• Claudia Wace

Alexander Care Home: Insights!

Introducing Alexander Care Home; a nursing home based in Bury, Manchester. We met them during the first wave of the pandemic when we donated an electronic device to their home, and we re-engaged with them in January when we enrolled a number of their residents on our Connectforce Companions Winter Trial.

We wanted to highlight the experiences and journeys of the care providers who play an instrumental role to ensure elderly, isolated individuals get access to our services.

Linsdey, the home’s manager and Wendy, their activity coordinator, are great examples of people with whom we have worked back and forth to get their home online, and help them make the most of video conferencing during the pandemic’s isolating restrictions.

This is often one of the first steps we take when engaging with a new care home, and Lindsey’s answer below hints towards the initial challenges when starting Connectforce Companions!

We asked Lindsey what did you first think when the Connectforce Companions programme was introduced to you?

“I [Lindsey] have to be honest, I was not optimistic that we would be able to even connect, we are by no means “techno” but the help and support received was second to none. (Claudia and Eleanor you have the patience of Saints)! Using technology was also not anything most of our residents have ever encountered before either so again I wasn’t sure if they would engage with their companions over Zoom.”

We then asked Wendy how she felt about the use of video calling for your residents and their companions to communicate with?

“I was a little bit apprehensive, because I'd not actually done anything with zoom before. Of course that's down to you to be honest, and once I got into it I felt a lot more comfortable. Seeing the response of the residents, it's well worth it really so that was really good.”

One of our favourite parts of Connectforce Companions is its emphasis on the individual connections made between residents, companions and care staff. We asked Wendy if she has a favourite ‘Companion moment’ or particular story that stands out to her?

“Nicola and Neville, he's so witty and they had a really good rapport with each other. Nicola actually called Neville her mate and that meant a lot to him. It was great to watch. The first time they talked, I think they were both a little bit nervous, you're bound to be aren't you, but as the week's went on they both relaxed. Nicola actually said Neville made her feel more comfortable, which was really nice. Nicola also said how nice it was what we are doing here and it was quite emotional. It's nice for other people to see what we actually do here in the home.”

It's fascinating to dig a little deeper to see how all parties involved are learning from the experience, as we didn’t foresee the additional impacts this programme could have on the people helping to facilitate it. We see here how Nicola’s recognition and appreciation for the work done by the staff to support those in care had a great impact, and how Neville and Nicola both were nervous to begin with, but this ebbed away as they got to know each other.

Connectforce predominantly focuses on recruiting and onboarding our Companions from the arts world, spotting a potential gap in structured volunteering opportunities tailored to creative professionals and a link to those who are isolated and lonely.

We wanted to explore whether this unique approach to recruitment was beneficial to our scheme, so we posed this to Wendy. Did you think the volunteer being from the arts world made a difference to the experience for your Residents?

“Yes I think it did because, you know what it was, I think a lot of the residents thought “oh wow, you’re a dancer, you’re a singer” and so forth. Neville was absolutely thrilled when he found out Nicola was a singer and when she sent us both a CD. Neville put his CD player on and sat and listened to it and said “she's brilliant isn't she” because he loves music as well. He said “it's so nice that she sent us this. It's a personal thing from her and I'll treasure that.” The way he said it he genuinely meant it.

Beth found out that Mark was a theatre critic. Beth used to be a big theatre goer, visiting the Manchester theatres a lot and seeing all the shows. So I think he was quite impressed about her knowledge too! It was nice because they had that in common.”

Covid-19 has shed a real light on the realities of loneliness and isolation in the most vulnerable in our society, and we’re keen to illustrate that Connectforce should have a part to play in rebuilding and strengthening our communities. We believe in the impact of citizens who care about their communities and who use their talents and uniqueness for good.

We felt this was confirmed by Lindsey who explained her view when asked based on her experience, does she think there is a place for CFC in supporting the mental health and wellbeing of older adults in an official capacity?

“Definitely, older people's mental health is a huge issue which has been brought to the fore with the pandemic. Our residents are lucky in a way that communal living means there is always someone there. Many older people live alone and have very little contact with others and the support provided by something as simple as a 30 minute Zoom call could make a huge difference in someone’s life.”

We then had perhaps the most important question left. Would they recommend Connectforce Companions to other older people or their care providers?

Wendy answered:

“Definitely I'd recommend it 100%. It's nice to see residents, their reaction. They look forward to their chats with someone. It’s been great.”

And Lindsey wrote:

“I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend CFC, the experience has been amazing.”

So I guess you could say that's a glowing 5* review there!

Thank you Alexander Care Home for being part of our Connectforce Companions Winter & Spring Trials. You have been instrumental in how we design our future support for those most vulnerable. We look forward to getting you and your residents onto our Summer phase!

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