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Changing lives
Care Home Friends and Neighbours

What’s the link between stroking hens, drinking cocktails and painting a mural? The answer – care homes. These very different activities are great examples of how care homes for older people across the UK have been connecting with their local communities as part of a national initiative called Care Home Friends and Neighbours (Care Home FaNs).

The aim of Care Home FaNs is to share ideas and expertise to make it easier for care homes to open their doors and link with locals of all ages, ensuring older people remain part of civic and community life, even after moving into a care home.

Most people understand the acts of friendship and neighbourliness. The Care Home FaNs initiative simply asks us to extend these positive behaviours to care homes and those that live, visit and work in them. It invites people to connect in creative ways, from big seasonal events or parties, to having a quiet get-together for one or two residents, or even sharing stories over a cup of tea in a café.

Why should you be involved?

Bringing the community in or getting your residents out makes a huge difference to the quality of life of people living in care homes, and Care Home FaNs can make life more fun and fulfilled for everyone.

From a business perspective, the programme gives you an opportunity to improve awareness and the reputation of your service and could help to recruit new staff. Becoming part of the Care Home FaNs network gives you insight into new and fresh ideas and helps you feel a part of something, a community of people working to support relationships to flourish.

Examples of good practice, blogs from the front line of community engagement, care home managers and activity organisers are all available on the website. There are also free downloadable resources, such as certificates (useful for young people doing the National Citizen Service, for example), thank you cards and window stickers to show you’re taking part in this national work.

How do you get started?

It might be helpful to think in terms of these three simple steps.

Step 1: Thank the people, groups and organisations that your care home has good relationships with to make sure people know they’re appreciated. It’s helpful to recognise the good connections that already exist in your community. People might be encouraged to do a bit more.

Step 2: Think through the possibilities. Who in the community could you easily connect with, but haven’t yet? Are there individuals, groups and organisations that residents might wish to reconnect with? Ask residents and relatives for ideas. You may come across a new group or organisation which could supply the ‘little things that matter’.

Step 3: Get the message out that you are interested in building new connections. Use social media, local press and flyers in places like garden centres. Asking for ‘volunteers’ can put some people off as they might see this as a formal commitment to regular activity. You might find language like ‘being a friend’ or ‘acting like a neighbour’ more successful.

Remember also that care homes are assets; they’re spaces unlike any other. Think about what you have access to as a care home that you can give back to the community while they are offering their time and skills for you. Perhaps there’s a meeting space in your home for a local business to use, or a café or lounge where clubs can meet? Reaching out to others is a good way to build supportive relationships. Offering a local person who lives alone a meal might encourage their family to thank you by coming in to share a skill or interest. Demonstrating that yours is an open and friendly care home will help new people from your community to feel comfortable and positive about the place.

A different approach

It would be a mistake to see community engagement as just another task that has to be fitted in during a busy day. It benefits everyone involved and can have extraordinary results both for older people and those in the community. So get involved and share your stories of best practice.

Care Home Friends and Neighbours is led by My Home Life and NAPA. 

Jen Lindfield is Social Action Lead and Pamela Holmes is Lead, Care Home Friends and Neighbours North West London, My Home Life. Email: mhl@city.ac.uk Twitter: @MyHomeLifeUK

Get involved with the Care Home FaNs project by visiting
www.carehomefans.org and let us know how you’re integrating with your community by sharing your thoughts below.

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