Making Christmas Special!

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FaNs Network Essex - Update

Here at FaNs Essex, we are adapting and innovating to overcome the challenges of the Covid-19 lockdown situation on our Essex Care Home residents, their Carers, Family and Friends, including our regular ‘friends and neighbours’ (FaNs).

As a charity we are responding by aiming to continue to deliver FaNs community connecting activities for Care Homes by ‘different’ means until we can physically reconnect again – and to help support the Essex Care Homes who are under so much pressure maintaining safe environments and caring for our older people. Inevitably things were particularly challenging during the Christmas period as further Covid-19 restrictions changed many of the best laid plans for everyone. Fortunately, Team FaNs was on hand to make sure our Care Home residents were not forgotten!

Christmas FaNsmail for Care Home Residents

Our FaNs Team worked in collaboration with Colchester Borough Council (CBC) and our local superstores (Asda and Tesco) to facilitate a Christmas Card Post Box for FaNs Mail Christmas.

  • Residents wishing to receive a card had their names listed (first names only) alongside a Care Home alias (e.g., Robin), to maintain anonymity for security purposes. We invited 22 care homes with whom we have an existing relationship to take part in this initiative.
  • Cards were kindly provided by the superstores and a writing table was set up so that shoppers could easily pick a resident’s name, write and post the card there and then.
  • We also posted on our Facebook page to invite other members of the Community to become involved in FaNs Mail Christmas, and our FaNs responded with not just cards, but personal letters to residents. One young couple personally wrote 700+ Cards for individual residents.
  • Cards were collected from the superstores, then taken to Hills Self Storage, one of our local partners, for sorting, collation and delivery to the Care Homes.
  • 35 Schools were involved as particularly enthusiastic participants, and many beautiful personally addressed handmade cards were delivered to Care Home residents, re-energising our intergenerational relationships which had been disrupted by Covid and much missed by both residents and Young FaNs.
  • All Government and Public Health advice was followed, with Social Distancing being maintained, and no-one entered the Care Homes.
  • We displayed almost 1000 residents’ names and received over 11,000 cards - this figure combines those cards written in store along with those sent from the community, including 35 schools, who responded to our related social media post.

Instead of getting one card each, residents have got an average of 12 cards each. With help from our friends at Colchester Borough Council and Hills Self Storage, and every single person who took the time to write a personal card, we have been able to ensure that no older person goes lonely this Christmas.

Tony Lee, Community Networks Lead

Comments from Participants

Aveley Lodge Care Home said A truly, wonderful morning watching the delight on all the residents’ faces as they opened their beautiful cards made by the pupils”

Colonia Court Care Home said “We have received Christmas cards in abundance from Market Field school. This has been organised by FaNs Network. We work closely with them throughout the year and would like to say thank you for networking and connecting us to local schools.”

A teacher from Market Field School commented on Facebook to photographs of residents receiving their cards posted by the Care Home. “This is wonderful. I have shown these to the children in my class who made them. We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy new year.”

St Fillan’s Care Home said “Residents received Christmas cards from Hazelmere Infant school and were so pleased to have received these.”

Oxford House School said Pupils took part in a kindness initiative which involves writing a personalised Christmas Card to residents in care homes. Many elderly residents feel isolated and need to know that someone out there is thinking of them and sending them some love. This initiative is giving all who participate a much-needed energy boost after such a challenging year.”

Partnership Working embeds and sustains Community Support for Care Home Residents!

Following the success of the Christmas Gift Tree in 2019, FaNs again collaborated with Harris & Hoole in Colchester Tesco and, through the gift appeal on Facebook and in-store, managed to deliver 977 gifts to residents in 19 Colchester Care Homes. This more than doubled last years’ effort. We are grateful to Gemma Tracey at Harris and Hoole for once again enthusiastically taking this on again and smashing all last year's records. Gemma also volunteered for the Charity last summer whilst on Furlough, helping with our 'pilot version' of the Colchester Adapted Wishing Washing Line™.

Building on their partnership involvement in the Maldon FaNs Wishing Washing Line™, and over the summer with the Maldon Adapted FaNs Wishing Washing Line™, the Maldon Tesco Extra store ran an in-store Gift Wishing Tree for the first time. After a brilliant community response 263 Christmas Presents were delivered to Maldon District care home residents. Massive thanks and congratulations to the Maldon Tesco Community Champion, Rhiain Oakley, who initiated and managed this Christmas Wishing Tree, and who has worked very hard throughout 2020 to mobilise both Tesco employees and the Public to support the local Care Homes.

In a new initiative, following an approach from Tiptree Tesco, we have now established our first FaNs Wishing Washing Line™ there, enabling another Christmas Gifts for Care Homes initiative to be organised for the benefit of Care home residents this year.

Christmas Cards & Gifting wasn't all one way!

As with many of our FaNs initiatives, the benefits are reciprocal! We were delighted to see that the Christmas gifting wasn’t all one way. One example was Aveley Lodge Care Home residents who were so delighted with the handmade cards they received from 2 local schools that they responded by sending the schools some gifts - a number of bird nesting boxes, paints and brushes for each class to decorate their own box and some minibeast kits to encourage the spring term nature lessons. The Young FaNs were very excited and responded by sending photos of themselves receiving their gifts.

Covid adapted Christmas Panto!

Oh no it isn't........oh yes it is!

It just wouldn't be Christmas without a Pantomime for many of our Care Home as everyone learns to embrace new technology to access activities as we all adapt to the ‘new normal’, we become involved in other new Christmas initiatives.

This included the livestreaming of Pantomimes into Care Homes in partnership with The Mercury Theatre, Colchester and the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich. This enabled residents to have the opportunity to access a favourite festive activity in their own Covid safe environment.

“It was a real treat!” “It gave me the Christmas spirit again” were some of the excited resident feedback comments.

It is also a real testament to our Essex Care Home staff that they have managed to facilitate Zoom connections and other Live Streaming opportunities to enable the residents to enjoy these experiences. Their willingness to engage with the technology was a positive step and the outcomes have been a pleasure for us as a charity to witness.

The Positive Power of Music!

Over the summer we were fortunate to start working with Nancy May – Mezzo Soprano, who offered 12 wonderful live outdoor musical concerts in Essex Care Homes to raise the spirits of Care Home residents and staff. Again, at Christmas Nancy came forward to help FaNs Essex and give pleasure to our Care Home residents.

For the Charity, Nancy also kindly agreed to provide the music for our short video summary of FaNs 2020 (this will open in a new tab)

Nancy said “I have loved singing with the wonderful charity FaNs Network this year and this video sums up beautifully what they are about and the amazing work they do to make people happy”

For the Care Home Residents, Nancy provided some more Christmas concerts (in line with Covid restrictions and braving the cold to bring her good cheer!) She also offered a ‘Facebook Live’ Christmas Concert performance which was watched by 30 Care Homes and this was described by Nancy as ‘just overwhelming’.

A number of Care Homes also had visiting outdoor 'live performances' from Actors and Musicians from The Mercury Theatre - very well wrapped up whilst the Residents were safe and warm indoors!

And not forgetting the Care Home Staff!

We have continued to encourage and facilitate support for the Carers as well as the Residents. After the initial rush of PPE sourcing and delivery back in April and May, we moved on to ‘Care Packages’ and ‘Hampers’ provided in conjunction with the local community and local businesses.

In October/November/December we partnered with the Colchester Chinese Association, Fai Oriental Chinese Restaurant and T4 Tea For U with the aim of delivering a free lunchtime takeaway treat for Care Staff in a small number of Homes over a week. Due to obvious pleasure and satisfaction on all sides, this rapidly became an aim to provide a treat for 200 care staff before the year end. This too has been surpassed thanks to our amazing partners – 215 lunches have been provided to 15 Care Homes.

We are so privileged to team up with FaNs Network and Fai’s Oriental Chinese Restaurant (for a week long) partnership to give something back to our local community, to give the hard-working behind the scenes care workers a much-needed lift and a big thumbs up. Thank you for selflessly looking after the vulnerable people in our community, especially at this difficult time. We @T4 Colchester are incredibly proud of everyone who is involved in this partnership

​T4 Colchester

Looking forward to 2021!

Thank you to everyone who has supported us through 2020. Especially our Funders and all the Community FaNs and local businesses who have stepped up to help us continue to bring some joy to the Essex older people living in Care Homes through particularly difficult times. Massive thanks and respect to all the Care Home staff who have come through a very difficult time.

Despite 'Lockdown 3' we are all very positive and looking forwards. Care Home Residents and Staff have now started getting their Vaccinations and that must be their immediate priority. We trust that we'll soon be able to plan ahead to restore some of our 'physical' community- Care Home resident connecting FaNs activities.

In the meantime we will continue to respond in adapted ways - so next up, watch this space for a 'digital' 2012 FaNs Care Home Valentine's Bake-off competition!!

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