A 4-year old toddler and a 92-year old care home resident might not seem the most likely of friendships at first glance, but Eric from Brentwood Care Centre, part of RCH Care Homes, in Essex has formed a strong friendship with Harry, one of the toddlers who visited the residential dementia and nursing care home regularly before the COVID-19 lockdown.
RCH Care Homes have a strong focus on intergenerational activities and included within this is a partnership with Hopscotch Day Nursery.
Prior to the pandemic starting, children from Hopscotch Day Nursery arrived bi-weekly at the care home enjoying fun filled and action-packed mornings, taking part in joint activities and socialising with residents.
During one such session staff noticed a real bond forming between Eric and one of the children, Harry. They seemed to naturally gravitate towards one another, and every time Harry saw Eric, he would immediately run happily towards him shouting “Eric, Eric!” at the top of his voice. Harry wasn’t the only one who looked forward to the visits though as Eric also eagerly anticipated Harry’s visits too.
Christmas is a time for friends and family, and so Eric, along with some of the other residents, was delighted to be invited by Hopscotch to the nursery’s Christmas play last year. To the amusement of the audience, when Harry noticed Eric in the front row while he was on stage, he couldn’t help shouting out Eric’s name several times – after all, can it really be considered a Christmas panto if there isn’t some spontaneous improvisation involved?
When the difficult decision was made at the beginning of the global pandemic to restrict visitors to the care home, it also unfortunately meant that the nursery visits had to come to an end for the immediate future. The decision to restrict visitors was that much more difficult as staff knew how much the residents and children would miss each other.
At the start of the lockdown, the home immediately invested in iPads and tablets to facilitate connections between residents and families and encouraged teams to find new ways to ensure our residents could continue communicating regularly with their loved ones. One such method was a photo messages from residents posted on social media.
When Harry’s mum Charlie Oatham noticed a message from Eric, she showed it to Harry who instantly recognised him and asked what his friend was up to. Touched by her son’s response, Charlie responded to the Facebook post to let the home know how much Harry was missing Eric and included a photo message back from Harry to Eric directly: “Miss you too. Love Harry”.
Knowing that both Eric and Harry were yearning for their bi-weekly sessions, the home have arranged with Eric’s mum for the two friends to FaceTime or Skype each other whenever they want. Harry’s mum Charlie has expressed how much this has meant to Harry, “During this lockdown, it’s been tough with a 4-year-old at home. Harry has been asking about his school friends his teacher and his friends from the care home. Especially Eric, who he has a great relationship with! Being able to FaceTime with Eric on occasions has really lifted Harry’s mood and I’m sure has done so with Eric too.”
Both have already enjoyed a number of video calls with each other. Not even COVID-19 can stop the special friendship between these two buddies!