The Friends of Aspen Court support the work of the home. Situated within Poplar in London. Aspen Court Care Home is a purpose built 75 bedded care home offering Dementia, Nursing and End of Life care
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 Aspen Court are 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.
Nahid Ahmed - Case Study
Aspiring to be a nurse, Nahid is currently studying Health and Social Care at undergraduate level. At first, when looking for opportunities to apply the skills he learnt from school in real-life situations, he struggled. However, one of his professors at his university gave him a list of volunteering places and this led him to find the Friends of Aspen Court Care Home.
Nahid volunteered with the Friends for a while and is now one of the working members of staff for the care home. He explains, “As long as I have that unconditional drive to care for the residents, I’ll be happy to help them no matter the situation – whether I am working or volunteering”.
Whenever Nahid visited the residents at the care home, as a volunteer, he enjoyed joining in with them as creativity splashed through their minds, painting whatever their hearts desired. He mentioned, “It was cool having my hobby integrated as part of my volunteering role”. To this, he added, “Seeing some of the residents actively enjoy getting involved made me feel content to know that my volunteering was impactful”. On top of arts and crafts, Nahid also enjoyed speaking with the residents. “Their stories inspire me and warm my heart to know that I’ve cheered them up just by having one simple conversation”.
As he juggled between his studies and volunteering, he said, “Because of this opportunity, I’ve learnt a lot, met new people, and my skill-set to get into nursing has improved so much”. He was also asked about what he gained from his experience as a volunteer, and he shared the most important thing he gained was his confidence. He says “I’ve learnt that it will take you places, and that’s why I keep pushing myself to do better every day”.
At first, walking into the care home, he did not expect much. However, after regularly volunteering he has built a relationship with the residents. “I now understand how to communicate with them, given their different situations, and I was able to use my study and put it into practice; this developed me greatly”.
To continue improving himself as a volunteer, Nahid pointed out that having a caring and friendly personality are important attributes to have as a volunteer. He praised the benefits of being a volunteer, recommending others to join him in giving back to the community and helping those who need it the most. For Nahid, he realised the importance of building a relationship with the residents because he believes “Everyone deserves a genuine connection”.
Case Study - Markus Heckhausen
Markus has had numerous jobs in management over the past few years after obtaining a degree in Business. He is now currently working for the UK government and has been for the last three years. When he is not at work, he likes to play the percussion in the orchestra and also enjoys playing football in his spare time.
Markus originally discovered Aspen Court Care Home through searching on the internet for volunteering opportunities local to him. He then discovered Friends of Care Homes and proceeded to reach out to them. He now visits the care home for a few hours each week, mostly on the weekends, occasionally during evenings. He loves spending his time there, listening to the residents and hearing their stories, “it seems to give people quite a lot, just listening and it is very rewarding, building relationships with everyone”, he explained.
“The connection varies with everyone, but when you see the same residents over and over again, it is hard not to feel a connection with them”, Markus stated. As well as forming friendships with the residents, he has also bonded with the staff, “there are some that I particularly like, you get to chat to them and share part of their experience and they are very grateful for anyone coming in”, he said. The biggest and most rewarding gain from his experience at Aspen Court for Markus has been the connection he has and maintains with everyone at the care home.
Markus believes that his patience and openness has helped him with his goal of being a helpful volunteer, but also understands and stresses the importance of resilience in his role. He maintains this resilience by making sure that he does not get too attached to those he is befriending, “you need to find a good balance between opening up to the residents and remaining the volunteer”, he explained.
Markus’ positive experience at the care home has given him a gratifying feeling, encouraging him to convince others to start volunteering also, “just try it out, do the right thing for you, it teaches you a lot about life and allows you to develop your people skills and empathy, as it has done for me”, he said.
“But you must understand, before you go into the care home, that different people have different needs”, he explained, making sure that prospective volunteers are aware of the fact that some residents may have severe dementia, meaning that they will not always remember every volunteer, but still remain grateful for the help that they are given.
Christmas festivities - Aspen Court
This season, Friends of Aspen Court are making sure that no one is left out of the Christmas festivities. To make the season a little warmer for the residents at Aspen Court we delivered 12 bottles of prosecco for them enjoy. We wish all the residents and staff a very Merry Christmas from the Friends of Aspen Court team.
Vagner Silva - Case Study
Vagner is 27 years old, originally from Brazil and is currently working as a host in a restaurant in London. He studied Journalism at university before going into the restaurant business. He has a passion for fashion and music and makes playlists for himself and his friends in his spare time, “I really enjoy sharing music for the people I love”, he expressed.
Vagner decided that it was a good time for him to start volunteering as he had around two hours free from his routine each week, where he had the chance to give a helping hand to those in his local community, he then started searching online for opportunities near him, where he was then led to the Friends of Care Homes website, “I was looking for something local and found that Friends were doing a project at Aspen Court so I decided to join”, he shared.
He found one or two hours free from his routine each week where he had the chance to do some volunteering and so he thought it was a great opportunity to start volunteering at Aspen Court Care Home.
“I found some tools that I could use to change my life, one of them being volunteering, so I decided to go online and search for a local care home in need of volunteers. Aspen Court was the first one that appeared and I felt it was right for me as I had the opportunity to give something back and I just wanted to help out and connect with my community”, Vagner explained.
Vagner volunteered at Aspen Court for six months, “it was an amazing experience with the residents and staff, everyone was very warm and welcoming. Every minute I spent there I felt appreciated and I felt I was part of something great”, he said. Vagner spent his time at Aspen Court helping out with activities that were set up for the residents, “we played music, there was a bit of poetry, exercise and singing”.
Throughout the six months Vagner spent at the care home, he managed to develop meaningful connections with all the residents and staff, “even those who were not able to communicate like the others”, he stated. As a result of his time spent with the Aspen Court residents, Vagner has developed his listening skills, “I noticed that I am a good listener and I am very patient, and this experience has only allowed me to improve those skills even more”, he said. “With everything that I have been through, I have learned to be more grateful with life, especially coming from another country. I really do appreciate the opportunities I have here in the UK, like volunteering”, he added.
Vagner’s idea of an ideal volunteer is someone who is peaceful and is an exceptional listener, “the most important skill is being calm, they need to be a good listener, they need to be happy and to have the will to change the residents’ lives. When you do volunteer work you change your life as well as others’”.
Vagner has thoroughly enjoyed his time and the gratitude that he gets from volunteering at the care home, “I think I will continue doing volunteer work for the rest of my life”. He would strongly advise others to start out at a care home and to remember that it is vital, “first, to remain calm and also to know of the different ways of communication with residents, not just by talking but looking in their eyes and holding their hand, being present”.
Vagner would recommend this role to everyone, “by being a volunteer you can bring positivity into your life. You can learn a lot about yourself and where you live; I heard stories about the old life in east London when ladies would meet men from the army, and stories about couples going out on dates. The residents tell us about their entire lives and that brings something amazing to this experience”, he explained. “The staff at the care home are working but with their hearts, the residents are well looked after, I think it’s a great opportunity, they make it very easy for you and make you feel welcome”, he announced, encouraging everyone to take out a few hours of their week to volunteer at their local care home.
National Citizenship Service
A group of young people from the local area who were taking part in the National Citizenship Service kindly decided to volunteer and meet with residents at Friends of Aspen Court Care Home.
A group of young people from the local area who were taking part in the National Citizenship Service kindly decided to volunteer and meet with residents at Friends of Aspen Court Care Home.
On the 13th of August the group came to the Home to meet and chat to residents of the home. They also played games with the residents.
On the 18th of August the group came and planned what projects they were going to do when they next return.
They returned on 28th August but this time to get their hands dirty by doing some work on the garden; putting new plants down all around the grounds of the home. They also painted all of the benches white so that they could go with the blue plant pots. After that they tidied up the garden. After painting the benches and adding new plants the garden had a new and fresh look.
Tea Dance at Greenwich
Entelechy Arts enables those who have become a part of marginalised communities due to their disabilities, underlying health conditions or the ageing process to become contributing members of society through the arts. Established in 1989, artists worked alongside multi-disciplinary health teams to support adults with learning disabilities to move back into their communities.
They now specialise in art forms such as dancing, singing, theatre and more, in order to increase participation across generations and cultures, enabling residents, at organisations such as Friends of Care Homes, to feel present and engaged in the world.
Three nursing homes; Alexander, Tower Bridge and Aspen Court, made an appearance at the bi-annual Elizabethan Tea Dance held at the Queens house in Greenwich on Wednesday, 11th July 2018. Free lunch was provided, along with some ice cream on the terrace which turned out to be the highlight of the day for George, a resident from the Albany Care Home. Residents also had the chance to make new connections with the volunteers and elderly from other communities during this event.
Associate artist Christopher Green was welcomed, dressed up as Queen Elizabeth 1st. “He is being transformed isn’t he”, one resident said, amused as Chris was turning into the Queen. The Meet Me Choir, who are part of Walking through Walls (an Entelechy Arts programme commissioned by Attend), were invited to perform at the event and were then joined by the residents of the Alexander Care Home and other Meet Me members who had the chance of helping Chris transform into the Queen.
The residents were given the opportunity to appreciate some dancing from the Elizabethan era while a harp was being played in the background. “I think I am dreaming, I haven’t woken up yet; look at that harp, haven’t seen a harp in ages. You do spoil us”, said one resident from Alexander Care.
The event allowed the residents to form new memories as well as an opportunity to reminisce about their past. Harry from Alexander Care spoke fondly of his memories, “I was here in the 1950’s! I was in the navy. There was the navy hospital (pointing). We used to walk up and down here all dressed up in our officers uniform”. Another resident, Joan, also had the chance to reconnect with her past on the journey to the event, pointing out places where she lived and used to work. She also added, “The problem with where we live is that nothing much happens, it’s lovely to go out and see something different. I used to do all of this”.
As important as reminiscing is, so is forming new memories. A volunteer stated that the Tea Dance event allowed just that and added, “new memories are important as you get older”. Although some residents had forgotten the whole event by the time they got back on the bus, they said that they had had a wonderful time and their family members had also noticed a significant difference in their mood.
Participating in interactive arts allows people to connect with those from similar marginalised communities, to feel productive and to have an active role in society. Entelechy Arts played a big role in making a positive impact on those who attended, by simply allowing the residents to be productive, which Harry would agree with, “that was great because you really feel like you’ve done something with your day”. It demonstrated the effects that interactive arts can have on those who feel excluded and help them feel a part of active society.
Friends of Aspen Court– Garden Project
On 24th May 2018 Friends of Aspen Court received a grant from Tesco’s Bags of Help to purchase garden furniture and a range of tactile plants.
Friends of Aspen Court are a group of enthusiastic volunteers who aim to improve the well-being of the residents of Aspen Court Care Home. Friends of Aspen Court can now support residents in gardening activities to help them stay healthy and socially engaged.
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.
Thanks to an improved garden, residents will have the ability to harvest their own plants which will be a perfect topic to discuss with others over a cup of tea at the new tables and chairs. A sense of accomplishment in plant growing will give residents a boost of confidence and improve their mental well-being. 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.
Spending more time in the garden is an opportunity for an exciting learning process. 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 Aspen Court, the staff and the volunteers at Aspen Court 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.
Multisensory Equipment Project - Aspen Court
Friends of Aspen Court Care Home received a £895 grant from Co-Op Community Fund to run a Multisensory Equipment project.
With this project, we will purchase a specialist sensory case for the elderly as a tool to exercise sensory perception. The case will include a variety of equipment for residents with dementia and those who might need some sensory stimulation.
The sensory case contains tools which will give the residents the opportunity to exercise visual, olfactory and auditory perception. Musical gloves will give the residents the opportunity to play music with ease and the fruits card game will allow them to recognise and match fragrances with fruits.
Additionally, cushions and armchair covers of various textures will constitute a tool to explore tactile perception.
The kit will be a chance to build a bridge between trained volunteers and the residents, form new meaningful relationships developed through leisure whilst simultaneously improving their physical health. Our volunteers will contribute to improving the lives of residents by exercising day-to-day tasks which involve sensory stimulation. Thanks to this project, residents will gain confidence in recognising textures, sounds and scents and, consequently, improve their concentration and memory.
The Multisensory Equipment project is one more step forward in making residents’ lives more enjoyable and meaningful.
Lisa Coshall - Case Study
Lisa used to be a midday meal supervisor and she has now been volunteering for Friends of Aspen Court for a few months. She is a 39-year-old mother of two, who appreciates spending her time with family the most. When her grandparents passed away 8 years ago, Lisa realised she wanted to give back to the community and help the elderly make their lives meaningful.
Lisa learned about Friends of Aspen Court at a job centre – the care home was a close to her home and her son’s nursery providing a perfect opportunity for her to start volunteering.
Friends of Aspen Court have carried out numerous projects to engage the residents in social activities –some of them include 1-on-1 conversations, music sessions and flower arrangement. Additionally, during a 21st Century Tea Dance by Entelechy Arts the residents, volunteers and carers had an opportunity to get together and dance, sing and perform, which Lisa has particularly enjoyed.
Lisa has bonded with many of the residents, “I feel attached to them”, Lisa said, “just the other week we organised a BBQ to which I brought my little boy along. There was a lady who hardly ever smiled. It was so heart-warming to see her smiling and singing to my son when she saw him – I have never seen her like that before”, Lisa explained. “Volunteering is a big eye opener”, Lisa explained the challenging nature of looking after residents, particularly those with dementia. “In the beginning I found it difficult to talk to some residents“, she confessed. “If you approach them with patience and friendliness, they do engage in the conversation, and that’s the most gratifying feeling”, she explained.
Lisa believes that volunteers need to be talkative as well as able to listen carefully to demonstrate to the resident that their voice is valued and truly matters.
Seeing residents smile and develop new skills is what motivates Lisa to continue volunteering and be there for the residents at Friends of Aspen Court. “More people should realise how beautiful an experience volunteering is”, Lisa would recommend to anyone to start volunteering as “it is such a small gesture from the volunteers but means the world to the residents”. “If you can spare an hour or two per week. It’s an amazing thing to do.”
Aspen care home evaluation
People present: Residents: Vera, Mary, Donald, Ken. Kens wife Care worker who supports the session - Theresa Beth, head of programming for Poplar Union Arts centre 5 mins away
Movement and vocal warm up
Show dance duet between violet and Shakti
Mary: “It’s nice to be in a group, to be honoured. Often here we are not in a group. Often we are on our own. Only at meal time are you together and you don’t talk, because it’s busy busy.
Kens wife: “Music brings everyone together. Music is the food of love.”
Mary: I love classical music and classic FM
Kens wife: “Achievement is getting involved, otherwise they are left. Making the choice to get up and dance – he is remembering things when he does, Takes him back in time.”
Mary: “They come away in themselves and you do see a difference.”
Max: “I showed him a picture of where he worked on the tablet and it was amazing how much emotion and memory this brought up for him. Showed him pictures of how London looks now and canary wharf as he hasn’t seen them.”
Kens wife: “gets their brain going. Ball games, bit of exercise – you get the ball – exciting – then you have to think of a memory each time you receive the ball.”
Mary: “and what I have forgotten I can make up!”
Talking about another resident: She loves the vocal work, the humour – she is a comedian. She loves the song ‘we will meet again’
Kens wife:” Most important thing of all is TIME. Staff can’t give time because they are busy. I became like that – used to be the manager of a day centre on the isle of dogs in the 70’s.I became ‘miss 2 minutes’. Time is the hardest thing to give. Costs nothing and it’s the hardest thing to give.”
Vera: “Like the songs. I do sing –makes me happy. I go into my room – and that’s all I see and I don’t go anywhere. If I wasn’t in here- there wouldn’t be nothing for me.”
Vera was brought up round the corner from the nursing home. She remembers her dads coal van, He used to give them rides in it which was the most exciting thing they did all week. Their mother worked hard as a cleaner, life was hard, and she suffered from epilepsy and in those days there wasn’t much help so we all cared for her and because she was so busy she didn’t have much time for us. She mentioned different places in the area she used to go to.
Vera spoke about how challenging it was to have a colostomy bag now. How much this embarrassed her when she went out, so she tends not to go out and it’s unpredictable. She hates it when it begins to smell and has had to clean it herself. She got it from a botched operation. “How its stops me from going out in case it needs changing”
Kens wife spoke of being husband and wife. As the wife of a resident how they can still find ways of being man and wife – go to old haunts, Chrisp street market – eat fish n chips at their old café – and bring the grand kids to that café.
Kens wife used to be a carer, then assistant manager at a day centre – she named and painted a picture of the area around it – on the Isle of dogs in the 70’s. They used to go on lots of trips to Southend, on the river….every week.
Debra said that we can’t go to south end because they have got rid of all the disabled toilets.
Debra, Sharon, Kens wife and Mary all spoke about how in the 70’s and 80’s it was much easier to take people out on trips, and there were more resources to do this , so they went out on lots of trips. How now red tape turns homes and day centres into prisons. “Everything is so rule bound. We don’t go on trips – it’s taking away peoples human rights, how they used to go on trips to the sea side and on boats – stuff that would be considered a risk now.”
Mary used to work as a teacher in a special needs school and she used to take children with profound disabilities out on the boats on the Thames and now you can’t do that anymore.
Mary spoke about how the hospital threw her in to the home because they didn’t know where to put her. She was in hospital due to her dermatitis. She can still walk fine. But because all her family are in New Zealand they flung her in here. “They don’t know where to put me and I don’t know”
Beth spoke about doing a communal session at Poplar union, free tickets for residents to see a show there, ways to join the free sessions. Debra and Sharon will pop over and Beth will take them round. Beth is keen for them to lead with the stories and heritage of the area.
Debra: The gaps in- between sessions, makes it pointless as you can’t build things up and residents change. If there are more sessions with no gaps it’s remembered more. A 3 week gap is a long time.
Shakti: We don’t have any time for one to one and this is a big concern of ours that we are missing these residents. The gaps make it very hard.
Mary:” We are not seeing you for three weeks. TERRIBLE!
Mary said she wished she could get a delivery form Lidl for her cotton clothes or go there as she has dermatitis.
Struck by how all three evaluation began to uncover parts of London with people’s stories and their real sense of the landscape – another map of London imbued with other meanings. Unmasking real and forgotten London
Through these evaluations it’s about finding our story – who we are – the interconnectedness – tapestry of the human story.
New Project- Friends of Aspen Court – Walking Through Walls
The Friends of Aspen Court are delighted to announce that we have been successful in our application to receive funding from Awards for All, to begin a new project at Alexander Care Home.
This project will create new social spaces, in which we will deliver 22 workshops over a year, and would involve the local community. The workshops will be related to the Arts and will include music and dance theatre, to entertain and include the residents, families and friends, and volunteers. Each arts session will be 2 hours, and will include a group workshop for up to 20 residents and family members supported by staff and volunteers in a communal space. The second group will involve one-to-one work for those who are unable to leave their rooms.
The project will be specifically designed with the residents in mind and will work to encourage cross-generational exchange. Creative professionals will work to undertake outreach work with activities co-ordinators. These music, dance and story-telling workshops will give the residents something to look forward to and will help them find new ways to express themselves, especially for those who struggle with communication. The workshops will culminate into two events, one in the care home half way through the year, and one journey to the Albany Tea Dance, marking the end of the year. The first event will bring into the home a specialist 21st Century Tea dance including live dance music from London’s top jazz musicians with the Spitz jazz collective. This will be an opportunity the youth groups to perform alongside residents. The event will be open to everyone in the care home and the local community.
Throughout the project, the workshops will be photographed and documented so that the residents and families can cherish the memories and look back on what they achieved. This project will be an exciting and social opportunity for the residents to meet new people and rediscover their talents, finding new and interesting ways to communicate, and having something fun to look forward to!
Friends of Aspen Court Committee meeting
The Friends held their Committee meeting on the 31st October 2016
Spitalfields Music had recently performed at the home which was hugely enjoyed by the residents. The Friends currently have a bid at the assessment stage which will enable them to help residents with dementia through art and music.
Visit of 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.
Living Arts Project at Aspen Court
The project explored a responsive, person-centred approach to the delivery of arts activity, forming creative spaces within the home in order to examine how that might give residents, particularly those living with dementia, the opportunity to transform their relationships and environment. The project aimed to challenge perceptions of older people and celebrate people living with dementia as artist-creators.
Living Arts was a multi-arts research project by musician Julian West and Spitalfields Music in Aspen Court care home and funded by Arts Council England.
During February and March 2016 Julian West, and musicians Amy May and Tim Cape, dancer/choreographer Clare Whistler and visual artist Lucy Steggals, visited Aspen Court care home for one morning a week. Working with the residents and the activities staff, they made music, dance, movement, stories, art and written words. In order to be fully responsive to the residents’ ideas, stories and conversations, the team didn’t pre-plan structured activities. They worked almost entirely through musical, physical and visual improvisation, with individual residents and in small groups. Sometimes the residents created whole stories, whilst at other times small gestures, comments, facial expressions and unexpected flourishes provided meaningful insights into another’s personality and individuality.
A culmination event presented the project to care and arts sector professionals and introduced the multi-arts approach, and staff mentoring and training was provided to Aspen Court’s activities staff. As we expected there were few tangible outputs. However the interactions, creative conversations and shared experiences were deeper and more insightful than we had hoped – building strong meaningful relationships between activities staff and residents.
Further to this pilot project we are looking to develop a 3-year programme, embedding the Living Arts approach and values deeper in care homes, transforming the day to day environment through creative relationships between staff and residents.
From an early age, prior to attending College, she had a strong vision of giving back to the community. Positively, she felt that taking her skills to a care home in the local area would be in her best interest. Throughout her life and while she lived in Syria, she has enjoyed spending time with her beloved grandmother, whether that was listening to her stories about the past or just simply lounging outside on the porch.
After moving from Syria, R.S started to study Health and Social Care at Tower Hamlets College and has been doing so since early December of 2014. Her drive and motivation led her to successfully pass the certification exam to pass Level 1. Now, R.S is preparing for her Level 2 certification exam.
R.S volunteers with The Friends of Aspen Court Care Home. She describes the care home environment as one that is “perfect” for her. It has been easier for her to build and form relationships with the residents, after helping and caring for her grandmother who has battled dementia for years now.
R.S is grateful for how much she has learned in such a short time from working in the care home. It has taught her to be more open and accepting to not only residents in the care home, but to individuals around her community.
“The challenges I faced in the beginning benefited me when I was faced with difficult tasks later on,” says R.S. R.S has been supported greatly by the Activities Coordinator, who took R.S under her wing when she first started volunteering at the care home. According to R.S, having volunteers around is so valuable to the resident’s health and well-being on a daily basis. She now has the extra, but necessary expertise when it comes to finishing her degree and possibly moving into a field that will involve psychology and social care.
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