Reading Rooms reaches care homes with ‘My Home Life’

My Home Life is a UK-wide initiative that promotes quality of life and delivers positive change in care homes for older people, hosted by City University of London, in partnership with Age UK. Their vision is a world where care homes are great places to live, die, and visit. MHL works with care homes, statutory bodies, community organisations and others to co-create new ways of working to better meet the needs of older residents, relatives and staff. Reading Rooms has enjoyed a great working relationship with MHL via their Northern Ireland partner Ulster University based at the School of Nursing in Magee over the past few years.  Verbal’s Reading Rooms is teaming up with MHL to develop a programme of shared reading activities to six care homes in Derry/Londonderry, Omagh, Eglinton and Limavady to help achieve that vision.

Sinead Devine of Reading Rooms: “We’ve received two years’ funding from Henry Smith, who want to bring MHL to a national level, helping people to realise what the role in later life care entails. Unfortunately, we only ever get to hear the bad news stories about the care sector and we never get to hear about all the good work that goes into helping residents feel safe, secure and valued. MHL established programme in Northern Ireland has already trained care home managers in leadership in the Western Trust, and in Belfast, and are looking to expand into other health trust areas in the future. The idea is to link in leadership and shared decision making between managers, staff, residents and their families and friends, so that there is a more open way to manage care homes, as well as connect to the community.”

The first Reading Rooms in the six care homes will introduce the model and will be for pleasure and to promote the love of reading, to encourage residents to share memories, thoughts and opinions and for care staff to get to know more about their residents.

“Initially we will be using texts that we’ve used with older people groups in care settings. We will be asking care staff, family and friends to sign up for training to become Reading Rooms facilitators to ensure that there is a lasting legacy to the programme. For some, it might be important to give something back to the care home, or simply do it out of their own love of literature. Getting in volunteers from the local neighbourhoods would also be great! The sessions will be weekly, with each home’s trained staff member interchanging with residents’ family and friends to lead the groups.”

“Many older people feel quite isolated from their own community when they enter into a care home. There is a need for increased levels of community engagement to help reduce these feelings and in turn to improve community perceptions of care homes so that they can better understand what care in later life entails. “Therefore the second stage of the programme will be establishing a shared decision making process. The shared decision making will focus on community connectedness. The literature we will use then, will be carefully selected around different themes about connection, or aspects of the community.” Reading Rooms helps to create a safe environment in which to develop this process. This will help residents to feed back their ideas and thoughts on what they would like to see happen as part of how their care home can connect to the community to care staff and managers.

“The final part programme will use this information from the shared decision making sessions to explore how each home can connect further with their wider community. “In the conversations I’m having with care homes at the moment, some people see community connectedness as ‘going out’. Some residents are still capable of that, but for those with mobility issues, this may not be possible and so they can be the most removed from that connection. So what do they see as ‘community connectedness’? What might residents miss from being in their community, and how can we bring that back in?  Maybe there are new things to try as well. As we come from a creative background, Reading Rooms can help the homes think creatively about how this can be achieved, in a manner that is risk-assessed, offers low or no cost solutions and still be a meaningful engagement for the residents.

“This is a very exciting project for the Reading Rooms and we will be sharing our journey with you throughout the year and with MHL on their national website so that all the learning can reach as many care homes across the UK.”


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