This week I am delighted to give you all an insight some of the fantastic work being undertaken by Jennys Well Care Home in Paisley. I have caught up with Stephanie and Linda, the activities coordinators for Jennys Well project which is a care home run by the Royal Blind who mainly support those living with Dementia and sight loss. Their project centres around helping residents to access tailored activities within the care home that they enjoy and benefit their wellbeing.
For the duration of the projects I maintain regular contact with the homes through phone calls and we participate in group zoom calls where all the projects come together and explore a theme and share what they have learned. I aim to visit the homes 2-3 annually to have discussions and work with the staff to untangle some of the intricacies of their project and see where I can best help to grow their learning and understanding of a human rights based approach with regards to their project.
Embedding a human rights-based approach is critical in upholding the values and principles included in the Health and Social Care Standards, by treating the person with dignity and respecting their wishes which is central to the work that we do. Whether it be finding out what is important to the person and then keeping them at the forefront of the decision-making process or supporting them to be able to play an active part in their community and being included in family life. This can be especially difficult for those with advanced dementia or sensory impairment and sight loss but Jennys Well are proving this can be achieved through creative means and technology too.
One resident loves going for a walk in the rain which may seem unconventional to most; however, it makes them feel invigorated and alive.
We discussed how they found out this information and discussed the importance of recording these seemingly subtle activities in a person’s day and how it was shared with the rest of the team in a meaningful way. The activities coordinators decided to display some pictures on coloured paper around the home at eye level as the update boards were not being used as much. They have now become a discussion point for relatives when they visit and it also helps residents who like to walk around the home. It is a great way to reminisce and remind them that they have taken part in activies and anjoyed them before. One resident was excited on seeing a photo of herself during an activity and exclaimed,
"Is that me? Is that really me?"
Understanding the culture and the conditions of a project has been vital in being able to help gain insight into where the staff team’s knowledge of human rights and to help them understand what is working and what isn’t working.
Stephanie, Linda and myself spent some time reflecting on the activities; what was working, what wasn’t working and what their thoughts were around why. They made a change in the set up of their team and now had one member of staff upstairs and one downstairs and one “floating” between the two floors and they felt this worked well as the home is spread over a large area and it means it was extra support If someone wants to go a walk or to the shops.
Stephanie advised me that 6/7 people are able to go outside safely for fresh air and by being able to get outside she is seeing a marked change in the presentation and moods of those residents.
Partnership working between activities coordinators and support workers is an essential part of how the team can understand and build relationships with the residents and get to know what they enjoy and want to be involved in. They now have a 10-minute huddle where they can pass on anything in the middle of their shifts that they feel maybe someone needs some more intensive support and it is a good way of keeping communication channels open. We also spoke about how we can help support staff to feel comfortable in doing activities with residents.
We spoke about how important reflection in action is to being able to understand if people enjoy an activity.
Stephanie advised me that they are using skills they already have in practice such as observational and analytical skills, looking out for the nonverbal signs and cues that someone may or may not being enjoying an activity.
This week one activity that jumped out to me was the intergenerational work in partnership with the children from Jennys Well Nursery where they visit once every 2 weeks to do activities together. The residents love it, it connects the residents with others in their community and the children bring such innacence and playfulness to the activity. There has been evidence to suggest that these types of activities connect people with their memories, improving their overall mental wellbeing They definitely do connect with one another and learn from each other commented one of the nursery workers.
One lady realised the youngest boy was being shy and reluctant to participate and so she naturally began to help him to make his empire biscuit and subsequently helped to support feed him it. On the other hand one of the older boys vivaciousness was helping to lift the mood of the residents who were withdrawn and sullen looking before the children arrived.
This little boy in particular managed to brighten up the day of myself and activity coordinator Linda. Alzeimers Scotland and many other organisations draw attention to the fact that connection across the ages is vital to a person living with dementia and their well being. Disconnection and isolation are often what people with dementia have reported feeling therefore, having a human connection with someone else is precious and should be encouraged as much as possible...
There was a definite change in the presentation of the residents after the activity with some of them making comments about it,
"that’s really cheered me up you know”
“they are little angels”
“look at them holding hands, aww!”
The next thing on the agenda for Jennys Well is to carry out a human rights workshop with the aim of increasing staff confidence in their own abilities and enhancing their skill set, to be able to navigate potential dilemmas in practice.
Stay tuned for next week where we will be looking at one of the other exciting projects and how they are finding the journey of Rights Made Real in Care Homes.