Cycle Awareness Days must do more to Involve Service Users

Dementia Care
August 2, 2021

COVID-19 restrictions permitting, when was the last time you rode a bike to work? Perhaps you’re used to commuting on two wheels every day? It might be that you haven’t cycled to work in years, or that you’ve never biked there at all. On Thursday 5th August, however, to mark ‘Cycle to Work Day’, the organisers of the event are urging as many people as possible to use two wheels rather than four to get to their offices.

I’m sure that many carers will sign up to Cycle to Work Day, especially in care services which can consistently demonstrate an outstanding culture of IPC. And why not? Cycling is a wonderful way of keeping fit and alleviating stress. However, in a sector which practices outstanding Infection, Prevention and Control measures, it’s vital that the settings been fitted with the right infrastructure to facilitate a large number of staff cycling to work. Do they have enough shower capacity? Are there enough secure places on site where staff can safely leave their bikes?

For those who work in new-build care homes, often architects have factored in all of these requirements into their designs in the planning stages. But, for professional carers who work in older builds, in rural settings or in domiciliary care, the simple act of commuting to and from work by bicycle may be much more challenging. But, that said, if there is enough interest amongst staff in a care home to participate in such a scheme, the best Registered Managers will always find a way to ensure events like this go ahead. If there are limited showering facilities and/or bike racks, for example, it might be that ‘Cycle to Work Day’ is staged over the course of a week to allow every care staff member to ride to work on their bikes.

Include service users too

However, why stop at carers? What about service users? Surely they should be able to participate too? People accessing and using our services may have been keen cyclists, but lack the opportunities to continue cycling in a care home. We mustn’t also forget that half of all service users in the UK social care system are young people. A large proportion of them enjoy the freedom that a bike gives them. It allows them to explore, to discover and to absorb the raft of different sights and sounds in a myriad of different environments.

As a sector, we need to work harder to ensure that every service user – no matter how complex and nuanced their needs – has the opportunity to enjoy the experience of travelling by bicycle. That’s not to say that this isn’t already happening. It is. There are trailblazers across the UK, who have adapted bikes to meet the needs and abilities of a wide range of people.

Compliance

Before I provide some best practice examples, however, I’d like to focus on compliance. While personalised care and innovation are two areas that the CQC is keen to champion in its new strategy, it’s critically important to build a robust compliance framework around activities. That means employing a rigorous but nuanced risk assessment process, which recognises that all activities carry an element of risk. The risk assessment framework, created by Quality Compliance Systems, the leading provider of content, policies and standards for the social care sector, helps care teams to achieve this delicate balance, while its ‘Supporting people with Recreational Activities’ policy empowers providers to lay the groundwork for activities.

Celebrating the innovators

But returning to the pioneers, there are visionaries out there who have realised that the use-case for a rickshaw bike goes much further than simply ferrying tourists around big cities. There are several charities across the UK that have acquired several rickshaws and made them available to vulnerable service users and their carers’.

This allows service users and their carers them to venture into parts of their local area that they might never have explored before. The beauty of the rickshaw bike too is that due to its elevated seating position, it enables the passenger and rider to get a unique view of the surrounding area, which increases the sensory impact of the experience.  It is also a great way of taking in the sea air, not to mention admiring the boats on the ocean and the sometimes powerful force of the waves beneath them.

For those who enjoy riding, but are concerned about dexterity, grip and balance, many care homes have bought tandems, so they can fully enjoy the sensation of riding a bike without the worry of taking a tumble and potentially injuring themselves. To prevent falls, some care homes have invested in recumbent bikes, which enable the rider to pedal from a seated position. These bikes are particularly popular with disabled service users and those with learning disabilities and brain injuries.

Stationary bikes that transport you to another world

For service users who want to stay fit but are more comfortable confining their exercising programmes to the home itself, some services have purchased stationary bikes, which are linked connected to video screens. This allows the person to cycle in some of their favourite landscapes, or in places where they have never travelled before. Such bikes are not only great to use in the colder months of the year, but for people living with dementia or some form of memory loss, while there is no scientific evidence to prove it, it could be that the combination of bike and screen aids the reminiscence process.

While that remains unclear, we do know that riding a bike or travelling on one promotes physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Perhaps, therefore, on Thursday 4th July, we as a sector should mark ‘Cycle to Work Day’, by not just pushing down on the pedals ourselves, but ensuring that as many service users as possible have the opportunity to experience the multitude of benefits that only a bike can bring.

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Leah Cooke

Nursing and Residential Care Specialist

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