The Friends of Larchwood support the work of the home. Situated in a quiet rural location on the outskirts of Braintree, and close to the village of Bocking, Larchwood is a purpose built 64 bedded care home offering Dementia and Respite 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 Larchwood 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.
Arlene Case Study
In 2014 Arlene’s mother took up residence at Larchwood due to her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Whilst speaking about her mother’s experience at Larchwood, Arlene explained, “she’s always been a very independent woman and lived on her own.
She wouldn’t accept the diagnosis.” Arlene struggled seeing her mother live in denial of her condition. She explained in detail the hindrance of the disease, “she believed that there were people in her flat when she was on her own, she had all these bad visions. We realised things have gone serious when she started wandering in the street.”
In 2014 it was time for Arlene and her sister to decide what type of care would be best for their mother. “We chose Larchwood for her because of its homely atmosphere”, she explained. Arlene’s mother’s wish to stay at her own home could not be fulfilled given her advancing condition. Arlene did the best she could to cultivate the mother-daughter bond and to look after her mother in her last months of life, “I made sure I came to the care home every day to change her clothes, wash her hair and keep her company.” It was through those visits that Arlene was introduced to the Larchwood volunteering experience.
A year after Arlene’s mother’s passing, she made the bold decision to visit Larchwood once more at an Open Day. She remembered the friendly faces of all the team members, including the manager. It was her who prompted Arlene to begin volunteering, “it was a difficult decision to make, but I agreed eventually.”
At the care home, Arlene became involved in numerous activities with the residents such as crafts, group conversations and musical events – the list went on and on. “I’m usually there to talk to the residents, hold their hand, or read them a book. On special occasions we make Christmas cards, Valentine Day’s cards and Easter cards”, Arlene perked up when describing the artistic process. “Everyone is just so focused on cutting out shapes and gluing glitter on the cards”, she laughed. She also remembered the time when a Rock&Roll concert was organised and the residents absolutely loved it! She was stunned to see that although some of the residents did not speak, they began to clap, smile or even sing when some rock songs from the 50’s or even those from the wartime were played and how they revived through the power of music.
Arlene admitted she found the activities delightful and even realised she was particularly skilled at some of them. Arlene probably would never have discovered her hidden talent if it was not for volunteering. She engaged in the Arts and Crafts activities such as painting and knitting; “I didn’t even know I was that good at it! I used to work full-time before retirement and was busy with children and grand children; I never had time to even think about crafts.” Not only did Arlene master her skills in craft, but was also able to bond with residents thanks to the newly acquired skill, “I remember a lady who really liked knitting and she used to knit all types of squares. One time, she took me to her room and showed me this big box filled with knitted squares in all colours. They were beautiful! And she was happy to show her hobby to someone, too”, she explained.
Arlene has volunteered for Friends of Larchwood Care Home for 2 years now. She made time to engage in volunteering work after retirement from a college administration department.
Arlene believes being proactive is key in charity work. She describes herself as friendly, outgoing and proactive. Taking the initiative has become a part of who she is as a volunteer – she will not wait for anybody to ask her to set the tables or complete any task the carers have not had the chance to do yet. Arlene’s advice for prospective volunteers is to interact with residents, “Tell them, ‘your hair looks lovely’, or ‘this jumper really suits you’. It’s all about the little things.”
“Everybody around me volunteers”, she explained. Arlene’s family volunteer in school and in the Globe theatre. However, helping in a care home was something that Arlene found comfort in: “I feel like doing this”, she explained. “I look at some of those people and I realise they’re sometimes younger than me. Who knows, maybe one day I’ll end up in of those, too? Who knows?”
“If you want to volunteer you need to be prepared”, Arlene explained. “Knowledge about geriatric conditions, resilience and kindness are a must before you begin.”
Despite the challenges that volunteering might pose, helping the elderly can be tremendously gratifying.
One thing that bothers Arlene the most is not the challenges posed by the residents’ diagnoses, but how loneliness affects them on a daily basis: “What makes me sad is that some of the residents don’t have many visitors. If there were more volunteers, residents wouldn’t feel so lonely”, she said in a moment of reflection.
Arlene loves her experience and would encourage everyone to begin their volunteering journey. “In reality, your 5 minutes with them will make all the difference. Just ask what they need. It’s so easy but it makes a difference.”
Friends of Larchwood - Trolley Service
On the 10th February 2017, Friends of Larchwood Care Home received a grant from the Awards for All to launch a Trolley Service.
The service offers residents of Larchwood Care Home a range of goods to purchase including books, music records, cards, toiletries, gifts, and sweets. The residents can make independent choices and treat themselves or their loved ones by choosing items from the “shop on wheels”.
Not only does Trolley Service respond to residents’ need of purchasing basic goods, but it also provides an opportunity to chat with volunteers on duty. Visiting the residents’ room on a regular basis allows volunteers to engage with residents and brighten their day with a chat. Conversation – a seemingly simple act – can make a great impact on an elderly person’s sense of well-being. The Trolley Service also captures some of the elements of life happening outside of the care home which residents long for the most. Incidental chit-chats resulting from the service stand a chance to become a beginning of friendships and meaningful relationships between residents and volunteers, allowing volunteers to play an active role in making residents’ lives more enjoyable.
New Project - Friends of Larchwood – Trolley Service
The Friends of Larchwood 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 Larchwood.
This project will be a trolley service, with the aim to improve each of the lives of the 64 residents of the home. By setting up a trolley service it means that Friends can visit the residents in their room on a daily basis, to offer the option of buying items or just having a chat. Following from this, other activities will develop.
What happens on the trolley will vary: it may be sweets one day, toiletries, or books on another or even a theme for the holidays, for example Christmas. It will be an opportunity for the residents to treat themselves or a loved one, even if they are unable to get out to the shops. Even if the residents don’t wish to buy anything, the trolley service will encourage friendly chats on a daily basis and help to ease the loneliness and isolation that can occur.
Volunteers will be trained and will run the trolley service, to give the residents a chance to see new faces and make some new friends.
The residents will be encouraged to request items such as socks or toiletries, and the trolley will have some small freebies to give away.
Friends of Larchwood Table Sale at Larchwood Christmas Extravaganza
Friends of Larchwood held a table sale on Monday 5th December 2016
The Friends were delighted to attend Larchwood Care Home Christmas Extravaganza. It was good to see relatives, residents and staff purchasing goods from the table sale. Two of the Friends volunteers took the trolley around the home, whilst many of the other volunteers enjoyed the activities and spent time with residents. Entertainment for the day included a singer, opening of the new café, visiting owls and reindeers, and we enjoyed mulled wine and mince pies.
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.
Friends of Larchwood Committee meeting
The Friends of Larchwood held their Committee meeting on the 5th October 2016
The trolley service is working well and there are plans to purchase a high quality lockable cupboard. The Friends will be looking to submit a bid to allow the purchase of a multi sensory trolley and are planning a Christmas table sale on 5th December.
Trolley Shop launched at Larchwood
Sue Nurcombe, who is both a relative and a long-standing volunteer, piloted the idea of making things available to residents via a shop on 17th December 2015.
The aim is to support the residents in both independence and choice, enabling them to decide what they would like to buy.
Choices could be made from everything from sweets, to toiletries, to cards and gifts. It was a surprise how many people were interested in the gifts and Ziggy, the activities co-ordinator set up an impromptu wrapping service.
Due to the volume of things, it became more static than initially envisaged, with goods spreading across a number of tables.
For the future, Sue says “We will take out a smaller selection of things, and move all-round the home. We will also try it on different days of the week, and times of the day.”
The seaside comes to Larchwood
Friends of Larchwood organised a day out at the seaside for 5 residents, by bringing the seaside to Larchwood Garden.
Activities Coordinators Susie and Jason had developed the theme and fortunately the day dawned bright and sunny and the garden was decorated with everything from umbrellas to buckets and spades, with staff all in their beach outfits.
Baroness Emerton former chairman and a current Vice President of Attend travelled up from Tunbridge Wells to see this new project. She said “It is a real privilege to join the residents, relatives, staff and volunteers and join in all the fun” Matthew Swan (Attend National Treasurer) was also in attendance.
Local supporters who joined us included David Sollis, an East Region Committee member, who brought along a taxi which has been specially adapted to record people’s thoughts about volunteering and how they might contribute to the home.
Other special guests included:
- Lesley Cruickshank, Quality Innovation Manager
- Councilor John Baugh, Braintree Council
- Jackie Davies, Business Training Advisor, The Professional Training Centre Services to Business at Colchester Institute
- Catherine Wood, Nurse Consultant for Attend
It was a great day, and a really good formal start to an exciting future for the friends partnership with the home.
Currently, Dominique studies at Sixth Form and is preparing to attend University to study medicine. “I want to build on my communication skills before I attend University,” a recent theory of Dominique’s. She was very keen on having the “whole experience” because that is the best way to improve necessary skills to better oneself in the medical field, according to her.
She began her search for a volunteer position when she began looking on different volunteer websites. Dominique came upon this opportunity at Larchwood Care Home and quickly researched how to get involved immediately. At first, she started volunteering as a tea-time companion last September. Every Monday evening from 5-6 pm, Dominique came in right before the residents started to eat their dinner. She would sit down and go to each table having conversations with the residents. She loved how happy the residents would get when she would come over to them because sometimes a resident was sitting by themselves eating alone.
For the future, she plans to attend the Manchester University of Medicine. Dominique wants to be a doctor specialising in work with disabled children. In order to understand the medical field in its entirety, she felt that by working with adults who had dementia it would allow her to have experience on both ends of the spectrum. In understanding how to work with children who have disabilities, it was vital to understand how to communicate and work with adults who suffered strokes or currently have dementia. “I have become more patient with the residents and that will be a tremendous help when working with children.”
Working with adults and children is completely different. Children do not like to sit still and just chat for an hour, but would rather run around and be active. However, the adult residents enjoy relaxing and talking about their past times, and Dominique said it has been tough to always get all of the residents to participate in games she organises.
She spoke about how adults with dementia know when someone is frustrated with them because they can read it in your face. Dominique said she went into volunteering “completely blindfolded” and did not have any prior experience of working with relatives or individuals living with dementia.
At the care home there are three different sections to which volunteers have the opportunity to volunteer in. Right now, she is in charge of the trolley. The trolley has different snacks, treats, and living essentials that the residents can buy their weekly necessities from. It is really convenient for them so that they do not have to go out to a store to purchase these items. According to Dominique, this is a really important system for the residents because she sees how happy they are when they can buy things on their own and not have someone help them with their decisions. It increases their dignity and confidence levels tremendously. All of these experiences, whether communicating with the residents or just seeing their happiness after playing a game or purchasing a couple delicious treats, have developed her knowledge of what it is like working in a care home and in the medical field.
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
Lunch Time Companion “Let’s Do Lunch”
Trolley Shop Volunteer
- Good communication and organisational skills
- Friendly and helpful with an interest in the community
- Able to deal with challenging behaviour
- Cash handling
- Punctual and reliable
When: Monday – Sunday (AM or PM)
How long: 1 - 3 hours a week