Innovation and inclusion at Digby Manor

“Good care should be celebrated and shared everywhere” says Jane Farr, Registered Manager at Digby Manor Residential Care Home in Birmingham and graduate of the My Home Life England (MHLE) Development programme.

Jane kindly shared with us some of things that have been going on at Digby Manor over the past few months, and it’s clear there is definitely a lot to celebrate!

Like all care homes, the team at Digby Manor have had to find new ways to keep connections going during COVID-19. As well as window visits, they have been embracing new technology, including ‘interactive tables’ that allow residents to video call their families and also play games.

Jane says:

“Our wonderful office manager Kim and her husband completed a zip wire challenge across Penrhyn Quarry in Snowdonia – the longest zip wire in Europe! Together with sponsored activity within the home, we raised £5,000, allowing us to purchase interactive tables.

Introducing these interactive tables has had a dramatic impact on mental health. It’s been really helpful for those living with dementia. Some were upset at first to see loved ones virtually and not be able to touch them, but then they got used to it and were blowing kisses to their loved ones. It was brilliant.

Through a charity we now also have a series of pen pals across world, including with children from Germany, India and Australia who have been sending in lovely drawings!

Closer to home, three of our gentlemen residents write to a bereaved gentleman in the community who recently lost his wife. He contacted the home asking for a pen pal. He has bonded with one of our residents over a mutual love of chess and they hope to meet up in the future.

COVID-19 has been a strange time, but we’ve grabbed it with both hands. It’s brought us all closer together. We did have difficulties in the initial lockdown days getting food, but we had good support from our local MP (Jack Dromey) who gave donations and would call up and send us letters. We also had a lovely, thoughtful donation of laundry bags from the community for staff to wash their uniforms in. Everyone has been supporting each other which is so important.”

Jane was full of praise for the mindfulness session by facilitator Sarah Reed as part of the My Home Life course and says that it helped the team to recognise the power and benefit of mindfulness, particularly in times of stress:

“After just 5-7 minutes of Sarah’s session I could have gone to bed! Now every member of staff has a mindfulness booklet in their files and it’s been especially good for stress during COVID-19. Staff have said it really helps because once you understand stress and its causes, then you are in control and can work to overcome it.”

Jane’s My Home Life programme was led by facilitator Danuta Lipinska and Jane says she uses her My Home Life booklet regularly. She’s still in touch with another manager from the course and they support one another. Families at Digby Manor have also been very impressed with learnings from the course and the effective ways Jane and her team have put them into practice:

“Prior to lockdown we were holding sessions about dementia with our families using the My Home Life emotion cards. Initially families chose words like “angry, upset, crying” to describe how they felt about dementia. In the session we explored feelings in an emotional heart-to-heart and we shared some of our ‘tricks of the trade’ for things like personal care. This really helped to shine a light on dementia and help with relatives’ understanding. The session was only for 90 minutes but it made such a difference. At the end relatives chose positive cards instead. They’re looking forward to having another session when possible and have suggested that all new staff have the same training because it made such a difference. I did the session on my day off but it was so worthwhile and so appreciated by everyone”.

Digby Manor have also been thinking of ways to promote inclusion in the home and celebrate the different cultures of those that live and work there.

“The Black Lives Matter movement got us thinking how we could recognise different cultures. We have many different ethnicities in our staff team. We decided we would start a ‘Celebration of Cultures’ – each week we’re taking residents around the world and celebrating different cultures to broaden horizons and embrace one and all!

We started with a ‘Celebration of African Culture’ and staff and residents were involved in the planning of the event. We made flags and masks and decorated the home. We had a series of events learning about and celebrating different African countries and had a buffet of different foods to try.

It was very colourful and joyful. Staff brought in traditional dress and found it very funny to see others in their clothes! We did see a changed view in some residents, it helped them to understand and celebrate a different culture. Afterwards staff said they were really proud. As a result of being given the chance to talk about their culture and identity, they felt more understood and valued and said they felt that their contributions to the care delivery team were recognised. We’ve since had a similar celebration for Chinese culture and there are many more on the list!”

A big thank you to Jane and her team for sharing these examples of brilliant practice happening at Digby Manor and for their hard work promoting the quality of life of everyone who lives and works there. It is clear that innovation and inclusion are a priority. Keep up your fantastic work!