Opinion Real Lives

A creative approach to person centred activities

Paul Dixon, Activities Manager at Mill House in Chipping Campden  (part of Caring Homes group) describes how by Thinking outside the box, small things really do make a big difference.

Imagine it’s impossible for you to leave your room.  You see snow from your window and have accepted you will never be able to feel the sensation of this again.  This was a situation we faced last winter with a resident at Mill House.

Rather than simply bringing a snowball to the room the team decided to go one step further, laying down some tarpaulin  and covering the floor with a wheelbarrow of snow.  We then helped our resident to build a snowman, enabling him to experience the sensation for one last time.  Such a small gesture but one that made a big difference to this resident.

Thinking outside the box is something we as a team do unconsciously all the time.  This philosophy is built into the ethos of our approach to care delivery and our activities programme – something I am proud to say helped us achieve the title of Care Innovator  at last year’s regional Great British Care Awards.

Key to this approach is our “One home activities” attitude.  Whilst most homes have a gardening club, we have initiated three into our home.   One for those residents who still have the capacity to go outside and garden, one called the Armchair Gardening Club, for those who can’t go outside but can garden indoors around a table, and a third for residents who are too unwell to leave their room.

For the latter we take the gardening to the residents, enabling them to sow seeds or plant hanging baskets.   This all-inclusive approach means that when residents see the activities schedule, they will automatically know they can participate in every activity on offer, regardless of illness or limitations.

Life histories are key to enabling a true person centred approach,  promoting wellbeing and a sense of worth.  One such resident was Bill*, who had worked as a company manager for many years. A big aspect of his role, and something that he enjoyed, was conducting interviews as part of the hiring process.  With this in mind,  the team arranged for Bill to meet local school leavers to give them advise on interview skills and CV presentations.  To maintain this momentum during the recent lockdown, we ensured Bill still received CVs via email and was able to continue to provide valuable feedback to students.  A great example of an intergenerational partnership that benefits both parties.

Thinking outside the box means thinking outside of the home, and forging links with the local community is something we are continually looking to develop.  Last December a few our residents went to stay with family over Christmas which left the home with spare capacity.   We were able to offer these spaces to the local community ensuring anyone who was likely to be alone at Christmas was able to join in the festivities at Mill House, enhancing lives and reducing social isolation. This initiative proved to be so successful that it was adopted by other care homes in the area.

Community engagement is something we take pride in at Mill House and transparency is key to this.  Our local village has a population of around 1,800 and we are proud to say that over 1,000 of these follow our Facebook page.  To have over 50% of the community engage with us in this way, most of whom have no links with social care, builds confidence in Mill House and indeed the sector.

To some a Great British Care Award might be something that sits on a shelf.  To us it is represents recognition of what we have achieved as a team.  We will continue to strive to provide the absolute best care and promote independence, choice, dignity, and wellbeing… and by Thinking outside the box we hope to achieve just that.

*name has been changed


Edel Harris





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