Summer holidays and activities

The excitement has been building as the holiday season is now well underway and we’ve had weeks of glorious sunshine. Holidays are planned months in advance and our service users, who have acquired brain injuries, or learning disabilities and complex needs, are supported in choosing where they would like to go.

Wherever possible, we try to accommodate specific requests for holiday destinations and they are financed by accruing a certain amount each month then topped up if someone needs something extra. Service users go away in small groups or individually, depending on their needs and preferences. They are supported by their care workers and they are involved in the decisions on who accompanies them.

Our service users enjoy the activities, atmosphere and the change in environment that a holiday brings. Some people need familiarity and routine so we balance this with the opportunity for enjoying new experiences. This year, some of our service users have been on a boat or seen the sea for the first time. Going on holiday is paramount to their health and well-being and is instrumental in their social inclusion and positive feelings of self-worth. There are also physical benefits of being outside and taking part in new activities.

This year popular holiday destinations include the Isle of Wight, Hemsby in Norfolk and Skegness in Lincolnshire – which is also close enough for a day trip. Billing Aquadrome is a local holiday park with good facilities, which is popular as it combines a change of scene and a relaxed holiday environment with a very convenient location. In addition, one service user has enjoyed a weekend trip to Blackpool, and others have visited their respective families in Malta and Serbia. We’ve also enjoyed day trips to London, the coast, zoos and country parks. Summer activities have also included trampolining and swimming, and one of our service users went to a David Byrne concert in London. We support our service users to lead a fulfilling and active life as possible.

A boat moored off the Norfolk Coast

Bowls sessions provide a range of benefits

One of the most popular activities that we arrange in-house for our service users is the weekly bowling sessions that we hold in the main hall at The Mews each Monday.

We are fortunate to have Duggie Mitchell on our team, who is an experienced bowling instructor and has played competitive bowls for 35 years with success at Club, County and National levels. Duggie joined the board of Disability Bowls England in 2016 and continues to be inspired by the achievements of people with disabilities. His experience, skill and enthusiasm for the game as well as his empathy with the service users have contributed to the success of the sessions. Duggie is assisted by Lisa Hutchins, the Administrator at 144 Boughton Green Road, who helps with the organisation and keeps the score.

Bowling adapted to suit the players
The format of the game is Short Mat Bowling, which is very similar to Carpet Bowling. A mat 45 feet long and 6 feet wide is laid out in the main hall with guards at either end to stop the bowls running too far. A jack is placed at one end of the mat and each player uses weighted bowls to try and hit the jack. We have adapted the rules to meet the cognition needs and suit the various abilities of the players. They bowl eight balls each and Lisa records the number of ‘strikes’. People from all of our homes join in and we have a league in which around 20 players take part. One of our service users who is blind has mastered bowling very successfully. Other service users come along to watch and support, and it’s a lively, social occasion with lots of cheering.

Key benefits to individuals
What may just look like a leisure activity is actually an important element of our service users’ care. As well as being very enjoyable, the bowling sessions also help to improve:

Physical strength and dexterity
Co-ordination
Cognition and communication
Motivation and self-esteem
Social Skills

Duggie has been running the sessions for around two years and new players can join in at any time. He has noticed significant improvements in some of the participants and says: “I have seen so much change in many of the group since we started: going from little or no eye contact or verbal communication in the early days to total interaction and response. My partner and I went along to the Christmas party recently and it was lovely to have them recognise us and want us to join them dancing.”

Thank you to Duggie and Lisa for their help and commitment to these sessions. They have contributed to some significant improvement and much enjoyment for our service users.

Duggie Mitchell demonstrating short mat bowls

Duggie Mitchell demonstrating short mat bowls

Structured skills development for adults with learning difficulties

In May 2012, The Richardson Partnership for Care became an officially-recognised accreditation centre with ASDAN – the Awards Scheme Development Accreditation Network. The organisation provides courses to thousands of training providers, which offer flexible ways to accredit skills development and enrichment activities.

For service users with learning difficulties, ASDAN offers the flexibility to complete modules in different ways according to each individual’s abilities, preferences and concentration levels. It also means that service users can gain accredited qualifications in a familiar environment, working with people that they know and trust.  Receiving a certificate for their efforts also provides a sense of achievement and fulfilment, which often encourages them to progress to further learning and qualifications.

As Arts & Crafts is a popular activity within our homes for adults with learning difficulties, we started the ASDAN programme with the Creativity module. This has led onto modules in Independent Living (Introduction and Progression levels) and Numeracy Skills (Introduction and Progression levels). Sallie Maris, our ASDAN Co-ordinator finds creative ways to encourage the service users to participate in the modules and gain new skills. For example, learning numeracy skills may involve baking a cake, dividing it into segments and sharing it with others. We are now starting modules called ‘Myself and Others’ and ‘Personal Care Routines’.

Evidence must be provided for each task and assessments for each module are independently verified. Each individual is awarded a ‘grade’ for their module as follows: Experience recorded, Sensory experience, Physical help, Spoken help, No help. These ‘grades’ ensure that people with disabilities can still be treated fairly and their qualifications properly accredited.

The scatter diagram below shows the ASDAN qualifications obtained by service users with learning difficulties in Creativity and Independent Living, where 1 represents ‘Experience Recorded’ and 5 represents ‘No Help’.

ASDAN awards for adults with learning difficulties

Wild Science brings some animal magic to The Mews

Wild Science, a specialist animal education group, brought some inhabitants of their ‘mini zoo’ to The Mews recently, where service users from all of our homes could take part in an ‘animal therapy’ session.

For service users who have mobility difficulties, or for people who would find visiting a real zoo an over-stimulating environment, the session presented an excellent opportunity to learn about some unusual creatures. It was a fun, engaging and fascinating afternoon for everyone who took part, providing close-up interaction with a wide range of different animals. These included a gerbil, a tree frog, a snake and a giant millipede, plus a pygmy hedgehog and a crested gecko, which were two of the most popular animals.

We learnt about all of the animals’ natural habitats and how they live. The Madagascan Cockroach was fascinating: we discovered that cockroaches have been around since the times of the dinosaurs, they can survive being frozen and can hold their breath for 45 minutes!

All of the service users were able to benefit from a new and rewarding experience and the joy of holding or stroking the animals was clearly evident for some people. In addition, simple interactions with animals can be a soothing and relaxing experience.

The ‘animal therapy’ session was part of a range of activities at our specialist residential care homes for adults with learning disabilities or acquired brain injuries. They are designed to provide a fulfilling and inclusive lifestyle and to assist in rehabilitation programmes.

Pygmy hedgehog

A Pygmy Hedgehog

A Madagascan Cockroach

A Madagascan Cockroach

Summer holiday helps rehabilitation for service users with acquired brain injuries

We all enjoy a holiday, but for service users with acquired brain injuries they are also an important part of their rehabilitation. A small group from our home in Boughton Green Road, along with care and support staff have just returned from a week in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk.

A holiday is an essential part of our focus on ‘normalisation’, enabling our service users to live as close to a normal life as possible and to enjoy things that they may have done before their brain injury. The holiday activities were similar to those of many families – we had a picnic on the way to break up the journey then fish and chips for dinner in the evening. We had some lovely weather and enjoyed visiting picturesque Southwold where we walked along the promenade and admired the colourful beach huts. We also went on a train ride and enjoyed lots of meals out.

Novel experiences
Although some of our service users need to keep to a routine, they all enjoyed the opportunity to see and experience new things and especially meeting and chatting to new people. Novel experiences enhance learning and when they are put into a functional context, such as preparing for and executing a holiday, they can provide an important source of practice and maintenance for skills.

The holiday also provided a focus for orientation for service users experiencing short term memory loss. Getting ready for the holiday and buying new toiletries or clothes was also an important activity providing cognitive stimulation and enabling the service users to be excited about going away.

Quality of life
Quality of life is important to everyone and a relaxed and leisurely week by the sea was a much welcome change of routine. In addition, each person had their own budget and could choose gifts to take back home, helping them to reconnect with family members.

We took lots of photographs on holiday which will go into an album to provide a novel reference point to aid cognitive stimulation and discussion about the holiday as part of service users’ ongoing rehabilitation.

The Norfolk Coast

The Norfolk Coast

A Day Out At The Sealife Centre in Birmingham | Experiential Service User Outings

Clown Fish image (courtesy of www.visitsealife.com)A group of our Service Users from The Mews went on a day trip to visit the Sealife Centre in Birmingham. They took a tour around the whole of the centre and got to see a wide variety of sealife including:

  • Bowmouth Guitar shark
  • Clownfish
  • Native Ray
  • Octopus
  • Asian Short Clawed Otter

Of course they bought souvenirs in the gift shop and then opted to go for a spot of shopping at the Bullring Shopping Centre in the Birmingham City Centre. A lovely Italian lunch was enjoyed to close off the outing.

We encourage many different kinds of experiences for Service Users and welcome their own suggestions for things they are interested in. The purpose of this Sealife Centre visit was to provide a change of environment – for pure enjoyment and to strengthen relationships with each other and staff. The visit also enabled our Service Users to learn more about sea life (and perhaps peak their interests!)

We have made a note that the ladies wanted to spend more time shopping than the men so that can be changed for next time!

If you would like to learn more about the life in our Homes, and about the variety of experiences we offer our Service Users, please contact our Admissions and Referrals Team on 01604 791266 or Tweet them on @RPC_Residcare

Summer Holiday 2012 | Lincolnshire for Boughton Green Rd

Finally, after months of planning, the Service Users at our Boughton Green Rd Home set-out on their summer holiday for 2012. This year they chose to go to a Haven’s resort in Lincolnshire – called Golden Sands. And the name says it in a nutshell!

The staff and Service Users stayed in caravans  and everyone really enjoyed themselves. The staff particularly felt that they had all worked very well together as a team to help give the Services Users a special holiday to be remembered. The Service Users were organised into two smaller groups with the caravans – which helped to ensure that each Service User benefitted from social inclusion and small, individualized group activities – offering a variety of choices.  Importantly – the Service Users were able to interact with the community and they engaged with each other and with the staff.

The staff were happy to see a lot of positive interaction and communication amongst the Service Users – they were willing to share and definitely more patient and tolerant of each other. (Great social skills!)

It has to be said that upon their return – the house was just buzzing from everyone’s eagerness to reshare their memories from their holiday and very keen make a scrapbook of pictures to capture the best times from the week away.

Some of the activities that the Service Users and staff tried out were the rides at the funfair (including some brave people who tried the bungee trampoline!) and the pedlows on the lake (great for co-ordination).

Because of the time of year some of the group managed to see the Olympic Torch Relay as it passed through the town. They loved it and got caught up in the excitement alongside the rest of the residential community lining the streets to welcome the torch bearer.

Another successful Service User holiday was had by all – and mainly because they all had an input into where they went and what they would do when they got there. We also have a fab bunch of staff who always go above and beyond…to truly enrich the lives of our Service Users. I’d like to say a big thank you to our Homes staff for your valuable support during these Service User holidays!