Shared learning database

Mellifont Abbey
Published date:
January 2016

This example sets out a case study on the improvement of the mental and social wellbeing of the elderly in residential care. An advert was placed on Gumtree appealing for musicians willing to volunteer and come into the home to play with one of our residents, essentially to form a band. The advert generated a great amount of views and responses from around the country. TV coverage of volunteers playing with the service user, Edward, allowed his original band mates, of whom he had not played with for over thirty years, to see that he was still playing piano and the location of his residence. This led to the reformation of the band that was once known as, 'The Sam Hardy Trio'.

This case study is relevant to NICE Quality Standard 50: Mental wellbeing of older people in care homes:

  • Statement 1 recommends: Older people in care homes are offered opportunities during their day to participate in meaningful activity that promotes their health and mental wellbeing.
  • Statement 3 recommends: Older people in care homes have the symptoms and signs of mental health conditions recognised and recorded as part of their care plan.

Does the example relate to a general implementation of all NICE guidance?
Does the example relate to a specific implementation of a specific piece of NICE guidance?


Aims and objectives

As the Activities Manager at Mellifont Abbey it is my job to find out about the residents' past and current hobbies and interests.

The purpose of researching the residents’ hobbies and interests as part of my role as Activities Manager is to improve their social and mental wellbeing. This can also prevent isolation and further improve mental wellbeing when their hobbies and interests put them into social situations with people from within, or outside the home.

Reasons for implementing your project

Mellifont Abbey Residential home has a capacity of 23 residents ranging from the ages of 64 – 101 years old. Each resident within the home benefits from taking part in activities relating to their hobbies or interests. These hobbies and interests range from sports, to music to knitting.

Each resident shows signs of happiness and are more motivated when they are, or have taken part in their chosen activity for a short or prolonged period of time. The need to take part in activities can be identified from signs as obvious as residents approaching me themselves, telling me that they would like to do something related to their interests/hobbies, or more subtle signs such as residents growing shy or appearing unhappy, through facial or bodily expression.

How did you implement the project

Edward has given consent to be referenced on the NICE website within the public domain.

Speaking to resident Edward, I discovered that he is very fond of music and used to play the piano. As soon as I discovered this I contacted one of Edward's family members who arranged to have his keyboard brought into the home. I then placed an advert on Gumtree when I found out that Edward used to play in a band. The advert was an appeal for musicians who would be willing to volunteer to come and play with Edward in the home. The advert generated over 5000 views and 90 responses. People would share the advert through social media sites such as Facebook which allowed the advert to spread around the country.

I received responses from as far as Sheffield and London, and a specific group page named 'Make a Band for Ed' was set up by anonymous facebook users. I arranged for two of the volunteers that responded to the advert to come in and play music with Edward. This was then covered by BBC local and national news, which allowed Edward's original band mates from 'The Sam Hardy Trio' to see that Edward was still enjoying playing music and also of his whereabouts. One of the original band mates then got in contact with the home and asked if Ed would like his old band mates to come and play music with him again, to which Edward responded with much excitement. The band then visited to play with Edward and two of the volunteers that responded to the Advert. Edward really enjoyed playing music with his original band lineup and socializing with them again. The project did not incur any costs as the players were all volunteers.

I have attempted to match other residents’ interests and activities in a similar way by encouraging them to attend sport/activities/social clubs within the local community. This proves a successful way to improve mental and social wellbeing for the individual. Obstacles can occur when for example, a resident that suffers from anxiety struggles to leave their own bedroom. This kind of obstacle can be overcome by taking part in activities within the confines and comfort of their own space. As long as the activities provide interaction and a sense of interest to the resident, obstacles such as this can be overcome.

Key findings

The results from the social activity that I arranged for Edward showed a dramatic increase in social and mental wellbeing, This was measured by Edward’s interaction with his family when they visited, before he was involved with musicians from outside the home and afterwards. Family members of Edward would visit and say that he has grown a lot more confident and seems to be regaining his usual personal and social traits. This was shown through Edward’s verbal communication, his ability to, and excitement when recalling past experiences relating to music and his band, and improvement in confidence relating to mobility.

Key learning points

I would recommend getting to know their patients/residents' main interests and passions which they may no longer pursue. I would then suggest that they see if there are any opportunities for the person to socialize within their hobby or passion.

If the individuals’ hobbies and activities can benefit from including members within the community outside the home, an effective way to recruit volunteers can be through the use of social media and community based advertising sites such as Facebook and Gumtree. Placing an advert on Gumtree allowed me to reach a wide demographic of musicians that may be willing to volunteer to come and play with Edward in the home.

Facebook users that saw the advert were so moved by the intentions of the appeal, that they shared it among their friends and family via the social media site. The advert quickly made its way around the country which helped bring awareness to Edward’s talent and the want for willing musicians to play with him. This sort of advertising could be used for residents interested in sports, or arts and craft who would like to involve people from outside the home to take part in their activities with them.

Contact details

Sam Kinsella
Activities Manager
Mellifont Abbey

Is the example industry-sponsored in any way?