Surrey care homes and other providers have gone above and beyond during the coronavirus outbreak to boost residents’ spirits and keep them entertained and supported.
Across the county, providers of care to others, whether in residential or nursing facilities or people’s own homes, have come up with new and inventive ways to keep residents active, busy and connected to their families.
From arranging virtual parties and “drive-through” visits to stopping scammers ripping off vulnerable individuals, providers have risen to the challenges of supporting and bringing cheer to residents during an incredibly difficult time. One young person who uses Surrey care services even got the chance to sing for royalty.
Working with the Surrey Care Association and Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership, we’re designating this week #SurreyCareWeek to showcase the work of Surrey care providers and encourage more people to consider careers in caring.
Sinead Mooney, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Public Health, thanked everyone who works in social care in Surrey “for everything you’ve done and continue to do during this incredibly difficult time”, adding: “You have gone above and beyond to make sure vital services have been able to continue for some of the most vulnerable people in the county.”
Sue Robertson, an associate director with Surrey Heartlands, said the partnership “would like to share a message of thanks, on behalf of the NHS, to all care homes and care workers, including domiciliary (home) care workers, for the passionate commitment they have shown to the wellbeing of those they care for”.
Here are just some examples of how Surrey’s providers have supported residents during this time:
Gracewell of Bookham
Gracewell of Bookham, Mole Valley organised a drive-through visit to enable residents to see their families and friends in a safe way.
Following careful planning, 30 families were reunited while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Families were asked to stay in their cars and residents were able to speak to their loved ones at a distance.
Rock and roll music was played as the cars paraded past the residents. The sun shone and residents were able to enjoy seeing their loved ones with a glass of champagne.
Judi Willcocks, daughter of a resident, said: “What a fabulous idea and what a great way to see our loved ones at this time. You are such a great team and it really shows as everything appeared seamless. There must have been so much work put into it. It was magical thank you, and once again, thank you for the care you give.”
Pinehurst Rest Home
In Boxhill, Mole Valley, care assistants whose families at home may have been at higher risk of catching Covid-19 offered to move into Pinehurst Rest Home to help protect residents.
Five members of staff stayed at Pinehurst for several weeks during lockdown to reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Most had family members who work in hospitals or care settings.
Manager Nadine Schneider gave other staff lifts to work during lockdown so they didn’t have to rely on public transport. As well as buying in food for residents and staff as usual, she also offered to get food delivered for staff to take home, so they wouldn’t have to go out to the shops themselves.
Nadine credited the strong bond between the home’s nine staff and 15 residents with making lockdown bearable. Staff arranged video or phone calls to help residents stay in touch with their families, while VE Day provided an opportunity for residents to enjoy a celebration garden party with a drop or two of bubbly on offer as well as cakes.
Birtley House Nursing Home
Staff at Birtley House Nursing Home in Bramley, Guildford were presented with “Birtley Hero” badges and thank you cards over tea and cake to celebrate their hard work and commitment.
The home’s manager, Sylwia Indycka, said she was “very proud” of all her staff. “Their willingness to deliver high-quality work and their dedication each day is really admirable specially now during COVID-19,” she said. “Over the past three months all my staff have demonstrated great knowledge, cooperation and understanding of how to prevent the spread of infection and their support through this difficult time has been amazing and they all deserve to be called heroes.”
Home Instead, which supports people to live independently at home, prevented one elderly client being scammed out of £12,000 and another from providing personal details to fraudsters claiming to offer a £500 tax rebate. Thanks to the vigilance of staff in the Epsom and Mole Valley team, both attempts to take advantage of vulnerable individuals during the pandemic were thwarted.
The first resident received a cold-call visit at the end of May from a trader who told him he needed work doing on his roof and handed over a cheque for £12,000. After becoming concerned about the lack of visible work, he told his carer what had happened. Home Instead was able to work with the resident, the bank, police and trading standards to report the scammers and make sure no money ever changed hands.
In the second case, a resident was sent an email inviting him to submit personal details online to claim a £500 rebate from HMRC. He often asks his carer to help check his emails which led to her spotting that the email was fraudulent. She managed to convince the resident to delete the message, despite him initially being adamant he should keep it.
Moore Place care home in Esher, Elmbridge has been linking with other care homes around the country to hold virtual tea parties to keep residents entertained.
The first event, with a care home in Hampshire over tea and homemade cakes, was originally planned for an hour but lasted twice the amount of time after going down a treat with residents who kept requesting more games of bingo. Staff then worked with local community groups to support people who live alone, encouraging them to “dial-in” and join the sessions.
Birdscroft Nursing Home
Birdscroft Nursing Home in Ashtead, Mole Valley overcame the challenges of Covid-19 to continue to rehabilitate 75-year-old David* following a stay in hospital. David has Parkinsons and other health issues including a history of falls.
After moving into the home in late January, David showed a strong desire to walk and return home to his wife Pauline* so his care and support plans were adapted to his growing independence.
During lockdown, his physiotherapist was unable to visit but provided an exercise plan for care home staff to follow with David (pictured below with staff at the care home), while David and Pauline kept in contact through phone and video calls.
Despite Covid-19 curtailing face-to-face visits, several services worked together including adult social care, community health, GPs and the care home itself to put in place a package of care to enable David to return home. He left Birdscroft in late May following a farewell party and continues to do well at home. (*not their real names)
The Surrey-based CHD Living group – which has care homes around the county including in Chertsey, Godalming, West Molesey, Guildford and Byfleet – teamed up with fitness instructors from the US to host virtual exercise sessions aimed at keeping residents mentally and physically active during isolation.
The twice-weekly sessions with New York-based Mark Fisher Fitness range from gentle seated exercises to strength, balance and breathing exercises. Instructors try to inject an element of performance art into classes and regularly don tutus and superhero capes – and encourage participating residents and carers to dress up in costumes for their workouts.
The partnership has now been added to the activity calendars across CHD Living’s 13 care homes until the end of August.
Mitchells Domiciliary Care Services
One young person who is supported by Mitchells Domiciliary Care Services was given the opportunity to sing to Prince Edward during a Zoom meeting with friends from the Orpheus Centre, an independent specialist college for young disabled adults with an interest in the arts.
Thomas (pictured below left) sang “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast after the Earl of Wessex had taken questions from students. The Earl, who is Patron of the Orpheus, congratulated Thomas on an “excellent” performance.
Mitchells, based in Redhill, Reigate and Banstead, provides home-based care to people with learning disabilities or autism. Staff have been supporting service-users to find creative ways to keep busy during lockdown, including using Zoom to connect with places like the Orpheus and using video messenger apps to keep in contact with friends and family.
A Hawaiian themed party was one of the events staged at Nower House in Dorking, Mole Valley to keep residents’ spirits up. The photos were uploaded to a Facebook group created for their families who also kept in touch via video calls on WhatsApp or Skype.
Many residents had previously enjoyed their freedom to leave the home under their own steam to shop locally or spend weekends away with family, so it soon became apparent the biggest challenge was maintaining wellbeing.
Operations manager John Manning said: “I am proud to be part of the team here at Nower Care, but I am more proud of our residents who have endured the past three months and taught us younger ones about resilience, patience and strength of character.”
Surrey Choices’ Shared Lives scheme
Families who care for vulnerable adults as part of Surrey Choices’ Shared Lives scheme used lockdown as an opportunity to develop the life skills of the people they’re supporting.
Luke (pictured below) and the family which supports him have been holding “Come Dine With Me” evenings like the TV series, where participants take turns to cook meals and the others give their verdict. Shared Lives involves families opening up their homes to an adult in need of support, either on a long-term basis, as a short break or day support.
Michelle, meanwhile, has been making masks with her Shared Lives carer, as well as learning about nature and making handmade cards to send to friends and family during lockdown. David embraced the community spirit on VE Day and serenaded his Shared Lives family and the whole street.
Helping residents continue to enjoy their choice of activities despite the pandemic was a key priority for Cedar Lodge, Frimley Green, Surrey Heath. This person-centred care helps ensure residents can continue to exercise choice over how they spend their time.
One resident, Marsinah (pictured below left), is active and house-proud and enjoys contributing to the running of the home including dusting, cleaning and folding the clean laundry. During the pandemic, the care team at the home presented her with her very own cleaning trolley and supplies so she could continue with her housekeeping routine safely.
For another resident, Evelyn, who was used to daily visits from her daughter, the home arranged a special afternoon tea with her daughter and granddaughter (pictured below right) who sat outside her bedroom window. Evelyn said: “What a magical surprise, I’m overjoyed this has been made possible.”
Sans Soucie Home Care
Young people with learning disabilities who are supported by Guildford-based Sans Soucie Home Care set up a fundraising page to encourage others to donate to the Mental Health Foundation. Fundraising activities included a daily egg and spoon race around the garden of the service.
They also created a YouTube page and have uploaded videos including a lockdown parody of Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody and have enjoyed a range of other activities including tie dying.
Michelle Moniz, service coordinator, said: “We are proud that these young adults have been able to compromise and understand the importance of maintaining safety during these testing times.”
The Halow Project
A Guildford-based charity switched to Zoom, Facebook, email and calls to continue supporting young people with learning disabilities during lockdown.
The Halow Project introduced “Halow at home” which included online games, information, events, activities and work sheets as well as live experiences.
Mel, assistant manager for Halow’s Building Futures programme, was holding her weekly call for one of her groups when she had to leave the session abruptly after her internet went down.
Describing what happened next, she said: “For 5 minutes I was frantically trying to get back in, half thinking that they may have left the meeting as we were near the end. However, when I got back in, the group all smiled happily and said ‘Oh hey Mel, nice to see you. We carried on the session and have been learning about how to stay safe in the sun’. They then proceeded to tell me everything that they’d been discussing together. What an awesome team!!!!”
Residents at Milner House, in Leatherhead, Mole Valley, enjoyed receiving letters and pictures from children of Friends of Milner House, a support group. The home also received bouquets and treats from the local community.
Joe Patterson, home manager at Milner House, added: “We want to thank everyone in Leatherhead and beyond for their continued kindness throughout this challenging time.”