How the right care home can help prevent loneliness
- Credit: Dave Pratt Photography 2015
Combatting loneliness is one of the most important tasks a care home can undertake, says Joshua Slator, director of Osborne Care Homes.
Joshua, who oversees Osborne House and Worcester Lodge, in Clevedon, with his father Mike, explains why tackling loneliness is especially vital in this era of Covid-19.
Q: Is mental wellbeing as important as physical wellbeing for your residents?
A: Yes, without question. Our care homes specialise in quality dementia care and have a family feel. As such, we have always focused on both mental and physical health as they often go hand-in-hand. We feel it is important to facilitate and encourage mental and physical wellbeing by offering the right activities to our residents, especially those with early or mid-stage dementia, who might be suffering from anxiety. This can happen at any time, let alone during Covid-19 when the need to stimulate bodies and minds becomes more important than ever.
Q: Why is meaningful activity important in a residential home?
A: Understanding what a resident enjoys doing and providing activities that help them to do similar things can really stimulate them and help them to feel fulfilled. We learn about the background of every resident, so we understand them and what will be best for their wellbeing. We follow the dementia butterfly model, where we set up activity areas and residents can come in and out if they wish. There are busy areas, quiet areas and everyday living environments, where people can undertake activities, such as helping to peel potatoes, which is so important.
Q: Do dementia patients get lonely?
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A: Yes, and connecting with friends and family is vital in overcoming loneliness at any time – but now more than ever. Our residential care homes are usually very open to families, with loved ones coming and going all the time to sit with them, have a meal together or chat, but over the last few months that has not been possible. We have therefore tried to find many ways to alleviate the potential social isolation because of Covid-19.
Q: What steps are you taking to overcome this?
A: When the weather was better, we had outside areas where residents could meet their families. This was amazing as it gave such a boost to everyone: relatives, families and carers. Now we have just started inside visits. At Osborne House, for example, we have created a Covid-secure, warm lounge area where families can spend time with their loved ones. At Worcester Lodge, we have installed a large heated visitor pod to help facilitate those important family connections.
There are also digital options, such as contact through Zoom or Skype. This is especially important if residents are self-isolating, perhaps because they have had to go into hospital or have just arrived. Staff also help people to connect via more traditional methods, such as phone calls or writing letters and postcards.
Q: What else are you doing at the moment to reassure relatives?
A: Usually, we try to engage as much as possible with the families, through social events and a mentoring system for relatives. That is difficult at the moment so we do what we can through regular newsletters and updates, so families don’t feel excluded. There are also Facebook groups for relatives and friends. We are continuing to do what we can with outside support. For example, our wonderful seated yoga teacher comes in all weathers and stands outside to give the class to our residents who are inside. We try to create a family environment, with lots of joyous times. This year, we have had a Christmas jumper day and festive lights turn-on. It is about keeping those moments of positivity among the reassuring routines of everyday living.