Making Friends: Part 2

In part two of our focus on making friends and fostering strong relationships in the care home, we’ve looked at a whole host of recommended activity ideas for building connections…


“During lockdown we added a ‘make a new friend’ activity to our planners – we asked residents who through choice or illness rarely leave their rooms if they would like to ‘make a new friend’. It took quite a lot of convincing, but many agreed. We then considered who had the same interests and who would get on well, and the introduction over a coffee and a game of cards or dominos was a huge success. What has made us most proud is that these were residents who rarely left their room and we were often their only interaction.”
(Louise Voss, Mill House Care Home)

“The Weekly Sparkle helps bring back memories and encourage discussions within the group of residents, which is a fantastic way of getting to know each other. Outdoor entertainment is enjoyed by all, with picnics afterwards, and lots of happy chatting residents can be found. Board games are a great way of helping each other and enjoying each other’s company.”
(Lesley Boshir, Hilltop Hall)

“Sit in a large circle, say someone’s name and throw the ball to them. Remembering the person’s name makes them feel good. We also play River Crossing, where residents work together to solve how to ferry items across in the fewest trips – only certain items can cross together. It’s not about completing the task, it’s about building trust, nurturing relationships, making new friends, feeling at home, laughing and having fun.”
(Nikki Fletcher, The Rise Care Home)


“International Friendship Day started early this year at Church View Care Home, Murton, with activities throughout the month. Firstly, we printed posters and made bunting, followed by a poem reading of A Friend Like You by Jenni Cortes, and then helping residents to write a letter to their friends/family to attend our tea dance on the actual day. Residents also made friendship bracelets in the craft room. On the actual day we celebrated with friendship cake, tea, coffee, juice, singing and dancing and residents wrapped up home-made cookies to give as presents to all who attended.”
(Nicola Defty, Church View Care Home)

“To celebrate Friendship Day we are having an afternoon tea party for the residents. For those who don’t want to attend, we have offered them room tea parties with maybe inviting one or two of their friends to attend. There are also two corridor parties and a tea party soiree on the patio (especially for our sun lovers). The flags are up and the kitchen have been busy making a selection of treats for them all. We are very excited and know that they will have a fabulous time. For those who are bedbound, we shall offer them a 1:1 party.”
(Vanessa Simmons, Alfriston Court Care Home)


“On our ward at Jubilee where we nurse gentlemen with dementia and end of life, we promote friendship by having various activities including a newspaper group. In this group, we discuss current affairs and items of news which interest us. I also run a music group where we sing songs and people can listen to music from the past. The residents are able to sing along and reminisce about the past. We are trying to develop a reminiscence group where people can talk about their memories and are able to relate to objects and pictures of the past. This enables the group to bond around shared memories and music.”
(Richard Ward, The Priory, Jubilee Ward)

“Friendship is a vital part of my activities as the residents live together and it’s nice to know who they live with and interact with. We do a lot of singing, with clients choosing the songs and giving a back story on the songs as to why they like them and how they know the songs. It gives others a bit of background knowledge on each person. Music is such a good tool to use as most can take part and it jogs memories for all. Sometimes just simply sitting with groups and chatting or doing puzzles helps us to all get to know each other and find common ground.”
(Paula Hawken, St Breock Care Home)

“Friendships amongst residents are forged at activity sessions, in particular at Art Club, Reminisce and Baking. Residents work together and share ideas and give each other encouragement. Experiences are discussed and many people find they share similar hobbies and life stories. We have had several larger events this summer, including a ‘Royal Ascot’ Hobby Horse Race where residents created hobby horses at Art Club, made top hats out of card and decorated straw hats with paper flowers and ribbon. The afternoon was sunny and there was much merriment as staff raced the hobby horses against the clock. Residents celebrated in the garden with bubbly and homemade scones for cream tea – a perfect afternoon amongst friends.”
(Lynette Henson, St Georges Nursing Home)


“We are very lucky to have an Omi which is an interactive visual reminiscence stimulation tool that is viewed on the floor. Using this tool, residents are able to sit around the image that’s projected on the floor and observe the senses of touch, vision, hearing, and movement. It allows residents to move the image with hand touch and bean bags, which encourages conversation, memory triggers, songs and musical stimulation. This tool encourages friendships with the people that have the same interests, and familiar knowledge they may share. It also allows everyone to have some fun with throwing bean bags at the image which brings in laughter, and hand-eye coordination practice.”
(Carole Sandells, Copper Beech)


“Our most successful activity to date was our ABBA themed party. All of our residents came to dress up in funky colourful props, we made tinsel hair, used pom-poms, and had every ABBA song playing in order on a big screen with videos. The residents danced together, sung along, ate ABBA themed food and played big blow-up versions of games like Toss the Ring. It was a magnificent celebration that brought us closer together as a home. We wish to do this again with other themes, like an Elvis Presley theme, Frank Sinatra theme, etc, in the future.”
(Jordan Finding, Fairlawn)

“Once a month we gather all our residents together either in the lounge or in a garden marquee. We have a themed event – this week it has been the Tokyo Olympics. We invite a local priest and volunteers from the community to join us to promote conversations and interest in the wider world. Our activities are boisterous and fun and encourage residents to converse and contribute as they are able. This week we had a torchbearer lighting the cauldron, hobby horses for the equestrian events, cardboard canoes for rowing, as well as balloon weightlifting and a blindfolded archery competition! We endeavour to create imaginative, shared experiences that make memories, promote friendships and encourage conversations long after the events.”
(Haley Preston, Tremethick House)


“I have been an activity coordinator for many years and I know how important friendship is for residents in care homes. At the beginning of the year, I relocated to Poland due to the pandemic. Since that time, I have been continuously in touch with the residents. I have been writing letters, sending cards and pictures done by my daughter and family photos. My friendship with residents is special for me and for them. To show how important and precious it is we set up weekly FaceTime with one resident who through the year became my friend. We have always so much to talk about. Our virtual friendship shows that no matter where you are you can still look after each other.”
(Alicja Nozewska, Copper Beech Nursing Home)



Sometimes a patient comes to stay

In a hospital scary and far away

I introduce myself to all

explain you each have a buzzer to call

By doing this, it breaks the ice

so each patient can ask for advice

they begin to talk to one another

making friends as they compare to each other

the experience they felt upon admission

the heartfelt emotions of upheaval and decisions

sometimes to talk is half the battle

problem shared feels less hassle

company for anyone who lives alone

can be a saving hand like a call on the phone

a poem, a note, a chat, a call

that’s what makes us carers for all

Lesley Holden, Wirral University Teaching Hospital