Posted: 26 May 2020
The Grange in Benenden is a residential home for 19 people with learning disabilities and the team quickly understood the impact that protective measures and COVID-19 restrictions would have on the support they could offer.
Registered manager Felicity White looks at how they made the most of 7 acres of gardens where people could enjoy the outdoors safely. Felicity is also Co-Chair of the Skills for Care Registered Manager Network in Mid Kent.
Creating a new Café
A number of the supported people volunteer in the local community run village shop and café. This is something that is incredibly important to them, so we created our own café/shop so that they could still continue their voluntary positions and everyone else had somewhere to visit. We quickly went about clearing out an old wooden building, which was previously a craft room and support staff and supported individuals worked side by side in painting and decorating the interior.
They decided on a name for the café – Pete’s Café in memory of a dear friend they had lost the previous year, a very fitting tribute to a man who loved tea and cake! The shop was opened with a particularly delicious lemon drizzle cake, which was of course made by some of the supported people and the coffee, tea, hot chocolate (with marshmallows and cream) and cake hasn’t topped flowing since!
To put the cherry on the cake, we added some essential goods (TV Times and Diet Coke to name but a few) to the emulate their much-loved village shop so that people were still able to continue with their usual routines and shopping habits as much as possible.
With people not being able to see their families in person, we have all been forced kicking and screaming into the 21st century. The use of video calling has given supported people and their families so much reassurance and comfort.
For those staff that have been working from home, we have been organising ‘A cup of tea with…’ sessions over video which have been incredibly rewarding (it’s hard to say who gets the most enjoyment out of it, the staff or the supported individuals!).
In place of the London Marathon this year, people everywhere were challenged to take part in their own physical feats to raise money for charity. Never ones to back down from a challenge we really pulled out all the stops! People took part in a 26 over cricket match, a 26 second per station circuit class, a lady who had recently recovered from knee surgery cycling 2.6km on her exercise bike, another lady cycling for 26 minutes 26 times over the week, someone else dancing for 26 minutes and we topped it all off with 26 laps of the village green! Everyone was knackered but thirsty for more!
We all love a holiday, but with nothing on the horizon at the moment we’ve had to create our own. So, we’ve turned the garden into a campsite and are planning regular camping nights. We’re taking advantage of the beautiful weather now as we know how English summers can go!
One or our particularly artistically talented support workers has designed a collage wall in our craft room and is engaging supported people to bring the design to life using a variety of media. It’s great to have ongoing projects to keep people engaged and to see the fruits of their labour. Often these activities are incredibly mindful and therapeutic to support emotional wellbeing too.
After putting out a plea for plastic bottles, we have finally converted our old glass greenhouse into a plastic bottle greenhouse! Supported people have worked alongside our outdoor activities co-ordinator on this project and were pleased as punch to show off the finished article. They’re now working on replacing the benches inside the greenhouse so they are fit for purpose and accessible for all.
With some people unable to physically access places of faith worship at the moment, every Sunday Pete’s café is temporarily converted into a place of spiritual sanctuary. Music is played and people gather to practice their own individual beliefs.
And that’s just the people we support…
Our biggest challenge during this pandemic has been in supporting the staff to manage their wellbeing. With the continuous drone of new Covid stories , and social media feeds flooded with opinions, coupled with compounded family situations, it is difficult for the staff to remain as upbeat and motivated as they might otherwise be.
Instead of gifting wine and chocolates, we have found that authentic leadership and general concern for the welfare of our staff has been more effective. I find that some of my working days are purely spent talking to staff, taking a genuine interest in how they are doing and offering support where necessary and appropriate has been incredibly powerful. Telling someone what a fantastic job they’ve done, and thanking them personally for their sterling efforts is more rewarding and lasts a lot longer than a bottle of wine and a box of chocolates.
We have started conducting guided meditation sessions with staff, which has had some great results and are currently in the process of putting together a ‘wellness hub’ available online and featuring all the staff’s recommendations of books, music, TV programmes, films, online exercise classes, meditations and podcasts for inspiration and to promote positive self-care practices.
And there’s more where that came from!
We’ve realised that to keep sane during this crisis we need to keep coming up with new ideas, having new things to look forward to and work towards. Staff are gaining confidence in organising their own activities and everyone is trying new things.
The situation is less than ideal, but we’ve had to make the best of what we’ve got, and the team have truly thrived.