Having never visited a care home before, in truth I naively imagined a clinical setting of some kind. In reality, I spent the entire afternoon in what felt like a safe, large yet homely house. St. Margaret’s has professional nurses, health care assistants and activities co-ordinators who are friendly and warm whilst effortlessly conducting thorough support for the people who live there.
I had the pleasure of being shown round St Margaret’s, a Brighterkind care home in Edinburgh. We began on the ground floor which predominantly focuses on supporting people with dementia. Framed images of famous film stars from the 40’s hang in the halls as talking point, helping to prompt memories for the residents to reminisce. I saw friendships between residents throughout the afternoon including a couple of clearly good friends living there, holding hands as they strolled past. The middle floor is for a mix of more able-bodied and independent residents and finally the top which is smaller, and offers a more intimate space for people.
One resident’s room was particular wonderful. I was kindly invited in to observe how at home you can feel with the help of some personal items, which residents are encouraged to bring. It was as though I had walked into somebody’s exquisitely personalised bedroom, rather than a room within a care home. Full of personal furnishings, colour, beautiful paintings and countless photos of her life, mainly with her husband who visits daily.
Lauren, their lovely Customer Relations Manager spent the afternoon with me. She shared an uplifting story about a recent activities afternoon that included songs from the war time. One usually quiet lady with advanced dementia began suddenly to engage and sing passionately with the group, remembering every word of each song. Lauren expressed the sheer honour it was to be able to be part of this, that such moments bring joy to the whole room not only that individual.
The optional activities are abundant, including a regular ‘wishing well’ in which members of the activities staff make their way around the residents to ask them what a wish of theirs would be. They then try to set it in motion, giving everybody something to look forward to. Alongside this they have a fortnightly visit from their therapy dog, their own choir ‘The Golden Tones’, a hairdressing salon and beauty therapy area. There are regular cheese and wine evenings, garden parties and two children’s nurseries who visit weekly to encourage relationships between older adults and children in an aging society. Given that it in recent years it has been proven to be highly beneficial for both.
There’s a different ‘active minds’ box on each floor which were simply incredible. They are filled with different activities that residents can use at their leisure. I found the painting set and ‘car shed kit’ particularly fascinating. A pitcure slowly emerges on the blank painting paper when touched with a paint brush of water, no paint is needed. These colourful pictures give a sense of achievement to residents with dementia. In the car shed kit there were ‘polish’ tins, which were in fact the scent of polish from differing decades. To complement this there was a CD with the sound of a car engine from that time. Both encourage conversation and prompt memories, as well being an extremely comforting pastime for residents.
The staff were clearly focused on preserving each resident’s dignity as carefully as possible, I felt extremely relaxed the whole visit in this knowledge. I saw a notably tender moment in passing, a man helping what I assume was his mother apply her perfume before leaving for their day out. I was then invited to join the local nursery visit in the main lounge, a weekly event that’s been running for several months with great success, attracting a group of regular residents who participate.
The home’s activities staff along with nursery staff led this bright and uplifting group. They sang many songs that everyone joined in on, the most popular being ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ which enticed one of the gentlemen residents to jump out of his seat and actively join. What a privilege to be part of an afternoon that unified all ages. As the day came to a natural close one of the small children announced to all: “Don’t forget your wellies when you go outside, then you can jump in the puddles!”
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