4 care homes participated in the CHARM research project, conducting 2 mini-research projects each. This blog shares the experiences of Park Farm Lodge in Tamworth, providing an overview of their mini research project called, “What is the best way to gather life history about our residents? A survey of family members, friends and visitors”
Thanks especially also goes to Beci Paul, Activities co-ordinator and Donna Sealey, Home Manager from Liberty Healthcare, for their work as part of the Park Farm Lodge Research Working Group.
Stage 1: Find out, plan and prepare
The team at Park Farm Lodge decided to focus their research around life history. They recognised it was an important topic for improvement in the home. The team also highlighted that it was necessary for them to make the best use out of the technology they had invested in: The interactive Omni table, and this could be done innovatively through life history work. The Research Working Group at Park Farm Lodge felt this project would provide a strong starting point to steer their future life history work and provide them with the momentum to keep this work going.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, this project was initially put on hold. But with lots of hard work, Park Farm Lodge managed to pick it back up once things were a little more settled in the home. They outlined that by concentrating on this it may help them with some of the following things:
- Progress on an area of the home that needs improvement.
- Deliver person-centred care and the best possible service
- Understand our residents better- it’s important for staff to know residents on a greater level
- Tailor activities according to people’s life history to see the impact of the interactive table
- Encourage new interactions between the care home community based on people’s interests
- Make residents feel more valued
- Create more of a “home/family feeling” (Our home is a very big one with 80 residents)
- Shift away from being task orientated
They worked collaboratively with the researchers-in-residence from the Association for Dementia Studies to think of what they needed to find out and ask from families, visitors and friends to enhance the life history work at Park Farm Lodge. Discussions lead to the research working group finalising the research title of: “What is the best way to gather life history about our residents? A survey of family members, friends and visitors”
Stage 2: Act and make things happen
Initially the team had more in-depth plans for the data collection for this project, however, as a result of the pandemic their capacity was unfortunately reduced, especially in terms of staff’s ability to contribute to research activity. The team recognised that they had had great success in maintaining (and strengthening) their communication with visitors, family members and friends during this time. Therefore, they decided to explore their research through a questionnaire distributed to family, friends and visitors around life history.
The questionnaire asked people to answer questions, some around how important life history was to them, whether they had been involved in life history work before and to give preferences for life history collection methods (such as attending workshops, structured documents and photo-stories).
Promotion of the questionnaire was done online, through the Park Farm Lodge family and friends Facebook group. This online group has proven to be particularly important and successful since the COVID pandemic and is something that the home aims to continue into the future.
Stage 3: Study, watch and listen
The team at Park Farm Lodge received 20 individual responses to the questionnaire from family, friends and visitors. This was a fantastic result for them and really shows how willing and enthusiastic family, friends and visitors are to get involved in research in the home.
Once all the data was gathered it was time to find out what it told the care home and what they could learn from it. With the help of the CHARM researchers-in-residence from the Association for Dementia Studies, the team analysed the data and produced basic descriptive statistics.
You can read the full report of the findings here:
See the poster of their findings here:
Stage 4: Reflect, think, discuss and change
After analysing the data, the home was provided with the key findings from the study. An action plan was developed (see below) to ensure Park Farm Lodge had a clear direction to move forward with.
- Use a structured document to gather information from family and friends
We have already begun to use a structured document with family and friends to gather life history information that relates to activities. So far these are proving popular and being completed enthusiastically
The survey showed a preference for being given documents and having conversations with staff, although a number of other options were also appreciated, so a range of different routes may be needed to reach everyone. In addition, the Facebook group has been proven to be a very successful group way to communication with families and friends.
- Identify a style of life history book that the home wishes to use
This was the most popular method of presentation and also one that can be used in conjunction with other favoured options such as creating a photo story, playlist, memory box and one-page profile.
Initially, whilst this decision is being made, it may make sense to begin to capture and share information in the form of a one-page profile as this will create some immediate results and a useful format for staff (including agency staff)
- Engage with staff to raise profile and understanding of life history work
This could be done in a number of ways: through running a survey similar to this one with staff or organising training/workshops on life history work. This will need to be done in order to complete the care home’s aim of completing life history work for every resident as this will need to be a whole-home effort not just a few members of staff.
- Create an action plan/timetable for how and when life story work will be completed
It is clear that we have support from family/friends to undertake this work. However, it is a big endeavour and as such will require leadership and planning to make sure we capitalise on this momentum. An action plan will need to include which staff members will be responsible and how they will be supported by others to complete this big task. Time and resources should not be underestimated in order to guarantee success.
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