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Improving lives by using the skills and assets that exist in care homes
This week sees National Care Home Open Day run for the fifth time. It’s an annual day when people are encouraged to spend time in their local care homes; a great community initiative which seeks to build awareness of the excellent work that care homes can do - and to break down barriers between the generations. As I walked past a care home at the end of my road this morning, I did find myself asking, however: “Are care homes sufficiently part of most communities?”
Many care homes definitely are, and they are deeply rooted in local communities. CQC sees this as a good thing, as do we at SCIE. Evidence shows that care homes that have strong relationships with the outside world - to clubs, community groups, faith groups and volunteers - are both safer and increase the wellbeing of residents.
Isolation can be tackled
But we know too that care homes can feel like lonely places for some people. And we know as well that some people in care homes are not given enough opportunities to meet other people and to access leisure, arts and cultural activities.
We think that more can be done to connect care homes with their local communities and in doing so to improve the health and wellbeing of residents, enrich the lives and jobs of staff and if they are canny, reduce costs. Even in these austere times, there are excellent community services which are sometimes free.
SCIE has been working with Friends of the Elderly, a charity which runs several care homes, to explore the potential for asset-based care homes; that is homes which create better, more person-centred services. They do this by building on the skills, networks, and assets (such as libraries, community centres and leisure facilities) of residents, relatives, staff and local communities.
How have we done this?
Well, by literally getting the local community - the council, NHS, volunteers, other community organisations along with residents and staff - into the care home to map out what skills and assets they possess and how they could use these to create better services.
What examples arose? Well, we found out that one resident loved to bake cakes and set out to work with a local charity to host a cookery class in the care home. Another volunteer said that she could find a way to get a local dance company to perform for residents. Another resident simply used the session to make friends with a volunteer. One short session led to a whole host of good ideas for new services, activities and opportunities.
Care Home Open Day is just one way in which care homes are connecting to communities. Asset-based care homes are another approach. But there is much more that some care homes could do - through adopting an asset-based mindset and approach - to reach out to their communities.