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Coronavirus: Write on... care home residents' novel idea to send Mother's Day messages

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Patsy with her flowers in Macklin Care Home

Patsy with her flowers in Macklin Care Home

Phyllis with her card from son Steven

Phyllis with her card from son Steven

Patsy with her flowers in Macklin Care Home

It's a simple message that has brought a lot of comfort in the most difficult of times - we're OK.

Carers at Macklin Care Homes in Northern Ireland asked the residents - who are not allowed visitors any more - what they would like to say to loved ones, wrote their messages on a placard and took photos of them for relatives to see on social media.

The idea was the brainchild of activities co-ordinator Lisa Herbison and senior care assistant Darren McKeown in Parkmanor Oaks care home in Belfast.

Such was the positive response now other care homes are doing the same.

Nurse manager Claire Black (41) said the idea had prompted a great reaction - but the best response was from the residents.

She said: "The residents and staff came up with the idea between them and spent the other day making the boards up and getting all the residents to do messages, they loved this.

"We then put it on Facebook and didn't think we'd get the response we did, but residents were even more pleased at that." Claire said her staff have been amazing at keeping morale high in the challenging times.

"They are pulling together and have been doing everything they can to try and lighten the mood for the residents.

"But with the families not being allowed in, it's hard for the residents and they are worried about their families outside and seeing what's on the news and everything.

"We've been doing video calls with the families so they can assure them they are OK.

"Mother's Day was hard for families yesterday, but my staff spent the last three days doing wee videos of the mothers that we sent out to their children in the morning as a wee surprise so they would have a message from their mums."

One of those relatives who was heartened to see the updates was Steven McIlveen (57) whose mum Phyllis (82) has been in the care home for the past couple of months.

It was the first Mother's Day he hadn't spent with his mum - but he said the care home had been fantastic.

He said: "They have a WhatsApp group, they are taking phone-calls, FaceTimes, they are doing so much to get us through this difficult time and have been absolutely fabulous.

"It's the first Mother's Day I haven't spent with my mum and it's difficult not just for me, but the other children and grandkids who always get to see her. We're a close family and not getting to spend time together is extremely difficult.

"But we went up with flowers and chocolates and cards and were accepted at the door and they were brought to my mum.

"We fully understand the decision the care home made."

He said the family have been "blown away" by the "care and compassion and commitment of the team".

He added: "Mum absolutely loves it and loves the nurses and everybody has been fabulous.

"Her morale has been good, my mum is an intelligent woman and understands the extraordinary circumstances.

"She's totally aware of the coronavirus and of the measures the nursing home has taken.

"She is getting the best of care and the nursing home has been absolutely amazing."

Claire said they are doing everything they can to protect the residents and keep in touch with the families.

"The staff are under strict infection control guidelines which they have all been complying with brilliantly," she said.

And while it was a difficult decision to stop visitors, Claire commended how understanding relatives were about it.

"The response we got was fantastic.

"It was so lovely that they were so supportive of it."

She added: "You can see now everybody and the whole society pulling together.

"The kindness coming out of people again and it's great to see."

Belfast Telegraph