We recently had a chance to meet with Lesley Malone (events coordinator) and Gaye Clark (group head of care) from Athena Health Care Group - a small care home group based in the North West. Their approach to improving the quality of care for all is a refreshing one, centred around building a community, sharing ideas and helping each other out. As Gaye says: "We all want the best for our residents. We all want them to age well. So we should be sharing what we know and what works for us, rather than being in competition with each other."
Athena work with Dementia Friends, Age UK, Dementia Action Alliance and several local businesses, as well as welcoming in fellow carers, activity coordinators and managers to their regular Community Care Forum, which works to encourage a more dementia friendly approach in local businesses, to arrange special day trips and events, to share resources and offer support at every level.
Through the Care Forum, they have set up an Activity Hub, a regular session at the Civic Hall in Ormskirk, open to residents from all local care homes, as well as those living in the community, to spend time together and get involved in crafts, activities, reminiscence, conversation, music and dance. They also organise regular ‘Friendship Days’, again bringing together any local care home residents or people living at home with dementia, for trips to Debenhams for a shopping excursion, to the pub for a Sunday lunch, to the local park, or cinema, or even as far afield as the Lake District. “We don’t restrict this to our residents, we want anyone from the community that needs the support, the time out to join us. If we can give a caregiver looking after a loved one in their home some respite – time to recharge their batteries – then that is great,” says Gaye. It’s also a great way for smaller care homes or individuals to benefit from pooling resources, coming to together to make plans, to get out and about without feeling overwhelmed or alone.
Athena are also keen to reduce the stigma and stereotypes associated with dementia, working with local business and services to develop more Dementia Friendly places for their residents. Gaye and her team regularly take their residents out as part of a focus group to the local supermarket or shops to test their services out, explaining how they can make their business more dementia friendly. And she can also help anyone wanting to get involved with being a Dementia Friend too, offering training and support.
Gaye and her team share lots of their activities and experiences on their Facebook page, and Gaye says she is always pleased when she sees fellow care homes doing the same thing a few weeks later. “I know people are getting ideas from what we’re doing, and that’s great, it’s just so important to share what we do for the good of everyone.”
For more information on Activity Hubs, Friendship Days or becoming a Dementia Friend, please contact Gaye Clark on 07931 227644.