Creating A Tearoom

Jill Hyland is manager at Walmer Care Centre, a small home registered for 37 residents. Here, she shares with us her experiences of creating a tearoom in the garden…

We are a small care home, with two separate buildings sharing a front garden and view of the sea. Our home is not purpose built, so we wanted to make the most out of the facilities and space we have available. Creating a tearoom has always been something we wanted to do, and though it was a simple idea, it has changed so many lives and improved the wellbeing of many people.

We always felt that we wanted an area that would make our family feel secure, without leaving the premises. This idea started, in part, because of a lady we have here who has advanced dementia. She would stand in the doorway but not take a step over the threshold, becoming anxious and holding onto the door – the furthest we ever got was the end of our pathway. She clearly wanted to go out but just couldn’t, and it was heart-breaking to see.

We’ve always prided ourselves on being proactive and problem-solving, and this was no exception. We put our heads together and decided to move a shed in the garden to a central place between the two homes, creating a meeting point that felt safe and close by. We gave it a lick of paint to make it stand out, and filled it with reminiscence items, such as posters, pictures and memorabilia. We asked for cups and saucers from the kitchen and created space for a kettle, sugar, coffee and teabags. We ran electricity to the shed using an extension lead, (this was the least risk and allowed us to monitor electricity closely), and for music we used a Bluetooth jukebox, which finished off the room perfectly. We arranged three tables – one inside the shed and two outside. The whole family got involved, whether it was painting, laying the floor, banging in nails or laying up the table, and it looked great, and soon was ready to use.

All of the team were delighted with the overall look of the rooms and, of course, delighted when we were able to get our residents – and especially our nervous lady – out of the door and into the garden to use the tearoom. It was a wonderful sight to see her in her ‘security blanket’ area, enjoying the outdoors, relaxed and with company. In fact, she used it several times during summer.

We still use the tearoom regularly – it is a bit weather-dependant, but some of our family members have braved it in all different weathers. This tearoom has given families and visitors more choice in terms of places to sit, variety of location, and also extra privacy. Family members all love sitting outside admiring the view, listening to music and making it their own – it has been such a success and made a real difference to our summers.

Our top tips:

  • Get everyone involved – staff and families – it makes such a big difference even for the smallest task.
  • Keep all family members updated on progress.
  • Make sure a designated person opens it up each day and gets it ready for the day’s use.
  • Try and see if you have a volunteer to run the tearoom for more frequent use.
  • Make it easy to see that the tearoom is open.

We love our little tearoom and are so pleased that it has helped to improve people’s wellbeing. We can see it being used by families, volunteers, team members and their families all the time, and I would recommend creating anything you can in the garden that helps the wellbeing of the family members you look after. Such a small change can impact in such a positive way.

Jill Hyland is a registered manager. She began her career in care in 2003, working her way up to a senior team leader and deputy, and then manager of the homes in 2010. She says: “I’m always learning and finding ways to improve the lives of the family who live in our homes.”