In our day-and-age of demanding jobs, working parents and nuclear family households, loneliness in the elderly has become a serious problem. According to research by Age UK, more than a million older people say they can go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member.
With 1.9 million older people often feeling ignored or invisible, care homes across the UK have taken it upon themselves to make the elderly feel heard and seen again. Hampden Hall Care Centre in Aylesbury, part of the acclaimed Westgate Healthcare group, is one of the most creative problem-solvers when it comes to tackling the challenge of loneliness.
We talked to Anji and Pushyant Patel, the founders of Westgate Healthcare, about some of the inspiring initiatives that have been taking place at Hampden Hall and beyond. Here’s what we learnt.
Interaction with gentle, friendly pets has scientifically proven benefits for our physical and mental health. From lower blood-pressure, endorphin-release and pain relief to decreased anxiety, depression and loneliness, the benefits of animal therapy are perfectly suited to improve the general wellbeing of our relatives in care homes. At Hampden Hall Care Centre, residents have been treated to the company of Blue the lionhead rabbit, Sammy the guinea pig and Betty the royal python, amongst other furry (or less furry) friends. Thanks to the Wild Science workshop, even bed-bound residents were able to interact with the animals and had a great time in the process.
Holidays at Home
For those with disabilities or restricted mobility, travelling can be tricky – so the team at Hampden Hall figured: why not turn the care home into a holiday home? For a joyful afternoon, the garden was turned into a tropical island with a Hawaiian-themed BBQ – including palm trees, punch and party-outfits! Organising a holiday at home is a wonderful idea for care home workers looking to counter loneliness in their residents.
Tea at Three
Never underestimate the power of tradition. Once you have established a habit, it’s easy to maintain, and regular social sessions are key to keeping up the family feel in a care home. At Hampden Hall, there is a tradition called Tea at Three, which sees both staff and visitors get together to chat with the residents over tea and cakes each Friday afternoon. With social sessions happening at regular times and days, everyone can have something to look forward to.
What better occasion to get staff, residents and guests of all ages together than an anniversary party? On 1 June 2019, Hampden Hall Care Centre will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary, and the local community has been invited to join a Mardi Gras-themed party with handmade masks, food stalls, face-painting, games, music and more. The event will be attended by the Alzheimer’s Society and there will be fundraising activities to support the elderly. A great day to look forward to for everyone involved!
Communicating with those who have been diagnosed with dementia can be a challenge – but enjoying and making music together is a universal experience. Research has shown that music therapy can improve the mood, alertness and engagement of people with dementia, and help reduce anxiety, depression, isolation and agitation. Together with Kiddleydivey music entertainment, the ‘Dementia Friends’ at Hampden Hall have delivered music sessions preceded by fact-filled presentations about dementia for residents and their families. The initiative was part of Dementia Awareness Week – an excellent occasion for dementia care homes to organise something fun for their residents.