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Care Managers Show


24 Jun 2024

Guest blog: Building your care setting’s connections

Guest blog: Building your care setting’s connections
Tom Owen, Director of My Home Life England, shares three steps to help you develop more connections with your local community.

At My Home Life England, we often hear incredible examples of communities supporting their local care settings – and vice versa.

The local rugby club coming into a care home once a month and chatting with sports fans and ex-players; the local supermarket donating provisions to help make it happen... It doesn’t need to be grand gestures – what matters is the relationship and sustained connection. It contributes to a greater quality of life, and a more positive culture within the care setting.

You reaching out has reciprocal community benefits too. It creates volunteering opportunities and gives individuals the opportunity to learn from other community members, breaking down stigma around ageing and disability. We saw this when we led England’s biggest intergenerational project with care homes. There were significant outcomes for both older people and schoolchildren, boosting the knowledge and wellbeing of both generations and fostering a more united community.

Take a pause and think about what you have to offer your community – and there will be plenty!

We’ve heard of care homes reaching out to local businesses and offering them the chance to have their jams sold in the care home reception, to be admired and purchased by anyone visiting. This led to an uptick in sales for the small businesses, who then came into the care home to give a talk all about making jam, sparking intrigue and conversations amongst those who lived there.

Another care home struck up a positive relationship with their local fish and chip shop, regularly ordering takeaways. Over Christmas time, staff sickness meant the care home suddenly found itself without a chef. The home manager called the chippy, and the cook went over to the care home on his day off to ensure that everyone was fed – an incredible example of the community supporting each other, made possible by a pre-existing relationship.

Connecting with your community can have business benefits too. We heard of a domiciliary care agency who offered free information sessions about dementia to the community. In addition to being educational, this gift helped transform public perception of the provider from one focused on profits to one that cared about its wider community. As well as a more informed community and an improved provider reputation, this also led to new business enquiries.

If you’re looking to develop more community connections, here are three simple steps to try out:

Step 1 - Say thank you

Identify and thank the people, groups and organisations that your care setting already has good relationships with. It’s always nice for people to know they’re appreciated and it’s also helpful to recognise where you’ve already got good connections.

Thanking people may lead to them considering how else they could support you, and what could be possible together.

Step 2 - Pinning down your possibilities

  • Who in the community could you easily connect with, but don’t yet? It could be a faith group attended by a team member, the school where the chef’s children go, the café just around the corner…
  • What individuals, groups and organisations might people in the care setting wish to reconnect with? Maybe there’s a society someone used to be an active member of, or a business that someone used to be involved with.
  • What could the community do to support the little things that matter to people living in the setting, staff and relatives? And what could you offer them in return? What hobbies do people have that they would like to continue pursuing? What would make a difference to those around you?

Ask people living in, and connected to, the care setting for their ideas. This will help build a picture of the possible relationships you could develop – and, importantly, what support they could give you, and what you have to offer them.

Step 3 - Connecting with your new friends and neighbours

Get the message out to your community that you want to build new connections. Think about the best ways to communicate with different groups (face to face, email, letter, etc) and be really clear about what you want to achieve, what the benefit will be for them, and what actions people should take in response.

At My Home Life England, we’ve been supporting the care sector for over 18 years, and an essential part of our work recognises the importance of connections between people and communities. We’ve led community engagement initiatives across many different care settings, informing a range of resources and bespoke options to support the sector.

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