“Not just under one roof” – the Need for Community Connectedness in Care Homes

“We’re not just under one roof” commented Claire Allsopp (A Care Home Manger for Swarthmore Care Home in Buckinghamshire) at the My Home Life Seminar at City, University of London held last week in relation to the theme of “Community Engagement in Care Homes”, at which Verbal Group staff were present.

My Home Life (MHL) was set up in 2006. It is a UK-wide initiative that promotes quality of life and delivers positive change in care homes for older people. MHL works with people and organisations across the sector e.g. within care homes, with statutory bodies, community and voluntary agencies and others to co-create new ways of working to better meet the needs of older people, relatives and staff.

MHL’s vision is “a world where care homes are great places to live, die, visit and work” and where care homes are:
• Supported to deliver to their potential
• Valued and trusted by those who work with them
• Cherished by their local communities

MHL is located in Northern Ireland at Ulster University through the School of Nursing. The programme has trained care home managers beginning in the North West and Eastern areas. Funding is now being sought to roll out the leadership programme in other locations. Verbal Group was introduced to MHL in 2014 with Reading Rooms for Care Home Managers with several of the care homes participating within the ACNI Arts and Older People funded programme at that point. The Henry Smith Charity is funding Reading Rooms in care homes with MHL to explore community engagement, with Verbal bringing a wealth of experience working with older people and creating the right environment for older people to have their voice heard.

Verbal staff went to visit the programme based at City University of London where they met staff from MHL as well as other groups who are focusing on how to develop or expand this initiative. The seminar allowed participants to share first-hand the progress of their projects, successes and challenges mas well as the opportunity to generate new ideas of how we can move forward with this in our own areas.

Reading Rooms are in six care homes in the North West, looking at Shared Decision Making with residents, family, staff and management to explore the idea of Community Connectedness.

People living in care homes can sometimes feel isolated from the communities they were part of before they moved into a care home – even if their new home is only a short distance away. Many of us walk past care homes every day without stepping inside and finding out more about the people who live and work there. Unfortunately, we only ever hear the bad news stories when things can go wrong. Few of us ever hear the wonderful work that does happen in care homes. The Henry Smith funded Reading Rooms will help to bridge that gap where the community will learn more about what is involved in later life care and help those in care homes to feel less isolated. Care homes are open to the idea of community engagement and to make homes and residents feel more a part of their community which takes forward planning to ensure that the voice of the older person is herd. This process is facilitated through our innovative Reading Rooms model of engagement.

At the seminar Sinead Devine (Reading Rooms Officer for Older People, pictured) presented the Reading Rooms Care Homes programme and the plans to develop Shared Decision Making based on the theme of community engagement within this. “I felt very energised by the two day seminar and meeting like-minded people who are working hard across the UK to deliver community engagement in their areas. There was so much sharing and learning and I have come away buzzing with lots of ideas to how we can develop this further as our own programme progresses. It was also lovely to show what Reading Rooms is doing and hopes to achieve. I shared the poem “People Need People” by Benjamin Zephaniah by way of introduction as it very simply states why community engagement for everyone is so important. We all need to remain connected to maintain good health and well-being; people really do need people.”

For further information the MHL website is full of stories, tool kits and useful information about how to get involved.

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