Family is a big part of any resident’s life, and ensuring they are a part of the care home too is really important. Here we share three key tips for ensuring families and residents still feel part of each other’s lives…
Even at the warmest and most welcoming care homes, loneliness can be a reality for many residents. A lack of familiarity, a new routine and a lot of changes in quick succession are always hard for anyone. Even if a resident has been with you for years, as people’s lives change and grow they can feel a sense of distance or loss.
In the past 18 months, it’s been especially important that you go above and beyond for families, but it’s good practice to always factor them into your plans.
Keeping in Touch
Writing letters, sending postcards, Zoom calls, making short videos and sending them and vice versa – these are all such important and simple ways for people to stay connected. When a resident gets a letter, ensure that you spend time with them, read it out to them if necessary, and support them if they want to reply.
Organise a weekly Zoom call with family and write it on a resident’s schedule so they know when it’s going to happen. Think about creating a rota to make sure everyone gets to connect at least once a week, even if it’s just on the phone. Factor in extra 1:1 time for those residents who need help to speak with family or friends, whether that’s remotely or face-to-face.
Register with Postcards of Kindness, who send postcards to care homes from all over the world. Ask families to send photographs and any items that could be used as a talking point around families, the local community, etc. Photos of grandchildren, old magazines, sewing patterns, and letters would be great – anything they might have in storage that would be familiar to their family member and get them talking.
“Matching pairs of hearts were made for our residents. They chose their hearts and we photographed them while explaining one would go to their loved ones and one was theirs to keep. Relatives loved this symbol of connection when no visiting was allowed.”
Kate Harfield, Moorside Nursing Home
Start a Support Group
Family support groups are one of the best ways to stay connected with a resident’s family and ensure that they too feel supported. Run it on a monthly basis, on the same day and at the same time. Advertise it each month, and remind people. Start a mailing list for the group so people can stay in touch and be easily reminded each month.
Have a set agenda of news about the care home, as well as any points they want to raise and encourage them to add to the agenda if they wish. Leave time for feedback, questions and a chance for people to have a coffee or tea and a chat.
Perhaps you could invite a speaker or charity representative in each time from Alzheimer’s Society, Citizen’s Advice, The Daily Sparkle, etc, etc – anyone who might be able to share a little expertise, talk on a specific topic or answer questions.
Not just for the people they see regularly, but for extended family and friends, especially grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ring residents’ next of kin and ask for a list of addresses of important people, then spend time making birthday cards and crafting gifts to send out to loved ones. Write the birthdays in your diary a week beforehand to ensure you have time to chat about cards and gifts, what each person might like or be interested in, as well as time to make and post the card or little crafted item.
Don’t forget to invite friends and family to the things you are doing, whether they’re big events or just a simple film night. Shared experiences ensure people feel a part of each other’s lives.