Straight Talk
Laura Cope • Programme Manager – Airedale Social Movement • Alzheimer’s Society

Alzheimer’s Society’s Airedale Social Movement has developed and launched a Community Engagement Toolkit for Care Homes. Laura Cope explains more.

Alzheimer’s Society has been running the Airedale Social Movement Programme in Airedale, Wharfedale, Craven and Leeds since August 2016. This programme has been funded by NHS England as part of its New Models of Care; Health as a Social Movement Programme until May 2018. The programme aims to bring local communities into the care home, and put the care home at the heart of the community.

Through our work on the programme, we have set up lots of initiatives in care homes.
Different community groups including schools, bowling clubs and arts students have linked up with eight care homes and are regularly running activities with the care home residents to improve quality of life, reduce isolation and ensure residents feel part of both the care home and the wider community.

One of our objectives is to spread the programme so that others can replicate the work that has been undertaken locally, and as a result we have launched resources to support this, including a How to Guide for care home staff.

On 22nd March 2018, we launched the toolkit and supporting resources at an event in Leeds with over 50 care home managers and commissioners in attendance.

At the launch, we had four speakers. I spoke about the toolkit and what we have learned. Julie Duerden, the Project Officer discussed how care homes can become involved in their Dementia Friendly Communities. Helen Sanderson explored person-centred care and the importance of one-page profiles. Finally, Caroline Baria from Leeds City Council discussed what the city is doing to encourage community engagement, how to find volunteers, and the council’s expectations around community engagement in care homes.

We also had various stands to talk to attendees about how to take practical steps towards involving the community in their homes. These were Dementia Friends; Dementia Friendly Communities; Airedale Social Movement resources; inter-generational work; volunteering; asset mapping and engaging groups; and person-centred care.

We know that activities and being involved in the local community allows care home residents to have increased confidence. It also improves mood, general wellbeing and happiness; reduces anxiety and stress levels; and improves social life, self-esteem and communication skills.

The many activities and community connections set up by the project have been evidence of this.

For example, Maureen is a resident in one of the area’s care homes. She is only 62 but has a progressive condition and is on an end of life pathway. She is unable to live alone anymore due to her care needs.

Maureen has made friends with Doreen, another resident. As their friendship grew, they realised that they had knitting in common and as a result have become the core of a Knit and Natter circle that we set up in the care home.

Between them, Maureen and Doreen have been busy knitting scarves and the project team arranged for these to go to the local food bank for inclusion in the Christmas food parcels.

Maureen has been determined to reach the knitting goal we have agreed, and this has spurred her on when, at times, she could just have stayed in her room. She needs to keep mobile to help her condition, so this helps her a great deal and supports her health.

Maureen has had a hard time accepting her condition and the group helps her to focus on something positive and gives her a purpose, increasing her wellbeing and quality of life.
For Maureen, the group is also a very sociable time and she is able to speak very openly about her worries to her new friends.

Care home staff said, ‘Only a small number of residents attend the Knit and Natter group but those that do really seem to enjoy it, have made friends in the home and talk about the scarves they are producing in between sessions and how they will be helping vulnerable people in the local community.’

The project team said that, ‘The great group of residents at Beanlands Care Home quickly established friendships and were determined to make the blankets and scarves for the food bank.’

To ensure this work can continue in care homes across the UK, we have produced a number of resources including the How to Guide, and letter and poster templates.

Laura Cope is Programme Manager – Airedale Social Movement at Alzheimer’s Society until the end of May. Email: laura.cope@alzheimers.org.uk

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