Sally Boa, Head of Education, Strathcarron Hospice
Phase 1 story (Spring / Summer 2020)
How have you been able to keep a focus on what matters to people during COVID?
As an organisation, we have a long history of supporting Care Homes by providing mostly face to face education and experiences to enhance skills and knowledge of palliative and end of life care. We have also developed a community of practice through our Project ECHO care home network. This is a global tele-mentoring model that joins communities (in this case, health and social care) together so they can learn with and from each other. The care homes come together (through Zoom) to agree a programme of learning and we facilitate the sessions through presentations on the topic and anonymised case studies.
During this pandemic, our Care Home ECHO network has grown and has provided a forum for care home staff to share good practice, celebrate when things have gone well and reflect on the more challenging aspects of supporting residents and families during this difficult time. We have also been able to host larger information meetings, via zoom, for health and social care partners to ensure they have the right information as they need it.
What have you had to do differently and what made this possible?
We have worked with our health and social care partners in a really collaborative way. The barriers of using technology have been removed and Care Home staff have been very keen to share what’s important to them and how they want to be supported.
What have you noticed that has been better?
Collaboration between partners has been better and there is more understanding of different people’s/service roles. In spite of challenges with reports from the press, on the whole, Care Home staff and the jobs they do appear to be more valued by others. One participant told us:
Made me reflect that at the beginning of a shift we check everyone has what they need physically (e.g. PPE) but don’t’ always check how people are managing psychologically. Will include this going forward.
How did this make you feel?
During the ECHO sessions in particular, I feel very humbled to hear how care home staff are working to support their residents and families. I’m also excited that different agencies and professional groups are working together, which makes me optimistic for the future.
What have you learned through this?
Relationships are key. Our support for care homes has brought positive outcomes for people because we have worked hard at building relationships and trust. Rather than going in and telling people what they need to know, we have asked them what would help and tried to find solutions together.
Phase 2 story (Autumn 2020)
What has continued to help keep a focus on what matters for people during the pandemic?
We’ve continued to engage with care homes, using Zoom to provide a forum for different care home to come together for discussions and learning. Because many have been feeling isolated, they have valued a space to ‘meet’ each other which is supportive as well as being an opportunity to learn and reflect.
Are there changes that seem to be lasting longer term and are there things that have slid back to old ways of doing things?
The way we deliver education has changed as we aren’t able to meet face to face. In many ways, this has increased access for staff and as they’ve become more familiar with using technology, they have participated more freely. We are now also using technology much more to connect with people in our communities (for example, people who used to attend Day Care). This is working really well for some, as it provides a forum for people to meet, connect and support each other. Clinicians are also using NearMe and the phone to provide clinical assessment, interventions and supports.
Technology doesn’t work for everyone, and there is a worry that some people are left feeling isolated. We are constantly trying to address this by thinking of creative ways to connect people (an example from our Creative arts facilitators is the ‘dove project’: wooden doves and butterflies have been sent out to people normally attending day care inviting them to decorate doves and fly them back to the hospice, while decorating and keep the butterflies or passing them on to family and friends. Doves fly back to the hospice with comments: “I have totally loved doing this and it made me feel part of something really good” “It challenged me in a good way”
We have shared this work with our Care Home community, who have adapted the project to connect residents and families in their own settings.
What difference has this made to people?
We now have much closer relationships with some care home staff, which means people are more likely to phone for help if they need it – and this is reciprocal as we know where to go for advice too.
Staff in care homes have felt well supported: “Very reassuring – I get a lot out of these sessions. Reassures me that we’re all in this together and it’s good to hear what others are doing.”
We are maintaining connections with those who used to attend our day services and providing opportunities for peer support, which is an important element of the day care experience
How did this make you feel?
It’s always good to get positive feedback from those we are involved with. There is, however, an element of frustration as we would like to meet people face to face, but currently that isn’t an option. Thankfully, technology has really helped us during this pandemic.
Reflecting on your experiences what have you learned?
That people are resilient, creative and resourceful.
What difference has it made to you to tell your story as part of this project?
It’s good to reflect on this journey and think about how far we have come, and think about the things we have gained as well as the things we have lost.