Robyn Taylor, one of our regular activity coordinator columnists, talks about how you can ease the process of moving into a care home for both the resident and their family…
Whatever the reason someone may be moving into a care home, it will be a daunting experience. Try to think back to how nervous you were on your first day of school, or the first day of a new job.
Any new venture which is out of your comfort zone can be nerve-wracking, but when moving into a care home, your state of mind may be negative, thinking that it is a downward spiral to losing your independence and feeling this may be the last chapter to your life.
The perception of care homes is that everyone sits silently in a circle, or that they’re isolated in their room. But we all know that care homes are not like that now. Many resident’s relatives have said to me: “My mum has a better social life than I do now!”
Most care homes will have a calendar of events designed to suit the interests of the residents, to prevent isolation and promote the social wellbeing and independence of the individual. However, when a person moves into a care home, they may be unhappy and initially uninterested in these activities.
The first day in their new home is the most important day to build the relationships which in the future will give them the confidence to consider setting foot in a group activity/environment.
The whole team will be involved in the transition of a new resident coming into the home; from the warm welcome by the reception team and an introduction from the manager, to the care team and key workers helping them settle into the home, and all the other departments who may be working behind the scenes.
But what can we do to make this experience more comfortable?
- A welcome card, handwritten by staff and residents.
- A bunch of flowers in a nice clean room.
- A Daily Sparkle newspaper in the bedroom so there is something to do while waiting to meet all the staff.
- Design a booklet or sheet of paper with pictures of the staff and a write-up about them, so the resident will recognise faces, uniforms and feel like the staff aren’t strangers.
- ‘My new address’ postcards that can be sent to friends and family.
- A selection of tea, coffee, biscuits, fruit and cake available in the bedroom after a long journey.
- Each department to introduce themselves on the first day. But don’t bombard all at once, as this could be intimidating.
- Organise a friendly resident for them to buddy up with. They may have questions and fears that they can relate to and share experiences.
- Organise an introduction with the other residents in the home.
- Speak with the relatives, in advance if possible, and complete the life story section in the care plan, so you can put items in their room that relate to their hobbies such as books, knitting, Guinness, nail varnish etc.
- Have a map of the home available so they can get the bearings of where they are. With a list of where day-to-day activities take place.
One other thing that works really well is to take a bit of time before assigning a key worker to a new resident. In fact, why not get all the team involved, and rather than being delegated a staff member straight away, wait a few weeks and ask the resident to choose who they would like this person to be.
Care staff have a bad reputation in the public eye, but it takes a special kind of person to work in a care home. Staff often spend more time with the residents than with their own family, so they become an extended family. The care, dedication and passion they show to their jobs will shine through to their residents in how happy they are living in the right care home.
And, finally, it’s not just the residents we have to think about. The families also have a big part to play. They may feel guilt or relief when putting their loved one into care. We have to extend our compassion to the relatives, act as an adviser, a listener, a shoulder to cry on and a friend as needed. Sometimes people do not have a say about coming into care and come in after being in hospital. It may be for respite, poor health or just that they need extra support. If they can be in control of their move, and their families can feel involved (which is where the life story work comes in handy), it will help. It’s also good for them to know about what activities will be going on, and what sort of things will fill their days. Things to look forward to and focus on will help. As they start to settle in, always take photos of the magical moments that take place, not just for your newsletters or for CQC, but mostly for the families, so they can see how happy their loved ones are.
Robyn Taylor has worked as an activity coordinator in Lincolnshire for the last nine years. She recently won the East Midlands Putting People First Award for the care home she works in. She has always been passionate about enabling residents to continue with the things they love the most, and working with relatives and the community to ensure new and exciting opportunities are available.