The Importance of Family and Friends in Residential Care

In our latest blog Laura Storey, Registered Manager at Outwood our residential service in Horsforth, writes about the importance of family, friends and external carers, how the team helped residents keep in touch with their loved ones during the pandemic and the essential input family members have in care planning.

Family, friends, and external carers are integral to our residents’ wellbeing and safety. The relationships they have with their loved ones underpin who they are and remain just as important, if not more so, when people move into our service. The pandemic has impacted every aspect of life and changed all our daily routines. At Outwood, a specialist residential service in West Yorkshire, we support individuals with learning disabilities and autism who heavily rely on familiar routines and structures, which their families and external carer givers are very much a part of.

At the height of the lockdown, Cygnet Health Care gave tablet devices to every service and installed all the necessary virtual communication tools including Zoom and Skype so that our residents could stay in touch with family and friends who might normally have visited in person. Those tools actually enabled some families to be more involved than before, because it meant they could join us at regular meetings which otherwise might have been a struggle in-person.

Later, when only outdoor visits were allowed, we were able to purchase outdoor furniture so that we could have a small garden party and treasure hunt in the garden.

Cygnet has developed a dedicated ‘Support and Engagement: A Partnership Strategy’, which recognises the central importance of working with people, their friends, families and loved ones for maximum quality of life and well-being. Working together, we adopt a strengths-based approach and ensure consistent improvement of our services, based on the valuable feedback we receive.

We understand that it is essential to have constant conversations with families and we value their input in care planning. After all, these are the people who know our residents the best and have their best interests at heart. Some of our residents have difficulty expressing themselves and often families and friends can shed light on the person’s past, their likes and dislikes, beliefs and values that can be really valuable when it comes to helping residents move forward.

Services like ours also have a responsibility, I believe, to offer support to friends and family, alongside the care to residents. For us, family and external carers are part of the small community we have at Outwood. What it means is that we will make adjustments to make sure our service users, their families and external carers are all well supported when the unexpected happens, such as the ongoing pandemic.

Family and external carers’ involvement should be front and centre of good care. It has been a pleasure to collaborate with them so closely at Outwood and support our residents in these challenging times.

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