As we reflect back on 2021, there is no denying that, once again, nursing home residents and the staff that care for them have faced an extremely challenging year. However, while mainstream media likes to highlight the hurdles the sector is facing, we in the know understand that behind the headlines, there are some great things happening across the UK’s supported living settings.
While the job can, of course, be difficult at times, it can also be fun, satisfying, and extremely rewarding – as these care home happy news stories demonstrate.
A virtual trip on the Orient Express
Earlier this year, one of Care UK’s homes built a six-foot-long replica of the famous train, the Orient Express, after learning that residents shared fond memories of train journeys from their earlier years. Care workers took on the roles of ticket collector and driver. After receiving a glass of chilled Champagne and canapés on arrival, ‘passengers’ took in the scenery on the big screen. Ann, one of the care home residents, commented: “It reminded me of my holidays and travelling the country when I was younger”. Care home manager, Jane Maxwell, added: “Reminiscence activities can be incredibly beneficial for older people, especially those living with dementia, as it can help to evoke happy memories and the associated emotions. It was a wonderful afternoon, and we’re already planning our next virtual trip!”
Singing with the Salvation Army
While activities which engage whole groups are great – making the dreams of one particular resident come true is extra special. After learning that resident, Margaret, has been part of the Salvation Army for 83 years and wished to sing with them once again, Lifestyle Lead at Mountbatten Grange care home, Bubs Birdi, organised for their local band to pay a special visit. Margaret enjoyed the afternoon singing along to songs including Amazing Grace and Glory, Glory Hallelujah. She even wore a special Salvation Army hat during the performance. Margaret said: “I have been a Salvationist for many years and enjoyed singing in their band. It has been wonderful for them to visit me and let me sing with them again. It has brought tears of happiness to my eyes”.
Life’s a beach
This summer, many people across the UK found it difficult to get away on holiday. However, at Camelot House and Lodge care home, this wasn’t a problem. Dedicated staff arranged for the beach to come to them so that everyone could enjoy a staycation with a difference. Residents got the opportunity to eat ice cream with their feet in the sand, dig for seashells and play with beach balls – all while listening to a soundtrack of waves and seagulls. Activities co-ordinator, Richard Dempslake, commented: “Many of people’s happiest memories are associated with past seaside holidays, and our residents are no exception – and because of the nature of dementia it means that their older memories are the most frequently recalled”.
Life-sized Hungry Hippos
We’re all familiar with the tabletop game Hungry Hippos: players frantically try and collect as many balls as possible in the mouths of plastic animals. However, this care home has taken the popular toy to the next level – to the joy and amusement of residents. Care home staff provided players in wheelchairs with an upturned laundry basket attached to a stick and then pushed them around as they competed to collect the most balls underneath. The life-sized game was watched attentively by other residents. By thinking outside of the box, staff were able to find a novel way to help keep those they care for entertained during the pandemic.
The special bond that forms between staff and residents should never be underestimated. For Halloween 2021, 104-year-old Percy and his carer and ‘best friend’, Laura Hagan, continued their tradition of dressing up as famous twosomes, when they turned up as Willy Wonka and an Oompa Loompa to their care home’s annual bash. In previous years the pair have attended as Woody and Buzz-Lightyear, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger, and Mary Poppins and Bert the chimney sweep. They’ve won first prize every time. Percy’s daughter, Doreen, commented: “I love that Whitecraigs Care Home have all these events and they all get to participate. Special thanks to Laura who has, for the last four years, dressed up with my dad Percy as a team. It’s great for us as a family to see our Dad enjoying himself and proving that at 104 you can still have fun”.
Care home happy news reaching across the UK
Finally, a heart-warming scheme that is gaining attention across the UK and beyond is the ‘Adopt a Grandparent’ campaign. Launched by UK-based care home group CHD Living, the initiative has gained global momentum with almost 90,000 people signing up across the globe to be matched with an older person. Volunteers from across Europe, the US, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere are offering to connect with care home residents virtually to combat loneliness during the pandemic. For many, the campaign has helped them to fill a void felt by the loss of their own grandparents or a lack of grandparent figures in their lives. Shaleeza Hasham from CHD Living said: “Prioritising the mental and physical wellbeing of our residents is key all year round. However, it’s been even more necessary since the onset of Covid-19”.
There is no denying that the inspirational ways that nursing home staff are providing extra care for older people should be celebrated. Thanks to the amazing staff, the quality of life when staying in a residential care home can be fantastic. Here at QS, we know how important it is to communicate and applaud the great work that care home staff are doing which goes above and beyond the call of duty – and we know that the care home happy news shared above is only the tip of the iceberg.