It’s been a month since my mother moved into the new care home. Despite the disastrous beginning, and some inevitable concerns, mum seems to be settling in and I’m feeling a little encouraged. I have been preparing for this move for almost a year. Whether or not a move to a care home is planned or triggered by crisis, there is a lot you can to do to support the wellbeing of your loved one once they have moved.
Coordinate regular visits
When someone first moves, the received wisdom used to be to hold off visiting for the first week to allow your loved one to settle into the new care home. I’ve heard this from care homes and social workers. Nowadays, though, the advice is the opposite; to visit often (several times a day) while the person with dementia is settling into the home. Dementia UK acknowledges that everybody is different in this helpful guide.
As mum is so local to her old home, I was able to do long and short visits three times a day last week, when I was back there. She wasn’t sleeping well at nights, so I helped to settle her with the bedtime routine I used at home. The night carer was stunned that mum slept through the whole night after I did this one night. I was surprised too, as she almost never did that with me. She was probably exhausted.
When I’m not there, mum will get regular visits from my sister and weekly visits from her good friend Doris. I’ve organised for two of mum’s favourite carers to visit three to four times a week. I will ask friends from mum’s local church to pop in too.
It’s worth coordinating visits, in case everybody comes at the same time. I’ve heard of good apps like Jointly from Carers UK which help coordinate care. I’ve decided to go with a basic WhatsApp group, with a link to the Google online calendar, as suggested by a Twitter friend.
Share what works
I developed a detailed three-page document to help staff get to know mum and support her wellbeing. Some of this has gone into the home’s own care plan, including how to help mum settle at night. The last part of the bedtime routine involves reading her prayers. The manager is keen that carers do this for her.
My document also suggests how to respond to common questions in a way that wards off anxiety. It suggests how to make mum feel useful and promote her wellbeing generally. We’ve provided an old I-pad with instructions for staff, so that mum can watch back episodes of Songs of Praise, a TV programme she loves to watch several times a day.
Meet the manager regularly
The manager invited me to a review meeting to help fill in their pro forma care plan. This included mum’s likes and dislikes. At the meeting I was able to discuss my thoughts about what works for mum in detail, highlighting elements from my care plan. I felt comfortable raising concerns I had, such as the level of interaction between staff and residents. She told me about her twice-daily walk around the four units in the home. If a resident looks unhappy or scared, the manager explores what’s wrong. I feel encouraged by this.
Organise photos to create a life story
I described the value of looking at old photos with mum, in a previous post. Reminiscence helped mum fill in the blanks from her past. I finally finished mum’s Life Story photo book. I will write about the process I went through to make mum’s book, and share useful links, very soon. Apart from helping mum, this is a great resource to provide to a new care home. It helps staff get to know mum and it provides a topic for discussion with her.
Compile a playlist and make it available
I have compiled a longlist for mum’s personal playlist; music that is meaningful, pleasurable and calming. I now need to play all the music back to mum so I can cut any songs that don’t really do anything for her. Inspired by Shedfield Lodge care home, I will make the songs available for mum on a one button music player. These can be bought from Live Well with Dementia or Alzheimer’s Society though they are a bit pricey. Alternatively you could save the songs onto a CD. Playlist for Life provides resources to help you develop a personal playlist.
Though these initiatives seem simple, some of them require a major investment of time and effort to set up. The good thing is that the process itself can be an enjoyable activity, which you can do with the person you care for.
If the care home makes use of these resources and implements the care plan as promised, and the overall package of interventions helps to improve mum’s wellbeing, it will all be worthwhile. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.