An elderly lady relaxes in a chair in the garden of her home at Westbury Fields Retirement Village

Social connection at St Monica Trust during COVID-19

We recently shared with the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Social Integration about all the hard work our team is putting into tackling social isolation among our residents and customers during COVID-19. Here's what we had to say.

New specific services and support

Distribution of tablets for residents to stay connected

The Trust has made over 128 tablet devices available across our services to help residents stay in touch with their loved-ones. They have Skype, Zoom, Chrome and YouTube pre-installed and dedicated IT support has been made now available to help them with these and their own devices.

Residents are so happy to see their loved-ones on FaceTime now visits aren’t possible” Staff member

Expansion of our Visiting Volunteering Service

Residents who are saying they are missing the social contact they had with others since the lockdown are being offered regular telephone chats with volunteers from our visiting volunteering service.

One of our volunteers has taken on a ‘telephone mentor’ role for residents who want help with tablet devices they have recently been loaned by the Trust.

Plans are being made for video messages from volunteers and staff to be made available so that residents can see familiar faces.

New Our Connected Community online activity hub

The Trust has developed an online resident activity hub - Our Connected Community. This will offer a spread of online activities including how-to guides on video messaging, church services from our Pastoral Care team, lectures and online exhibitions, puzzles, and exercise classes from our physios.

This will be updated weekly and is also circulated to our residents each week via email. It is a free resource and open to the public.

New Coronavirus Support Hub for older people in Bristol

Age UK Bristol and a collaboration of local charities including St Monica Trust and Active Ageing Bristol, have come together to form a new Support Hub to help older people and their families cope with the impact of the Coronavirus in Bristol.

The Support Hub will be widely promoted to St Monica Trust residents and customers. It provides a range of different services for older people including practical, social and emotional support, such as shopping and weekly social phone calls, as well as virtual activities that older people can do from the safety of their own home.

The helpline for the Support Hub operates from 9am – 5pm Monday to Friday. If the helpline is busy messages can be left on the phone or by email out of working hours.

Re-shaped services

Finding ways to keep residents in our retirement villages engaged

Teams are regularly phoning residents to check they are OK.

New magazines are being put together which include lots of useful links to sites that have things of interest including competitions, recipes and puzzles.

Gardens are still open and residents with social distancing rules and hand-washing on re-entering the building being adhered to.

Some of our regular entertainers and external exercise classes tutors have posted videos up on YouTube for residents to access.

Monica Wills House is running a one round quiz with prizes each week and their Portering teams are putting an amusing picture and messages on the notice boards on each floor every day.

Activities Co-ordinators whilst activities are suspended are continuing to engage

They are:

  • regularly phoning residents for a chat
  • sending out newsletters
  • emailing and circulating weekly quizzes and links to music, and low tech’ ideas which residents can participate in, such as photographing or drawing/painting the view from their flats (or alternatively, writing a poem or piece of reflective prose) all of which will capture a moment in time which we can display - and reflect on - down the line when restrictions are lifted.

Pastoral Care Teams are reaching out

Our Pastoral Care Coordinators are:

  • phoning, emailing, and writing to residents with personal notes of encouragement
  • providing short simple service sheets for nursing home and dementia care residents to use
  • distributing materials (e.g. booklets for services) via our porters to their usual church congregations
  • creating newsletters with information of broadcasts on TV and Radio for all residents in the assisted living.
  • recording audio and video clips of services of worship and other spiritual content which they make available online and distribute on CDs/DVDs; a DVD is currently being recorded for residents with special needs.

Meals personally delivered to residents’ apartments following closure of restaurants

Staff are delivering food to residents’ apartments daily. For example on Easter Sunday:

“We delivered to around 60 independent living apartments with a nice Easter roast and dessert. They place their order with us and we bring it up with a smile on our faces!” Member of staff

This has helped the residents in independent living who may struggle making or ordering food, and provides important additional social contact and connection with people which they are missing now the restaurants have had to close.

Visiting volunteers service now contacting residents via telephone and letter

Residents who take part in our Volunteering programme normally have a visit at home from their volunteer. They were clearly missing those visits. Many of our volunteers are now maintaining contact with residents by telephone.

One of our volunteers is currently stuck in South Africa but she is sending letters for her two residents by email to a friend, who lives close to one of our retirement villages. She prints them out and posts them to the retirement village.

Help to maintaining existing connections with children and young people

Our residents are being supported to write emails and letters to maintain relationships with children and young people who have been regular visitors to our sites for intergenerational activities.

Active Ageing Bristol (AAB) working to deliver virtual physical activities

AAB is working to enable virtual physical activities to be delivered to isolated ‘at risk’ older people who are self-isolating with little contact with the community activity groups they were attending. As a result they are missing the social interaction, spark and support these groups previously provided.

Subject to funding being secured, AAB via partner providers is looking to facilitate 30 – 60 mins of activity, either by the phone or on zoom. These groups will consist of gentle exercise e.g. seated exercise; Tai Chi; Zumba Gold (on zoom) with reminiscence, and conversation and mindfulness on the phone. Each group will be led by a facilitator, but content will be co-produced, allowing each attendee time and space to join in and talk.

This will be run as a pilot since sessions have not been delivered like this before, but it is an ideal time to test something new and innovative. AAB is seeing this as a potential way of delivering activity going forward once we are through the social isolation measures for groups that are harder to reach and those who can’t attend due to on-going physical or transport issues.

Special initiatives and activities to lift spirits and help residents feel connected

Teams have instigated a wide range of extra initiatives and actions which aim to maintain social connection, support and well-being for our residents who are isolated in their villages or care homes (some within their own apartment or room). Here are some examples are given below.

Daily staff and resident sing-a-along in care homes

Our Garden House care home has started a 2pm daily sing-a-long with staff and residents in each unit.

Staff delivered hot cross buns and best wishes at Easter

Hot cross buns ordered in from a bakery delivered by staff to all the residents at The Chocolate Quarter, with a lovely note wishing them a Happy Easter. Our Senior Catering Host in the retirement village delivered them to each of the residents’ apartments:

“It gave me a chance to check on the residents’ well-being and it was a great surprise for them they even got emotional, which made me feel so emotional and shows how rewarding our job is, I feel so lucky to be a part of such a great company. I do what I can to check the residents have what they need”.

Surprise Flowers

Residents in The Chocolate Quarter apartments were delivered daffodils last week by Catering Assistants Rasa and Daisy. A lovely gesture which was very much appreciated:

“A huge thank you for all the thoughtful and helpful ways that you are assisting us. Your efforts are practical and imaginative… we are particularly touched by the spring flowers just delivered." Resident

Many residents have sent notes of thanks or pinned them to their windows

"We have found you all such caring, hardworking staff, and we have appreciated it"; "Thank you staff for the way you are looking after us" and "With love to everyone who takes such good care of us". Resident

Staff going the extra mile

Here are two of many examples of staff going the extra mile to keep isolated residents connected and maintain their well-being.

Care at Home Team

There have been lots of lovely gestures made by our Care at Home team, from buying flowers for customers to cheer them up, cooking roast dinners, visits to the pharmacy, food shopping – much of which is in their own time.

E.g. One of our care at home staff, Pauline, in her own time made up three weeks of evening meals for one of our Care at Home residents, using the food from the St Monica Trust food box and some extras the customer had in the freezer

Nurse at John Wills Care Home

One of our Registered Nurses at John Wills House is going above and beyond to support the care home and Westbury Fields Village residents,

“Ruth Houghton (RN) is coming in on her days off and early to her shifts in the home to help deliver meals and food to the Village Residents. Yesterday she also came in on her day off to take residents in John Wills House out for their exercise outside for a walk on the cricket pitch. She really is a STAR.”

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