We celebrate that many care homes have great links with their communities; more can be done to strengthen the impact of existing success and share the learning in other areas.
What works well for meaningful, sustained links between care homes and communities?
- Sustainable engagement often needs a third party like a voluntary organisation identified and supported to take on the role of a connector (such as the FaNs programme) – fostering positive and trusting relationships between care homes and their local communities.
- Both care homes and people coming into care homes need to understand each other. Visitors and volunteers should be aware of the context of care homes and be supported to work well with residents, relatives and staff; while care homes need support to keep e.g. volunteers feeling like part of the team. See the Resources section for training materials and information sheets for care homes and community members.
- For community groups, and particularly for volunteers coming in, having a single contact in the care home is very helpful. It’s important for the care home manager to lead a welcoming culture in the home for people coming in, but most managers don’t have time to be the everyday point of contact.
Some important things to remember:
- There’s not one ‘right way’ to build links between care homes and communities.
- It’s important to have care homes in the driving seat along with community partners. There is a history of people outside the care home ‘doing things to’ rather than ‘doing things with’ the care home sector, and care homes are best placed to know what will make activities meaningful and sustainable for them.
- Regardless of how a care home is run (and the majority of care homes in the UK are private businesses), the people who live there still deserve to be connected to their communities.
- Community engagement requires encouragement and support, and it’s no one’s fault that it’s not happening as much as we’d like. These connections need to be nurtured and helped to settle.