Finding Time for Family

For residents separated from their families at this time, it is really challenging. Robyn Taylor shares some simple ideas for ensuring families and residents still feel part of each others’ lives, even if separated for the time being.

You may have seen the moods of your residents change recently, as they are not able to see their loved ones at the moment. General isolation is hard enough, but made much harder by the sense of familiarity and family being taken away. It is especially important that you go above and beyond, now more than ever before, to meet the emotional needs of the residents. Here are a few ideas to help keep them connected with their family and friends.

Write Letters: And send them out. When you receive a letter back, ensure that you spend time with that person to read it out to them if needed. Support them with writing another one back. Keep the flow of communication going throughout this difficult period. Even if it ends up being a letter a day, this process of writing, sending and receiving creates a routine all of its own that a resident can rely on.

Mark Birthdays: Not just for the people they see regularly, but extended family and friends, especially grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Ring their 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.

Go Digital: Zoom has been a great help to keep people united with their families, but what about using it to help keep the residents connected too? You could hold a series of Zoom activities sessions with a few residents who are friends, and all their family members. Do something like a quiz or a singalong, which works well for people who don’t all know each other. Equally, if the family wish to have a one-to-one video call, work together with staff to make that happen. Get other team members involved to support you if you know you are unavailable. You could even try asking some of the younger team members to help organising a TikTok singalong session – and share the video with families via email. Not only will it cheer them immensely, but it’s important for them to see how their loved one is keeping busy.

Story Time: I have seen a lot of nursery staff reading a child’s favourite book so parents can share the video with their children, ensuring that children are still in contact with the staff from their nursery. Why not help a resident create a short film of themselves reading a poem, singing a song or reading a story, and then send it to their grandchildren. You could also invite all the residents to come and watch on the big screen (if your home is still using communal areas). Choose a well-known book, not too long, and practise a couple of times before filming. You could also ask family members to read a chapter of a favourite book and send that video back to their loved one. The sound of a family member reading familiar words will be a welcome and happy part of any resident’s day. You could even share the reading with the other residents and form a sort of book club too.

I hope some of these ideas will help you during the lockdown. If you are struggling for ideas, why not pick up the phone to other local care homes and bounce ideas off one another? We’re all in this together.