Families went online to share memories of loved ones who have passed away at care homes across the South in the past year.
Colten Care’s annual Celebration of Life is usually an opportunity for relatives, friends, current residents and staff to get together in person and reminisce about those who have died.
With Covid restrictions ruling out face-to-face community gatherings this year, team members decided to hold an alternative-style event.
They invited families and friends of the residents to join online meetings and share personal memories and time for reflection.
The intimate event featured poems, music, hymns, readings and prayers. In some homes, local vicars conducted services via Zoom.
Participants were encouraged to write about their loved ones in short email messages. Staff transcribed these onto memory cards which they tied to ‘memory trees’ in the homes’ foyers and gardens.
There were many affectionate and personal contributions such as: “Isobel – a wonderful wife and lover of music”; “Norma – loved sitting in the sunshine”; “Betty – had a wonderful motherly nature”; and “Jessie – loved travelling the world playing sports”.
At Newstone House in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, staff and current residents hand-painted pebbles in memory of those they have lost.
On each stone was the resident’s name, along with a picture depicting their hobbies or interests.
The pebbles were then laid in what will now become a permanent ‘Forget-me-not’ garden.
The idea is that people can come and sit on a bench opposite taking time to reflect as they look at the stones.
Vanda Baker, Home Manager at St Catherines View, a dedicated dementia care home in Winchester, said: “Although we couldn’t meet in person with families this year, we still wanted to give everyone the opportunity to reflect and reminisce. As the name suggests, Celebration of Life is all about remembering the individuality of residents we have had the privilege of knowing. It is an ideal chance to celebrate the joy, laughter and experiences of those who came to stay with us.”
Sally Smith, Nurse Learning and Development Manager, who leads Colten Care’s end-of-life care strategy said: “Covid has created a really difficult time for many people and families across the world. For our part, we didn’t want the restrictions to stop our annual Celebration of Life event which has been held every year since 2017. It always proves to be a precious and heartfelt experience for those taking part. We strongly believe that good end of life care should extend to supporting relatives and friends whose loved ones have died.”