The Friends of Acorn Lodge Care Home support the work of the home situated within Nuneaton. Acorn Lodge is a purpose built care home offering Dementia, Nursing, Residential, Respite and End of Life care. Acorn Lodge Care Home also provides specialist care for young people with physical disabilities.
The Friends aim to improve the quality of life of the residents of the care home by working with staff, residents and relatives.
The Friends of Acorn Lodge Care Home are looking to looking to develop services on the site. We have found that this is particularly valued by some residents who through deteriorating health do not have the confidence to come out of their rooms. Alongside this we support the care homes’ activities’ coordinators by providing extra pairs of hands during organised activity sessions and outings.
Garden Organic and Friends of Acorn Lodge Partnership
Friends of Acorn Lodge invited Garden Organic to design, deliver and support a pilot project, specifically for residents in Acorn Lodge care home, Nuneaton.
Garden Organic proposed to work with Friends of Acorn Lodge, Attend and Avery to support residents to experience meaningful and purposeful gardening activity and maximise their outdoor environment and resources. This included
- Providing support to Friends of Acorn Lodge Volunteers and residents to create an active gardening group.
- Provide support and training to Friends of Acorn Lodge Volunteers to evolve the ownership and sustainable use of the open space for all residents.
- To support and train Friends of Acorn volunteers with a particular interest and enthusiasm for gardening and food growing and to support them to become “Acorn Lodge Growing Champions” through foundation training.
- A Garden Organic sessional worker supporting the staff, volunteers and residents to plan and maintain a productive growing area in the communal gardens.
The Garden Group
The number of people attending this group has varied but is usually around 5 residents. The timing of the gardening sessions changed from the original plan to suit both the volunteers and residents. The best time for the residents is 2pm to 3pm. They join the group after lunch and stop for tea and cake at 3pm. It is hoped in the future that Friends of Acorn Lodge volunteers will be able to share their time between the 1st floor and ground floor residents separately and then spend additional time in the garden maintaining the plants with the option of residents joining them. Residents are used to having activities at this time of day and they are more alert in the afternoon. One issue has been that many residents have afternoon visitors, but we encouraged the visitors to join our session and that seems to work well.
Friends of Acorn lodge – the staff and volunteers
At the start of the project Garden Organic and Friends of Acorn Lodge recruited volunteers to support the project. Sue Simpson a trainee horticultural therapist and Friend of Acorn Lodge (who was introduced by Garden Organic) visited at the beginning of the project to meet the manager and the wellbeing staff member. We were given a tour of the What Nots room and the garden area and met some of the residents.
The wellbeing staff were very positive about the partnership project and have been supportive of the project throughout. Over the past nine months there has been a large changeover of staff which has made some aspects of the project difficult but all remain positive about the project.
During the course of the project there have been a number of Friends of Acorn Lodge volunteers who have joined the sessions. The amount of sessions they have attended has varied due to their other commitments.
Sue has taken the lead on the project and after initial sessions delivered by Garden Organic’s social and therapeutic horticulturalist (STH), Shirley Martin-Abel, has run the session regularly. Our STH has attended regularly and offered support and advice to Sue and other volunteers throughout. This has been in the form of activity ideas, organisation, modelling sessions and suggestions for where to source resources.
The sessions have taken place inside and out. However there were some areas that the staff and residents felt they wanted to address. These included
- The two courtyard gardens within the H shape are mirror images and can be confusing or difficult to navigate when you are in the garden.
- From the landscapers perspective a previous visit from a young person’s group had made a lawned garden difficult to maintain. An edging of slate chips had been put around the lawn which made mowing difficult.
- Any volunteer gardeners or residents needed a base in the garden to store tools and equipment and the potting shed was used as a storage for the residential home.
- In order to go out into the gardens residents from floor one needed staff support to do this
- Residents from the ground floor didn’t think it appropriate that they attended the group in What Nots room, moving upstairs even for an activity was seen by some as a sign their own health was diminishing.
We have taken these into account and tried to find solutions to these areas. The residents, Friends of Acorn Lodge, wellbeing staff and manager have been involved in every decision. The residents and volunteers have made collages of the plants and colours they would like included.
To resolve the issue with the mirror image of the garden during 2019 the two sides will be colour coordinated with large flower pots to differentiate each side.
The resident chose the colour of the pots from a choice of 5 colours. The colours chosen were lime green and cherry pink. The main reason for choosing bright pots is that it is easier for people to see the difference between the compost and the pot, trough or scoop. This was agreed with Acorn Lodge management
The company we have chosen for the pots, make all their pots from recycled plastic, you can recycle the pots in the future, and they are made in a wind powered factory. The pots come in two sizes, the larger ones can be plated up in situ, the size of the smaller ones allows for them to be taken in and out dependant on the weather and abilities of the gardeners. Troughs have been purchased to use near the potting shed in lime green. These raised troughs can be used to grow vegetable in and are at the perfect height for wheelchair or seated gardeners.
All pots are at Acorn lodge ready for use. The majority of the compost is still at Ryton Organic gardens. There is a potting shed which is due to be cleared and used for storage of the garden group equipment and resources. The compost will be delivered when this is ready.
A plastic box with the gardening groups table top equipment is kept in the What Nots room. The gardening box contains garden tidy trays, pots, seed and gravel trays, dibbers, watering bottles and gloves. Seeds and plants for the pots at being looked after by volunteers until storage is available and the weather improves.
The volunteers and staff at Acorn Lodge have been supported and/or mentored by an experienced social and therapeutic horticulturalist. Informal training has taken place on a regular basis with GO staff attending sessions, working alongside volunteers, modelling activity and providing feedback. We have worked with staff and volunteers on planning the programme of activities and discussed the planning and preparation required for activities.
In February 2019 we ran a training session for any staff, residents or volunteers who wanted to participate. The session included;
- Basic horticultural skills to provide indoor and outdoor activity sessions
- How to develop a gardening club
- Encouraging people to go into the garden
Some feedback from this session;
100% of attendees ‘strongly agreed’ that they felt more confident to set up gardening activities and get people growing
100% of attendees ‘strongly agreed’ that they had learnt some basic horticultural skills and gained some new ideas for indoor & outdoor activity.
One participant said,’ Had great day and feel much more confident’
The timetable of session and training days change to meet the needs of Acorn Lodge wellbeing staff, the residents and the Friends of Acorn Lodge.
The sessions began on the 26th June we completed
6 weekly sessions
8 fortnightly sessions
4 meetings with wellbeing staff and managers
4 sessions were cancelled through limited staff availability or rooms being decorated
In every session we aimed to provide the 5 ways to mental wellbeing: Connect, Be active, Keep learning , Give to others, Be mindful.
The gardening group dried flowers from the pots they had grown and then made dried flower bookmarks. We used old tie presses for the flower presses which brought about lots of conversations and laughter as people tried to guess what the contraption was used for originally. The bookmarks, lavender bags and potted plants were sold at the summer fete. We hope to produce more items in the future that can be used on a Friends of Acorn Lodge stall in the summer and at Christmas. To have an opportunity to be productive at all stages of life is very important.
Everyone loved making and then tasting their own jam and butter. Lots of resident could remember using a butter churn when younger. We label everything we make with made by the residents and Friends of Acorn Lodge stickers.
We did a project about NASA house plants and looked at the benefits of having indoor plants.
We grew microgreens of snow peas, radish, cress, kale and broccoli. We added pomegranates to our microgreens to make a tasty salad that we all tried and then grew the pomegranates from saved seed.
Our broad beans were sown by request of a residents who dreams of eating a broad bean and bacon fry up which she assures us is very tasty.
Several residents could bring to mind knowledge from their past. One resident saw that we were planting onions in the troughs and dragged the trough towards himself. He began planting the all the onions in perfect straight lines to the correct depth and was clearly thrilled with his onions at the end of the session.
We made a picture bingo game to practice naming flowers and birds in the garden. Specialist garden jigsaw puzzles from Active Minds were completed. Some residents were very pleased that they could finish them unaided and others were happy to have one to one support and chat at the same time.
We propagated houseplants, herbs and garden flowers from seeds, stem and leaf cuttings and division.
We provided and decorated a potted Christmas tree for the What Nots room, it can be grown on each year outside and brought in for each Christmas.
Sue Simpson is using the garden as part of her design work for her course. She has some great ideas for the garden moving forward and is keen to carry on the work we have started with the continued support of the wellbeing staff.
Weather resistant garden hand tools will be left in the pots so that anyone can weed or turn the soil without having to find staff to find the tools.
We hope to be involved with the Nuneaton in Bloom competition in some way.
We have a donated caterpillar raised bed and bright trugs that are being used as the basis for making a grandparent’s garden with. Many grandparents at the home miss the opportunity to pass on their gardening skills and like activities to do when their grandchildren come to visit. We have found an area of the garden suitable and out of the way of resident’s rooms where we can place a grandparent’s garden and have plastic tools, watering cans and seeds available for use.
In 2019 the wellbeing staff have arranged for a florist to visit as an activity and we hope to be able to produce flowers and stems for the group to use.
A final thought…
At the end of one session when we were supporting people back to the resident’s lounges a staff member asked if we had all been to the pub, she said she had never seen the residents so animated.
Thanks goes to staff at and Friends of Acorn Lodge for their contribution to this project. A special mention to David Wood and Nichole Wheaton whose continued support has made this project possible.
There are a selection of photographs from the sessions available on the Acorn Lodge Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/AcornLodgeCareHome/
Christmas festivities - Acorn Lodge
This season, Friends of Acorn Lodge are making sure that no one is left out of the Christmas festivities. To make the season a little warmer for the residents at Acorn Lodge we delivered 12 bottles of prosecco for them enjoy. We wish all the residents and staff a very Merry Christmas from the Friends of Acorn Lodge team.
On 3rd October 2018, Nichole and David from the Friends team, came along to volunteer and help the residents out for the gardening club at Acorn Lodge. They were delighted to join everyone to lend a helping hand.
Shirley, the Horticultural Therapist from Organic Gardens, prepared and brought along a number of pots for the residents and helpers to plant up a variety of flowers. These included plants such as cyclamen, primulas, tulips and a mixture of daffodils. Some pansy seedlings were also brought along and were transplanted into trays using a dibber, with the help of the volunteers and residents.
After all the gardening, the afternoon was topped off with scrummy tea and some cake which all the residents and visitors enjoyed as a reward for their lovely work done with the flower pots.
Garden Project - Acorn Lodge
On 17th August 2017 Friends of Acorn Lodge received a grant of £9370 from Awards for All for a Garden Project.
Friends of Acorn Lodge are a group of enthusiastic volunteers who aim to improve the well-being of the residents of Acorn Lodge Care Home. Together with Garden Organic, Friends of Acorn Lodge have developed a project to support residents in gardening activities to help them stay healthy and socially engaged.
Garden Organic is the UK’s leading organic growing charity which develops programmes promoting organic methods amongst growers in the country and overseas. Not only does Garden Organic tackle socio-economic issues by promoting organic growth amongst families who are at risk of food poverty (Southwark), but also offer a range of horticultural activities for people with learning disabilities (Ryton) and prisoners (Rugby) in a supportive environment. The organisation’s projects help service users bolster their physical and mental health, reduce stress as well as build confidence and learn new skills. The liaison of Friends of Acorn Lodge and Garden Organic facilitates an opportunity for the residents to live life more joyously.
The benefits of gardening are endless but most importantly it is an excellent exercise. Moving around in the garden and looking after the plants means the residents will be able to increase physical strength, mobility and hand grip without putting excessive strain on their bodies.
Another aim of the Garden Project is to help the residents improve their mental well-being. The ability to harvest one’s own plants will also be a boost of confidence and a perfect topic to discuss with others over a cup of tea. Additionally, gardening outdoors means spending more time in the sun. Thanks to this residents will notice a positive change in their mood as well as find themselves more stress-relieved.
Gardening in a care home is a way for residents to get together. With this project, specially-trained volunteers will engage with the residents to cultivate and enjoy the gardening hobby together. A responsibility shared between the residents will give more opportunities to socialise, build new friendships, and eventually bond with other residents or volunteers.
This project will also be an exciting learning process. By tending to plants and occasionally being supported by a Garden Organic team member, residents will have the ability to gain new skills and spark an interest in something that they might not have had an interest in before. This means that regular garden-tending will keep the residents’ mind active which is a helpful technique in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.
With the combined efforts of Friends of Acorn Lodge, Garden Organic as well as the staff and volunteers at Acorn Lodge Care Home, the residents will be given a therapeutic chance to make the most out of their garden and health, and as a result, age gracefully.
Princes Trust Garden Project
A group of volunteers from the Prince’s Trust generously decided to volunteer at Acorn Lodge Care Home between Monday 12th June 2017 and Friday 23rd June 2017 and give the Home’s garden a makeover which would encourage more wildlife to visit garden.
They did this by planting new plants and flowers around the garden which added colour to the outside of the home and made the space more inviting to animals and residents alike. Additionally, the group of volunteers created a ‘Bug Hotel’ which would mean more little critter would be seen roaming the garden of the home, which was very much appreciated by the Home’s residents.
What this means is that the residents make greater use of the garden, as now when they go outside they are welcomed by beautiful flowers and can behold all the wildlife that now resides in the garden, amidst the plants and flowers.
Friends of Care Homes – Volunteer Interview Liz Reilly
Liz is a Sixth Form student currently studying History, Maths, English Literature and Philosophy. As a part of an Enrichment campaign at her Sixth Form, Liz had two periods per week available to do an extracurricular activity. Therefore, following a presentation by David Wood, the chairman of the Friends, regarding volunteering with The Friends of Acorn Lodge, she decided to volunteer with the elderly.
Liz is sporty and is planning to go to university to study History, so while volunteering isn’t directly related to her goals, she enjoys the sense of community that volunteering gives her. Acorn Lodge is a care home for the elderly and Liz has encountered people who just like a bit of company as well as those with dementia who need a bit more care. The volunteering role that Liz provides is to have a chat with people, and she and her friends run a ‘coffee shop’ within the home to encourage residents to enjoy some tea and cake and have some interaction with them. She sometimes checks that they have everything in their rooms stocked up such as shampoo and other supplies. It is important to the care home that the residents have independence and so Liz spends time with residents who have chosen to come and see the volunteers.
Liz has always liked the idea of volunteering, and when David gave his presentation at her sixth form she felt it was a great opportunity to give it a go. Liz feels that it’s important as if it were a member of her family in a care home, she would want someone to take the time to do even the little things to improve their day. When Liz first started volunteering, she found it a bit unnerving and wasn’t sure what to expect; however she has surprised herself with her adaptability and her efficacy in dealing with new situations. She said that she would recommend volunteering to others and advise them to stick with it. Liz described the first day as the “biggest hurdle” but afterwards said she was able to learn and develop her skills, and to learn that a person’s mental capacity may affect how they respond. She volunteers with some people with extreme memory loss and she has learned not to take it personally if they don’t want to chat.
Liz has found the experience to be “the most fulfilling thing” she’s ever done! She advises others that to volunteer you need to “expect the unexpected”, be confident and outgoing, and ensure that you are able to liaise with the care home if you have any issues or concerns. Liz explained that volunteering has given her a new perspective and increased her empathy, as she’s learned more about dementia and spent time with elderly people. She has developed a huge respect for care workers as she has seen the nice side of volunteering, and yet knows the hard work that care workers do on a daily basis. While she has a different career goal in mind, she said a friend of hers has been inspired to go into the medical field due to volunteering at Acorn Lodge. Liz’s Enrichment course has now finished but she has decided to continue volunteering at Acorn Lodge over the summer, as she found it “amazing!”
Guess the weight of the Dachshund
The Friends were delighted to join the Homes 1950's themed Day
As part of it the Chairman brought his two family pets Milly and Herbie along, so that residents, family, staff and visitors could have a cuddle, and guess the weight of the Dachhund.
We are delighted to announce:
Allison Wright as the winner of the Moet and Chandon, Magnum with the closet weight for Milly and Carl Fleetwood with the closest weight for Herbie. Won the large Jar of Easter Eggs.
A big thank you to the staff at Acorn for organising such a lovely Afternoon.
Friends of Acorn Lodge Committee meeting
The Friends group held their Committee meeting on Monday 23rd January 2017
The Friends are currently speaking to local churches and schools to see if there might be interest in becoming involved. They have also submitted bids to raise funds to improve the garden and to purchase mobile multi sensory equipment for residents with dementia
Visit of the Duke of York
On Tuesday 11th October 2016, the Duke of York visited Attends offices to be updated on our work.
As part of his role, he is patron of each of the friends groups in care homes.
Pictured here, he is talking to Nichole, project manager, and Kahlil who is newly appointed to the team. He was delighted to hear of the progress to date.
Friends of Acorn Lodge Committee meeting
The Friends held their Committee meeting on the 7th September 2016
The Friends are currently discussing a potential gardening project with a local organisation and hope to have this in place in the near future
Friends of Acorn Lodge inaugural meeting
On the 21st June 2016 The Friends group held their first meeting at the care home
On the 21st June 2016 The Friends group held their first meeting at the care home to formally appoint a Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer and Committee Members, to agree the constitution, adopt policies and procedure and discuss business related to formation of the group. We were joined by relatives, residents, staff and volunteers.
We know your time is valuable and any time you can spare for us will make a big difference. You could volunteer at a one off event or regularly, it is entirely up to you.
If you don’t see a volunteering opportunity to suit you then please get in touch because we could develop an opportunity just for you. If you would like to volunteer please download the application form and return by email to firstname.lastname@example.org