Visits can be enormously beneficial for care home residents as well as help demystify what happens in care homes.
Over the years we’ve had a relationship with different groups of young people in our care home but we had lost contact with them, so we decided to start to build the links up again.
It wasn’t completely straightforward – when we first started to try to find groups to link with some of them said that they had other things going on and weren’t able to commit to visits, even not very often.
But we’ve kept trying and now have a good relationship with our local Girl Guides and Scouts, and different age groups from schools, who all visit the home regularly.
One thing that’s worked really well has been coordinating with the school about what the children are working on and building in the care home visit opportunity.
“We now have a good relationship with our local Girl Guides and Scouts”
For example, our Activities Coordinator went in to visit the primary school children beforehand and read the group a story designed to help children understand people with dementia. Then they had a group activity drawing pictures of their grannies and grandads for a display in the front of the care home, which was waiting for them when they arrived.
We did need to spend a bit of time getting everyone (both inside the care home and outside) ready for the visits.
With our local Guides and Scouts, I prepared a short guide, welcoming them to the home and helping them to understand what we do in a care home, the importance of confidentiality, how to be respectful and so on (you can read Wendy’s guide for visiting Guides and Scouts below).
Staff were also unsure at first – asking questions like ‘What do we have to do now?’. It took a few months for everyone to feel comfortable – but it really helped that you could straightaway see the benefit for our residents.
”You could straightaway see the benefit for our residents”
We’ve done quite a few activities now – like tree-planting and jointly taking part in commemorative services. Although the schools are close, some activities like exchanging photos and books we can do from afar, so it’s a bit easier to organise, and everyone has something to chat about when we do have a visit. We’re planning to keep going as we are, it’s going so well – the only thing we want to change is to tell more people about it!
Wendy Shannon is Clinical Governance Lead for two nursing homes and a residential unit in Northern Ireland – this story comes from her time as manager of another care home, in Enniskillen
This story was first featured on the My Home Life Good Practice blog