to this possibility, we would claim, and families too. Moving into a dynamic, progressive, safe and fun care home when the time is right is something should be something we look forward to!
Many thanks to George Coxon, Care Home Owner – Pottles Court and Summercourt, Devon.
Sometimes you have those moments in your work that really affirm why you do what you do. Those moments that really touch and stay with you; when you realise you are making a difference to people’s lives, even if in a very small way.
At Alive!, my work involves bringing older and younger people together. It’s about opening doors, opening care homes to the wider community, allowing connection and communication across the generations. Our elders have so much to give and share; their opinions, their joy, their experiences, sometimes their sorrow. As a society we have a tendency to exclude our elders. We wrongly assume once they reach a certain age, or a stage on their dementia journey they have nothing to give – or are unable to give. We can close them off, almost shut them away and stop listening.
But bringing old and young together through Intergenerational School Projects has been a positive way of beginning to break down these barriers; of opening up understanding between the generations; of bringing community in to share with elders and enabling older people to show their talents and be cherished. Through our intergenerational Project “Paint Pals”, we have been linking up schools and care homes to exchange paintings and to meet up to paint together over an academic year.
One of my new projects this year has been between a school and care home in Bristol. The school and care home are neighbours and share a fence – whoever built it actually put a gate in between them, but it has stayed locked, – until now.
Watching the children involved in this Paint Pals project come through the opened gate from their school to the care home, to spend an hour painting with the elders was one of my “magic moments”.
Seeing the gate finally being opened and the smiles on the children’s and elders faces on meeting their Paint Pals, witnessing their small moments of connection. The eye contact, the smile, the touch of a hand. The word of encouragement from old and young, the admiration and sharing of each other’s work. Sometimes just being together in silence, being in the moment, engrossed in their paintings.
It’s just a start. A small start. The children and elders will continue to meet up and share this year. But we need more moments like this, in more care homes and schools to ensure more gates will be unlocked and old and young can come together and connect in such a positive, meaningful and creative way.
Many thanks to Isobel Jones Business Development Manager, Alive!