Over a period of three weeks, and in part during a confirmed COVID-19 Outbreak at The Croft Residential Home in Newton Abbot, the BBC South West Regional News programme, Spotlight, filmed a feature giving viewers an insight into life for dementia sufferers during a coronavirus-enforced lockdown. “What we learned about our residents through that process was surprising and inspiring” explains Simon, co-owner at The Croft.
Spotlight, represented by news anchor Victoria Graham, were very keen to understand the challenges faced by dementia sufferers living with the Infection Control and self-isolation measures required to keep them safe in a care home setting. Victoria worked with Simon over a period of three weeks, using his smart phone to film discussions with residents, staff and family members, who also provided approval for the filming.
During the second week of filming, The Croft was hit with its first confirmed case of COVID-19, as well as a resident fatality due to the virus, and subsequently reaching Confirmed Outbreak status. “This was an extremely difficult period for us as we implemented the most stringent protocols of Infection Control, including requiring all residents to self-isolate in their rooms, and our staff to wear masks and other PPE at all times” said Simon. “But we were determined to carry on with the filming in order to give a voice to our residents, who I feel are too often overlooked and under-valued by UK society” he adds.
“Victoria is a very empathetic and insightful interviewer. It was her idea to have several virtual meetings with three of our residents, in order to build rapport and a level of comfort between her and them. This worked very well and I think you really feel that connection and mutual appreciation in the final feature” explains Simon. “It also helped that each resident is a Spotlight fan. While they may not have recognised Victoria in each conversation, there was an immediate ease in her presence. Like there would be with a family member, or old friend.”
“What we learned through filming was surprising. It was the phlegmatic approach to their circumstances that surprised me the most” Simon explains. Each resident had varying degrees of comprehension of the reasons behind their restriction of movement and the staff attire. While they all found containment irritating, each one appeared remarkably relaxed about their circumstances and managed their frustration well. “Oh well”, “not much we can do about it”, and “it’s for the best” were consistent comments throughout filming. “I hadn’t anticipated that, and I think it’s a generational thing. These residents grew up at the end of the Second World War, and I suspect that a Keep Calm And Carry On mentality is at the root of the sentiment we see in the feature. There really is a lot the rest of us can learn from this generation, especially at this time” shared Simon.
Victoria and Simon were also surprised at how quickly and easily the residents adapted to having face-to-face conversations over Simon’s phone. Relatives and staff were more nervous and circumspect about being interviewed by Victoria using a smart phone. Whereas the residents adapted to it like ducks to water. “Dementia sufferers often have reduced inhibitions and, in this case, I believe any fear or uncertainty about technology was quickly overcome by their desire to engage socially with someone they came to trust and appreciate. There is much that we can learn from this, in particular how inhibitions often hold us back when we encounter new things” explained Simon.
The Spotlight experience was a welcome distraction from the pressures associated with containing the coronavirus at The Croft. It acted as a great morale boost for the staff. “Everyone here was delighted with how our residents came across on primetime local TV. It was a real tonic for the team at a very difficult time” Simon added. And, having been invited by one of the residents, Victoria hopes to return to The Croft in reality to meet her new friends face-to-face, once it is safe to do so. That is now looking much more likely since The Croft has been declared “COVID-19 free”.
The Croft Residential Home specialises in dementia care for 22 residents. Our caring staff take the time needed to understand residents’ individual needs and the unique view of the world that they experience, so that the support they receive at The Croft is highly personalised.
The Croft Residential Home on BBC Spotlight, 7th May 2020