As we’re always supporting our service users with acquired brain injury or learning disabilities to move forward, we rarely reflect on how far we’ve come. Our short series of blog posts looks at the views and experiences of our management team during the pandemic: what we’ve learnt so far about ourselves and how we manage our specialist residential care services. Although we have never experienced anything like this in our 30-year history, we have always focussed on the needs of the individual service users in our care. Every individual, whether they have a brain injury or learning disabilities is different. Therefore in order to deliver person-centred care, we often have to be creative in our approach.
Finding innovative solutions
For many service users, routine is a major part of their life. When their usual activities are no longer possible – no home visits, day services, community activities – we need to support and reassure them, creating new routines and structure in their lives. We have promoted health and exercise as well as bringing joy and laughter.
Although the service users have missed going out, we have had plenty of scope and opportunity to develop in-house activities. Our large gardens and outdoor spaces have been used for gardening: we’ve grown our own vegetables for the first time. We’ve had al fresco lunches and barbecues with a disco, played sports and games, done trampolining and completed treasure hunts. The in-house ‘coffee shops’ have been a great success, giving service users an opportunity to relax and build relationships between each other – often finding that spending more time together enables a greater understanding and appreciation of each other.
Restricting family visits was really tough, but we’ve maintained family contact through Skype, WhatsApp, Facetime and Zoom, as well as phone calls and letters. We even managed to track down a service users’ mother who had lost contact with her son several years ago. We were able to reunite them virtually using Skype, and this lead to seeing other family members too. This was a very positive and emotional experience for all.
At The Richardson Mews (inspired by Joe Wicks) the day now starts with ‘Morning Motivation’ – exercising to music every day to improve fitness, flexibility and well-being. We’re also making more use of our in-house gym equipment. One service user who has a brain injury thrived during lockdown: he was in a wheelchair in February and now he can walk 70 lengths of the parallel bars.
Staff have stepped into new roles – organising craft activities, baking sessions, quizzes or film nights. Some service users have also found new roles within the home too – one of the guys has become the house DJ!
We’ve celebrated birthdays with gifts, parties and barbecues. We’ve maintained structure when needed, providing mental stimulation, social interaction and fun, while supporting well-being and skills development.
We have always strived to create a relaxed family environment within each home. Facing the challenge of coronavirus together has brought everyone closer. The whole team and service users have felt and behaved even more like a family – there are good friendships and strong bonds. As we approach Christmas we maintain our focus on keeping everyone happy, safe, healthy and secure.