“Seeing residents smile during our knitting club makes my day. It brings home how transformative and life-changing care work can be.” These are the words of Lorna Mclean, a London-based carer who was nominated for a carer award in 2019 due to her novel approach to improving resident wellbeing.
Lorna has been teaching residents with mobility and sensory issues how to knit through her creation and facilitation of a new knitting club at Bridgewater House, an extra care scheme owned and managed by homes, support and care provider Octavia. Before spearheading the purposeful activity group at the beginning of 2019, Lorna researched instructions online and practised the new craft in her spare time, motivated by her ultimate aim of improving outcomes for the older people she supports.
Lorna recalls “Lea
rning to knit has been a long-held aspiration of mine. After hearing how the artistic activity can boost older adults’ mental health, I decided to be proactive and teach myself. Using online resources, I learnt how to make a slipknot and work a basic stitch. Once I felt confident enough in my own ability, I launched the knitting group.”
Violet, a Bridgewater house resident, used to cry a lot and feel distressed on a regular basis, but Lorna’s words of encouragement coupled with Violet’s new hobby have helped put a smile back on her face.
“Violet’s spirit visibly lifts when people compliment her work. It is amazing to see the knock-on effect that this has had on her confidence and state of mind. Knitting not only stimulates the brain and puts it to good use, it also helps our residents develop new skills and enhance existing ones. They are taking on a project which when completed, becomes an accomplishment they can be proud of, thereby helping them feel good about themselves.”
As well as boosting residents’ self-esteem through a creative form of expression, the group also has important social value, promoting resident socialising as they engage through a lively and stimulating activity.
“It is wonderful to see group members helping each other out– learning new techniques and exchanging knowledge. They happily carry on knitting even when I am called away from a session. We started out with smaller items such as hats and scarves but now the group are ready to move onto jumpers and slippers.”
Lorna’s journey in care began in 2000 when she took on the role of care assistant in an Ickenham based sheltered housing scheme. Her natural ability to engage with residents on an individual level shines through in her comments on her career choice:
She says: “Caring comes naturally to me probably due to what I am told is my ‘cheerful nature’ and long history of looking after older people”, says Lorna. “Growing up, I liked helping older family members as I always believed you can learn a lot from those with more life experience than yourself. A family friend once told me that if you earn ten pence you should always try to save at least two pence of it – a valuable life lesson that goes beyond monetary value and has remained with me ever since.”
Lorna believes that “communication, compassion, empathy and resilience” are the key tenets of good care. Her commitment to tailoring care to individual need has not gone unnoticed by her colleagues, as she was recently nominated for the Home Care Worker award at the London region 2019 Great British Care Awards.
“It was lovely to be nominated and I’m grateful for the recognition. My job feels worthwhile every day as it is eternally rewarding to help those that are vulnerable.”