by Robert Speker, Activities Coordinator, Sydmar Lodge Care Home
When my care home went into lockdown on 12th March, it was such a sudden unplanned change no one could have predicted. My main goals remained as always: to ensure that my residents were safe and happy. There was extra time to fill due to families’ visits not being allowed and external entertainers not being admitted. Reduced contact with loved ones was particularly difficult for care home residents. I needed to think up more ideas and activities for keeping residents entertained, to ensure that they were stimulated and enriched.
For some time, I had thought about having residents recreate famous or iconic album covers. Music is something which appeals to all residents. It imbues feelings of joy, triggering memories and enlightening the moment. The process of producing the recreations began with choosing suitable album covers, selecting the residents and suggesting the idea to each, finding my own Bowie, Springsteen and Madonna. Then I took each resident for the photoshoot, applying make-up, costumes, staging and lighting. This was the perfect opportunity for me to have quality time with the residents involved, ensuring they were happy with the idea and answering any concerns about the current situation. It was a shared experience and such a fun and different thing to do. The residents were the models, striking poses whilst being photographed. They were so engaged and excited.
There has been such a positive impact on both the residents’ mental and physical well-being. The positive emotions produced can continue long after the activity has finished. During the photoshoots, and following the final recreations being displayed, there was so much laughter. It really got residents talking about their experiences, and helped show them each in a different light, as the individuals they are.
It was quite incredible that this project received such a global response. To put it into context, the photos have been viewed on Twitter over 11 million times and featured by national media worldwide. The reaction has been so positive and has resulted in people talking about the care sector, reflecting on the work done in care homes and the individuals who work and live there, and the stigmas they face. I have been incredibly pleased to have the opportunity to increase awareness of the role played by care homes and carers in valuing residents and understanding how difficult the pandemic is for them.
When I ask residents how old they feel, they often say much younger than they are. This can change daily depending on their mood. Activities are vital to their wellbeing. The way I treat my residents reflects this. Activities are not only bingo, arts and crafts, quizzes and keep fit. Whilst these can be beneficial, there is so much more. Residents are individuals. It is essential to take time to find what suits each person, to adapt these activities, update them and improve them to be more appropriate for residents.
Finding out as much as possible about each resident helps enormously in organising activities to enrich their lives, stimulate emotions and provide experiences for them, something they have done in the past or perhaps doing for the first time. It is never too late to try something new. None of the residents featured in the album covers had ever been involved with a photoshoot but they thoroughly enjoyed it, some showing natural modelling abilities.
There are now more residents (and their families) wanting to be involved in recreations and other album covers I would like to reinvent. Suggestions are most welcome although I am staying clear of Nirvana’s Nevermind.
Marcel Proust wrote that “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is grief that develops the powers of the mind”. My residents have often commented how they have lived through world wars. They have such resilience and optimism and have much to teach us about being positive. Whilst this pandemic produced much negativity and pessimism, it is possible to maintain hope, creativeness, and belief that there can be positive outcomes from the pandemic. I feel that my residents have been encouraged to show this by their involvement in the project and the joy produced for so many people.