Care HomeOut and about

Getting outdoors to tackle social isolation head on

By April 19, 2018 No Comments

This year, on the 21st April, Care Home Open Day will be held in thousands of homes across the country for the 6th year running.

The theme of this year is ‘Linking Communities’ and is meant to help homes build relationships with local people and organisations, and – whilst there are clearly benefits to be had by increasing the number of visitors to care homes – I hope that an equal outcome will be that residents of care homes across the country feel closer and better connected to the communities around them as result.

Since I started working in care homes 6 years ago, I have always been aware of the number of barriers faced when supporting residents to stay connected to the communities around their homes. The reasons for this isolation in care might be a lack of transport, fear of leaving a safe environment or more simply, a lack of knowledge of accessible places to go and things that can be done there.

A 2013 study called Greening Dementia found that, whilst only 20% of people living with dementia considered their condition to be a barrier to using outdoor spaces, 83% of care staff believed that dementia limited the person’s ability to do so. This suggests that we aren’t simply facing logistical barriers, but also the misperceptions of those directly delivering care. And so, it is important that we not only provide ways and means of getting out and about, but that we also have a responsibility to raise awareness as to why it’s so vital.

Research has showed that spending as little as 5 minutes in nature, sometimes referred to as ‘a dose of nature’, can be good for health and wellbeing, and – whilst most people would accept that staying indoors for extended periods of time is bad for your health – knowing some of the true benefits that come with adventuring away from of the care environment is something we should all be able to talk about. Benefits such as:

  • A chance for spontaneous social encounters that aren’t possible without leaving the four walls of the home.
  • Opportunities to reminisce by encountering places, smells or sounds that might not have been revisited in a long time.
  • Improved relationships within the home, through shared experiences and personal discoveries, leading to greater empathy through care.
  • Better orientation with nature and the seasons for those who struggle to remember specific times and dates.

Have a look to see if any homes in your area are opening their doors this weekend, and if you’ve already been invited to visit a home this Care Home Open Day, then make sure you return the favour! Let residents and staff know about other community events they could attend or offer to join them as a volunteer on their next outing away from the home.

For more information, please email benjamin@oomph-wellness.org

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