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Golden Moments packs reconnect older persons

Staff in Mental Health Services for Older Persons in HSE North Dublin with the Golden Moments packs, ready to be delivered to their service users.

Staff in Mental Health Services for Older Persons in HSE North Dublin with the Golden Moments packs, ready to be delivered to their service users.

“We all know how important social distancing is at present. However, for someone with mental health needs and individuals with dementia, our aim is to make this distancing merely a physical one,” said Regina Lafferty, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Dementia. “The truth is that for those who are cocooning, the days can be long and lonely.”

In ‘normal’ circumstances mental health service users needs are supported by various community and hospital-based services such as Day Care Centres, social groups, Men’s Sheds, community mental health teams and many others.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, many service users and their families are unable to access the community-based services. Staff in Mental Health Services for Older Persons in HSE North Dublin were extremely mindful of this and in response developed a programme called ‘Golden Moments’ to provide a structured alternative in supporting individuals with dementia in their homes. And it worked well. ‘Golden Moments’ has been an overwhelming success and service users and family members have let us know by text, emails, voicemail and cards.

One man living alone reported: “I am overwhelmed that you thought of me.”

An older woman who uses their service said: “Thank you so much for the pack, it’s brilliant, although there will be no housework done, I’ll be that busy but I don’t care. Thanks again.” Another man added, “Thanks for my pack, it will keep me busy ‘til Christmas. I can’t wait to get started.”

An unexpected piece of feedback was that carers themselves benefitted from undertaking this programme with their loved one.  As a result, the programme evolved into an initiative for all service users with mental health needs, such as depression and anxiety.

Nursing staff took the lead in developing the programme, and all members of the multi-disciplinary team have worked collaboratively. They thoughtfully developed the programme to include a range of meaningful, enjoyable and stimulating activities such as gardening, baking, arts and crafts, fun brain exercises, reminiscence photos and mindfulness colouring booklets.

“We thought about each service user’s cognition and manual dexterity ability, and tried to find activities that would be helpful and bring them enjoyment,” said Siobhan Hanlon, Assistant Director of Nursing.

“When delivering these packs it has also been clinically beneficial and a useful way to check in with the service users and their families.”

In keeping with social distancing, this has been referred to as a ‘garden review’.

These activity packs were distributed to service users within Mental Health Services for Older Persons community service accompanied by a time-table for the individual and family members so that there could be an enhanced level of daily structure to promote a sense of mental health well-being for all.

The team are delighted with the positive reaction.  An email from a daughter thanked the team on behalf of her mother: “You’re doing an amazing job considering the difficult circumstances.”

Mellany McLoone, Chief Officer, CHO Dublin North City and County, said the initiative is “another great example of the creativity and innovation by staff which demonstrates their commitment to continue to deliver person-centred care during COVID-19”. 

“The response from both service users and their families has been extremely positive, and we are proud of our teams who are adapting and changing their work practices across Dublin North City and County to reach out and support people using our services. We are delighted to hear how positively Golden Moments is being received, the team told me of the messages they’ve received including one from a man who lives alone and told them that receiving the bag meant so much to him,” she said.