From cinema nights at home to weekly Zoom parties, families have paid tribute to support workers at a learning disability service in Bishops Stortford, following a year that has seen them provide “exemplary” care for their relatives.
The service, which is run by national charity Hft, has adapted how people with learning disabilities are supported over the last year, with frontline support workers finding creative ways to promote the wellbeing of people living at the service.
This has included providing alternatives to activities in the community that people have struggled not being able to access, such as visits to the cinema. After several people were missing regular trips to their local cinema, staff decided to set up frequent ‘film nights’, including a big screen, cinema snacks and an opportunity for people to put their names into a hat to select a film. By recreating a popular activity, support workers boosted morale at the service by creating a sense of routine and giving people something to look forward to, as well as an opportunity to be creative by getting involved in putting the themed evenings together.
Another much loved activity that has been missed over the last year is socialising with others, both in the local community and further afield. After staff observed that some supported people were experiencing low moods after losing the social aspect of their day to day routines, they looked into alternative virtual options. This has included attending online community groups to catch up with friends and has also seen the charity moving its speak out group for people with learning disabilities online. Voices to be Heard enables people supported by Hft to get together to discuss the issues affecting them, as well as have their say on how they want to be supported. Recent meetings of the group, where people have had the chance to discuss how they’re feeling and make plans for the future have resulted in people re-establishing their social networks, leading to an improvement in mental health.
Ensuring people are able to stay in touch with family has been another major priority for support workers at the learning disability service. Using a range of services including apps, video calls, instant messenger services and even postcards, people have been able to stay connected with their loved ones despite not always being able to enjoy face to face contact. This has included Jude, who was used to seeing her four sisters and nieces and nephews on a regular basis. When staff noticed she was struggling without visits, they worked together with Jude’s family to arrange Zoom parties, where Jude was supported to attend a weekly catch up with her sisters and wider family. With staff on hand to support Jude to log in and provide her with refreshments, the weekly event has re-established an important routine for Jude, who strokes the faces of her family on screen and enjoys discussing plans for future holidays and get togethers.
Jude’s sister, Tessa, said: “My sisters and I are just so grateful for the amazing, dedicated work of all the staff who care for Jude. It is so reassuring to know that she is genuinely loved. We are so grateful for the extra special care that has been needed over the last year – knowing that Jude has been shielded so well has been a huge comfort.”
Adolf Kamusoko, Regional Manager at Hft, said: “The past year has been extremely challenging for everyone, but particularly so for people with learning disabilities, for whom changes in routine can be more difficult to deal with. That’s why I’m so grateful to our incredible staff teams, who have worked creatively to make the transition into a new way of life as smooth as possible, all while keeping the safety and wellbeing of the people they support at the forefront of their minds.