Upcycling a cupboard room used to mean a coat of paint called something like Elephant’s Breath with the addition of a cactus or two from IKEA.
Nowadays, in the world of Covid-19, it’s something entirely different and vastly more important as Director of Poplars Care Home in Ruislip, and Great British Care Award nominee, Salim Cader, can testify to:
“I’ve been at the home for 10 years and have always seen the same door facing out onto the car park. One day I just had a eureka moment! Within two weeks the storage room was transformed: a perspex wall was installed, telephone system, chairs plus whiteboards to display all the activities we’d been up to so visitors could take it all in whilst waiting for loved ones to arrive.”
So, cupboard becomes lifeline: necessity has always been the mother of invention in a community.
Maybe it sounds counterintuitive in the face of great loss to imagine positives arising from the pandemic but it can’t be a coincidence that many people have talked about rediscovering a greater appreciation of simpler things: one day in the summer, staff and residents took an impromptu picnic to the park which is just across the road. Trips would usually be to the garden centre or boat trips, but here was the simplicity of what Salim calles Nature Bathing literally on the doorstep. A kind of opening up to things when we’ve been at our most closed down.
Salim has also, along with many others, registered a much stronger feeling of community. We saw something similar with Princess Diana: the very human need to come together…
“In all my 10 years here, I’ve never felt so part of something, part of a movement almost. For example, we are part of a Facebook page called Crochet for Kindness and I would pull up in my car and see little flowers and bootees that the general public had made for the residents hanging on our wall on the main road. It was so charming and lovely – small little trinkets that got such wonderful reactions from residents. And also the local Hillingdon Covid Group delivering blankets and socks coming into autumn. They were obviously Heathrow surplus because they all said British Airways! Lots of lovely toiletries arrived from the local community without our prompting and we even received postcards from random strangers saying keep your chin up we’re thinking of you.”
Supporters of the annual Poppy Appeal, Salim discovered that the local British Legion branch couldn’t fundraise on the street and were therefore looking for innovative ways care homes could take part. Staff and residents jumped at the chance with people taking on a task for 11 days. They hoped for around £100 but raised £2500. Most poignant, 97 year old registered blind Ann, a vehement fundraiser with her late husband all their lives, was escorted up to the cenotaph to place a wreath and say a thank you to all the “fallen boys and girls”.
And when a resident passed away from Covid-19, the funeral cortege passed the home and staff and residents stood out to bow their heads in respect. It was a deeply emotional moment but something amazing happened the next day:
“It was incredible – we had phone calls from two different members of the public who wanted to say they had noticed the staff outside the home and how much it meant to them that we were doing that. These people actively sought out our phone number and made that effort. It was so lovely…so civil.”
Communal experience has always been bigger than the sum of its parts. At the core, it proves we’re not alone. Salim now knows that and he’s smiling:
“You just feel something special is happening and your heart feels full.”