Locked down care home residents are getting creative to keep their spirits up during the coronavirus crisis.
The team at the Pendine Park care organisation are using everything from music and art to videos and social media technology to counter the emotional and practical impacts of dealing with daily life in the national emergency situation.
Artist in Residence Sarah Edwards said: “It might sound crazy but in some of our art sessions residents were encouraged to create models of what they think the virus looks like which they made out of papier maché, balloons, plastic cups and paint.
“The use of art techniques like this is an important way for people to express their feelings including any fears and anxieties they have and doing the sessions together helps them realise they are not alone.”
Pendine Park, which has eight care homes in Wrexham and Caernarfon, has also employed creative music and movement sessions to help instil key hygiene messages among residents in a fun but informative way.
Sarah said: “Here at Bryn Bella home we had a great laugh yesterday singing and exercising to Everybody Dance the mega-hit by the American band, Chic. But instead of singing ‘Clap your hands, clap your hands’ we all sang ‘Wash your hands, wash your hands.’”
She said fellow staff have come up with an amazing catalogue of ideas to keep up the spirits of those in their care during the unprecedented crisis.
At neighbouring Highfield House, enrichment and activities co-ordinator Christine Lewis led a session where residents created paper hands with positive messages written on them , the pictures of the artistic results were uploaded for staff to see online.
In addition they have run lessons on how to practice social distancing, but in a way that make it less formidable.
Sarah said: “We’ve explained to residents the reasons for social distancing and why it is currently impossible for their families to visit for safety reasons, but we’ve also made sure that they are not completely out of touch.
“We will help them make telephone calls, videos and wherever possible we enable them to have Face Time conversations so they still get to see and speak with all the people they love.”
Other activities have included gentle exercise sessions, crafts, games afternoons, quizzes and ‘sing-fit’ sessions.
All minds are focused on keeping Pendine Park residents safe and secure, but also calm and occupied by offering them a range of fun activities to focus their minds on.
With the aid of IT and websites, however, they have been able to keep in touch by online posting of photographs and images of activities they have been enjoying so that their neighbouring residents can see.
Sarah who has worked with Pendine Park for 25 years and was the first ever full time care home artist in residence employed in Wales said: “There is no denying these are extremely difficult times for both residents and staff but everyone here has risen to the challenges before them with extraordinary energy and determination.
“Each day we try to come up with new ideas for recreational activities for residents to join in and make the situation less forbidding and ominous.
“At a time when they are no longer allowed to have family and friends visit to protect their health, it is important that we do all in our power to reduce any feelings of isolation. We have run all sorts of safely inclusive activities such as singing, exercise sessions, art classes and have made use of various types of communications technology to help them keep in contact with loved ones.
“But in addition many of them have been keen to say thank you to the staff who are helping them through this. So we have established a programme where any of the residents who want to can record video clips saying ‘thank you’ to the Pendine Park staff, the incredible efforts of the NHS, and all the people who love and care for them. Some of the messages have been really moving, and everyone in our Pendine Park community has been hugely touched by the residents’ speaking out so openly about how they feel.”
Sarah added that the entire Pendine Park team had come together as one big family in these extraordinary times.
She said: “Staff are having to make sacrifices. Due to the nature of their jobs, they are having to use self-isolation measures when they go home to their families too but no one is complaining. I’ve always known we have an amazing, dedicated team here at Pendine Park but in the midst of a crisis the like of which we have never encountered before they have been an absolute tower of strength, a credit to the social care sector.”
Pendine Park owner Mario Kreft MBE said the efforts of all the team were hugely appreciated.
He said: “Our staff have put their hearts and souls into helping residents through this extremely difficult time. They have risen magnificently to this unprecedented challenge and become our very own coronavirus warriors.
“The constant stream of ideas they have come up with to help lessen the impacts of anxiety and distress which can be prevalent at times like this have been superb.
“Art and music are a part of our daily life at Pendine during normal times as part of our drive to enrich lives across the generations and their value is even greater in this current situation.
“The thank you videos are a powerful tool to help show everyone on the frontline of care how highly they are regarded and how much their efforts are recognised.”