It is easy to feel overwhelmed with all the depressing things during this strange and frightening time. How can we still express affection and reassurance behind a mask? How will families unable to visit stay in touch? Will we be able to find things to lessen people’s loneliness and provide things to occupy people when we are very short-staffed and under pressure?
Yet, despite all these challenging questions, I am hearing so many inspiring examples of how care teams working with Meaningful Care Matters in the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the USA are still managing to create magic moments. They are keeping the spirit of the Butterfly Approach very much alive in focusing on the importance of feelings and relationships at the heart of all we do.
I want to focus on three key areas in this blog; always being mindful of what is ‘meaningful’ for each individual in everything we do, the power of the internet and technology in offering many new opportunities for connection and entertainment, and how the smallest things which only take a few minutes can make a big difference.
So, the first focus on what is ‘meaningful’ links to how important it is to know about each person’s story and how we can connect with this. One lovely example of this from one of our Canadian colleagues was when paramedics were taking swabs for Covid19 of people living in one of their Butterfly households – a potentially very frightening experience – Mary knew that to alleviate the anxiety of one gentleman, a discussion about the state of stocks and shares and the financial market was the perfect distraction. For someone else, it might be discussing breeds of pigs or Jane Austen novels. We all have topics that we are passionate about, and when someone talks about these with us, they are seeing the world through our lens and giving an important message of respect and regard. When thinking about maintaining meaningful connections in the Covid 19 world, we therefore need to prioritise the activities or interests which help individuals feel safe and understood. In a care home in New Zealand, for example, some staff felt that the cat ‘Princess’ might represent a risk, but the Manager realised that the joy and comfort which Princess offered so many animal lovers in the home far surpassed any risk she represented. In this new world we are living in, we are going to be constantly assessing and balancing rights, risks and wellbeing in this way.
The second focus on the power of the internet is one we are all quickly realising has huge potential in this time. At last many care homes are investing more in iPads and tablets for individuals to be able to talk via video call to their families bringing huge joy. Many museums, theatres, art galleries and entertainers are offering free virtual resources which can be used during this time. Some UK examples include Antony Hopkins playing the piano with his cat, Patrick Stewart reading Shakespeare’s sonnets, Peter Kay, the English comedian doing a wonderful rendition of ‘Is this the way to Amarillo?’ There is something for everyone from poetry to dance to religious services to be found online. One of my personal favourites during lockdown has been the various ‘A view from my window’ posts on Facebook which have included millions of people sharing pictures of their view from all over the world from Alaska to Alabama, Venice to Venezuela. It occurred to me how simple it could be to play a slideshow of these in a care home lounge or someone’s bedroom to give a sense of virtual travel?
The third message to be conveyed is that even when time is very tight for very over stretched care teams, small moments of fun can be created so easily, and we are hearing of lots of wonderful examples of these. We are also learning about the importance of enhancing the way we use our voice, hand gestures and eyes to convey kindness, warmth and reassurance when so much of our face is covered by a mask. Wearing funny hats to make masks look less scary or decorating masks with lipstick are some examples. One personal support worker got creative with the label maker and wrote “Trust me, I’m smiling under the mask! We have seen videos of housekeeping teams dancing down hallways with their mops and feather dusters or nurses and care workers bursting into song. We know how easy it is to change a mood in a room. I remember when visiting my partner in hospital a while ago, I put on Freddie Mercury’s “I want to be break free” on my phone and the whole ward started dancing. Wouldn’t that be a great song to play now?
I know how many of you will have lots more examples of your own. We would love to hear from you if you find time. One of the positive things coming out of this crisis is the power of our international Meaningful Care Matters community which can share with each other.