Director of Innovation and Development
When I first started my career in care back in 1992, computers lived mostly unused on a desk in the manager’s office, displaying a suitably 90’s screensaver; notes were written by hand at the end of a shift and care was in a very different place to what it is today.
Fast-forward almost 30 years and technology plays a greater role in how we approach and deliver care. At WCS Care, carers use mobile devices to log care interactions with the touch of a button for example, meaning they don’t need to write up notes and can spend more time with residents.
In November 2018, Hammond Care (an Australian aged care charity, set up in 1932), visited WCS Care’s Innovation Hub – a unique space full of working mock-ups of the latest technology and concepts that we use in our homes or are set to use in future developments.
During their visit to the hub, we shared our experience of some of the technology and approaches that we use – circadian lighting, which mimics natural daylight; our learning from moving to a paperless service; seeing the impact that monitoring fluids, the time residents spend outdoors or undertaking activity has, and the potential health and wellbeing correlations to a reduction in falls and hospital admissions across the group, vindicating our move to electronic care planning.
However, the learning was very much a two-way process and we were as intrigued by Hammond Care and how their approach chimed so closely with ours; something we were both equally excited about.
With this synergy in mind, Hammond Care invited me to Australia to learn more about how they do things and, knowing that the nation is very open to technology, I jumped at the opportunity!
I wanted to understand why, like in the UK, there has been a slow uptake of digital tech in the care sector; especially when Australia has more smart phones per head of population than any other country in the world, apparently!
‘Reluctantly’, I took up the offer to travel down-under, where, in return, Hammond Care shared their design philosophy and how this has converted into their ‘boomerang-shaped’, cottage-style buildings, along with insight into their model of care at work and combination of research and thought leadership, both in older and new buildings.
Before I return to Boomerangs…music!
I wasn’t expecting to be focusing so much on music and art in my blog, but I found myself enchanted by the deep emotional connections from the power of music that Hammond Care used. Instead of an activity co-ordinator, they employ full-time musicians (opposite), who play one-to-one, as well as group participatory music. I discovered that music engagement is integrated into their model of care – from the use of iPod’s containing music that’s meaningful to each person, to research about helping to reduce pain because the music helps release dopamine in the brain!
I am left thinking: ‘wouldn’t it be nice if we could create more opportunities to engage and connect with residents through music (YouTube, iPods, staff musical talents, music-based staff and volunteers)?’. It’s often an area overlooked in the hurly-burly world of care homes.
Art on prescription – yes, on prescription!
‘Arts on prescription’ is a program which prescribes creative arts to help people with unmet health and wellness needs. Evaluation found that the arts had a positive impact on mental wellbeing, which, when you think about it, is probably no surprise. Hammond Care links older people with professional artists to explore and enjoy artistic endeavours. Transferring this to the care home setting in the UK should be simple in theory – forging links with art classes and students.
There are already some initiatives in the UK and we have a PhD currently being undertaken at WCS Care on wellbeing apps, which include art. Despite this, as an operational leader in residential care, it hasn’t been blipping particularly on my radar to do some simple things with art and music to make a difference – though that will now change – and as I experienced, every bit really does count.
Hammond Care’s cottage living – size is important after all!
Hammond Care’s cottages are designed in a boomerang shape, each housing a small number of residents, that function like small homes, rather than a large building.
…so the role of a carer is also that of a homemaker, combining functions that we would generally separate back in the UK at WCS Care.
Staff told me cooking from scratch seemed a little daunting at first, but they soon got used to it, bringing their own flair and culture for residents to ‘critique’!
Doors that are always unlocked at one end of the boomerang led to paths and gardens and helped residents find their way back at the other end of the building.
Covered verandas meant, as I found out, you could be outside in the rain! Hammond Care has been building this design for over 20 years now; truly inspirational stuff.
Along with De Hogeweyk Care Village in the Netherlands, Hammond Care is the second provider I have seen really pull off family cottage/household living in a real, mature setting. Their usual way of doing things is established and working well.
Small family living in a normal home-making environment really works. It’s not about luxury care homes with fancy chef hats and chandeliers or a hotel with care bolted on, but somewhere homely to live.
In their literature, Hammond Care say the usual things you’d expect to see – ‘that their staff put people before tasks and promote a home-like environment’, but I really saw this in action everywhere I visited.
Staff training includes a dementia simulation experience and invites carers into ‘the world’ of a person living with dementia – more that we could all learn from?
Shops are beginning to appear at Hammond Care’s facilities, where residents go to collect shopping for meals; something we’ve tried to great effect at WCS Care
‘Harry Potter-style’ hidden doors are everywhere, hiding staff hand-washing and ‘secret exits’ that connect cottages.
There was a children’s play area next to the café which made perfect sense.
My interpretation of the Boomerang design…
The boomerang shape could be made into one, with the kitchen having sight lines to all parts of the cottage, instead of being divided in two.
On your doorstep…
It wasn’t all hard work but Australia or the Netherlands is a long way to go when WCS Care has an Innovation Hub at its newest home in Kenilworth, Warwickshire.
If you want to find out more about our ambition, values, people, technology and future building design, then book now on our free tour around WCS Care’s Innovation Hub, highlighting future design principles, technology and care.
Take a look at our website at www.wcs-care.co.uk or call to book a place on our Innovation Hub tour on 01926 864 242.