Whittington House celebrate community award

3rd October 2019

Caring colleagues from Whittington House in Cheltenham were celebrating success after winning one of three awards presented at The Meaningful Activity and Wellbeing Conference on the 30th September 2019, at the Pavilion, Cheltenham.

Gloucestershire’s Care home Support Team and Meaningful Activity & Wellbeing Network hosted this year’s Annual Activity Awards, offering three categories in this year’s awards, being;

  • Inspirational member of staff supporting Meaningful Activity and Wellbeing.
  • Innovative project supporting Meaningful Activity and Wellbeing.
  • Connecting to the Wider Community.

Members of the public, residents, relatives and colleagues were invited to nominate activities colleagues, activity projects or how their care homes/services connect with the wider community.

Winner of the ‘Connecting to the Wider Community’ Award Health and Wellbeing Lead, Jenny Spencer at Whittington House was nominated by Lakeside Primary School for the links and bonds she has helped Whittington House, its colleagues and residents forge with the primary school children and teaching staff. The project has realised a positive impact on the children in improving their understanding of older people living with dementia. The friendships and confidence created have far surpassed anything any of those involved thought possible and the school children actively engage during school holidays to visit with and be part of the activities and trips organised within the home for the residents.

Providing opportunities for active and varied interactions and activities is an important element in ensuring the health and wellbeing of all residents and something which Whittington House takes great pride in and something for which Jenny was shortlisted in all three categories in this year’s awards. Many residents look forward to the children’s visits and have built valuable friendships with them. The enjoyment is clear to see on faces as laughter erupts over shared experiences and those moments of pure joy are hugely fulfilling for colleagues and relatives to see.

Jenny who says her role as Health and Wellbeing Lead is the best job, she’s ever had, spent many years working in schools as a teaching assistant and supporting playgroups. She joined Whittington House in 2017 after taking some time to seek out a fulfilling career. She sought feedback from close friends and family on what they thought she offered any potential employer who in unison said she is caring, creative, a good communicator, good photographer and great at administration.

Modest Jenny said winning the award made her feel, “Very emotional”. She was surprised and humbled adding that, “The award was unexpected but wonderful”. Jenny describes her role as extremely rewarding and says she is very blessed with the most fantastic residents, relatives and colleagues at Whittington House. She wishes that the skills she has developed in her role were ones she had possessed when her own grandparents were alive and that she could have enhanced their later years in the same way she is able to now. Jenny embraces the opportunity of getting to know each resident personally and developing activities and interactions that really meet their needs and aspirations, so much so that when on holiday she finds herself missing everyone. She describes all those at Whittington House as her extended family and goes home knowing each day that she has been able to make a positive difference to the residents’ day.

Those nominating Jenny said, “For Lakeside Primary children and staff they have shone a bright light on our perceptions of not only dementia but on just how joyful and inclusive a residential nursing home can be.

“We first made our tentative connections two years ago, bringing along six children, none of us really knowing what to expect as we nervously made our way inside. We certainly hadn’t expected the pain we experienced. Complete jaw and cheek ache from smiling and laughing and we returned to school full of the things we’d done and the friends we already felt we’d made.

“Since then, we have visited Whittington House every half term. Children patiently wait for ‘their go’. We have baked, watched movies, linked to our curriculum interviewing residents about WWII and their experiences of school. We have sung together, the house filled with carols as our ‘wandering minstrels’ sang their way through the corridors and lounges, mince pies, Easter egg hunts, summer fairs, TV theme tune quizzes, musical ‘oomph’ sessions, pen pals, stretching, relaxation, craft, massage, dancing.

When it’s written down the list is long but what can’t be measured is the impact it has had on our children. We undertook some research and found that children said they had an increased awareness of dementia and felt much more comfortable interacting with people with dementia. I don’t have words to describe how amazing this has been…. just wow!

“We have talked about our visits in assemblies and have albums full of photos and there is not one single child, parent, teacher or governor who hasn’t been touched by this amazing community initiative. Staff ask to help on our trips in their time off (as do school Governors) and our Headteacher has just asked for photos to be displayed outside his office.”

Winner of the Innovative project supporting Meaningful Activity and Wellbeing Award was Paul Dixon Health and Wellbeing Lead at Mill House. Winners of The Meaningful Activity and Wellbeing Awards will go forward to the upcoming Gloucestershire Care Providers Association Awards on the 10th October 2019.

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