Feb 12, 2020

Heartwarming Winter Tales

Making of traditional ornaments
Making of traditional ornaments

From February of 2020 we’re inviting you to jump two long winter months back into the cozy Mid-December of 2019, traditionally the time when preparations for the New Year begin. Halls and rooms in care homes are being decorated, this time with handmade ornaments. When people adorn their rooms themselves, it feels more like home rather than an institution. Besides, the process of making New Year ornaments helps preserve fine motor skills and serves as cognitive stimulation for elderly people. Both feeling at home and skills preservation are important parts of healthy ageing, as well as the excitement and anticipation of the volunteers’ visits are the vital part of the New Year mood.

Before the New Year comes

Since the second week of December the majority of activities are linked to forthcoming New Year celebrations. The residents of a care home in Elkhovka (Samara region) made wreaths during the sessions with their occupational therapist Lydia. She prepared circles of fiberboard by drilling holes in them. The care home’s groundskeeper trimmed the pines and gave the twigs to the residents. 

They were beyond enthusiastic and free to assemble any composition they wished. By unanimous decision, the tasks were divided. Men put the twigs together to form small bunches, tied them with string or wire, then fixed them to the circles. After that women decorated the wreaths with paper bows, ribbons, tinsel and whatever they wished using pieces of string and hot glue.

The wreaths were put on the care home’s front door as a reminder about forthcoming holidays.

Meanwhile, the staff at Rzhev care home (Tver region) helped local residents master different techniques: painting Christmas bulbs, clay modelling, scrapbooking, collage making. All the mice, fish, Father Frost portraits, fir trees etc. were used as ornaments in decorating the care home facilities.

And in Kargopole (Arkhangelsk region) the residents of the local care home visited the launch of the town’s New Years fair. Even the wheelchair users managed to get there and have fun thanks to the help of their care worker, Maria. Fancy-dressed actors, the concert, the music, slight frost and the fair itself were a huge inspiration and a source of great mood to the elderly people.

Maria, like many other care workers and therapists, is part of our project, which means we’re able to pay for her work with the help of your donations. Without her work and the work of people like her, care home residents with restricted mobility would never have left their rooms, tried arts and crafts, felt frosty wind on their cheeks. This is the real miracle you help make happen.

Railway museum

A group of 24 residents (including wheelchair users) of Tovarkovo care home went on a trip to the railway museum in the last week of December. The outing was organised by our occupational therapist working in Tovarkovo care home, Lyudmila.

The tour guide told the story of creation and development of the railroad, the evolution of Zhdanka station. She showed the group the interior of the communication and transport minister’s office. For a couple of moments everyone felt as if they had time-travelled to the XIX century when the trains were seen as the wonder of progress.

Men were more interested in steam locomotives models and asked questions about technical details. Women paid more attention to the station historical miniature and wondered how people could get along without being able to boil water in old trains.

Adaptive bowling

Tatiana, the physical therapist in Pervomaysky care home (Tula region), supports local residents with reduced mobility in regular exercise. But even to the most patient of people daily routine can become boring, and discouragement is a barrier in rehabilitation. Tatiana came up with introducing bowling in the list of physical activities available to people. Adaptive skittles and balls are softer than the real ones and do not require a specialised lane. Curiosity and a healthy share of competition encourage people with reduced mobility to keep strengthening their motor skills.

Both the therapist’s salary and the adaptive bowling kit are the results of your constant support and belief in our cause.

When change could harm

Maya, one of our care workers, takes care of 13 elderly women. They are different but all have complex needs and require individual approach.

For example, Alevtina F. survived a stroke and needs help with restoring activity levels and multimodal exercise to combat contractions. With the support of her care worker she is now able to do exercise with a ball while in the past she was unable even to open a fist.

Or, another instance, Zinaida V., who is 91 years old and has dementia. She needs repositioning every couple of hours to prevent pressure ulcers. Maya regularly does that, professionally and empathetically.

Still another woman in her care, Elena G., requires cognitive stimulation. She is good at remembering actors or songs but confuses edible and inedible objects while playing the well-known game of the same name. However, training with Maya is pleasant no less than useful for her.

Because of the nature of the relationships between care workers and their clients, change of care worker is inadvisable as it can lead to sadness and loneliness and can also cause confusion in people with dementia. That is why it was very important that Maya could stay with her clients who are used to her, and it became possible with your support.

Kitchenette for residents

Rules and procedures of care home forbid residents from cooking their meals themselves except in specially equipped places. And there is one now in Tovarkovo restricted mobility unit. This is also where cooking classes and competitions take place.

Many residents enjoy cooking and would like to do that from time to time, not to mention the importance of preserving as many skills for independent living as possible. A special kitchenette is such an opportunity, besides, it gives people the sense of control over their life even if it is in as small an aspect as their lunch.

Feeling in control plays a key role in happiness and quality of life. That is why occupational therapists encourage independent cooking in all ways: help with buying food, getting to the kitchenette, cleaning up after the meal is ready.

Beauty parlour in the room

Feeling your gender identity is also important to quality of life. Unfortunately, the workloads of care workers in most state-funded care homes exceed all reasonable levels so they just do not have enough time or resources to pay attention to residents’ beauty needs. On the bright side, the care workers we hire to add to the staff regularly help elderly women to cut and dye their hair and to take care of their nails. “It’s a pleasure to watch them, - says Natalia, a care worker. - As they don’t give up and still want to be attractive. And we’re delighted to help them”.

Beauty sessions are more than just personal care, they are a source of optimism and inspiration as well as psychotherapy that helps elderly men and women feel the men and women, not the elderly.

 

With this we thank you again for your support which enables changes for the better in Russian care homes. We hope they will become the new reality one day – so that no one will ever be surprised to see the handmade wreaths on the care home’s front doors, elderly people in wheelchairs strolling through the city center and enjoying the New Year and Christmas holidays, all the care homes having enough rehab equipment and people living there in happy anticipation of the volunteers, who had already become their close friends. Thank you for making these ordinary – yet so essential and heartwarming – New Year dreams come true for elderly people in the care homes of our country! 

Handmade wreaths on the front door
Handmade wreaths on the front door
In the railway station museum
In the railway station museum
Bowling right in the care home
Bowling right in the care home
Maya doing her great job
Maya doing her great job
Beauty salon in the room
Beauty salon in the room
Nov 13, 2019

Activities, Belief, Care: the ABC of well-being

Volleyball on wheelchairs? Why not
Volleyball on wheelchairs? Why not

That exact time is coming when all people traditionally reflect on the ups and downs of the year. Moreover, we think what the coming year might have in store for us, and that is where heartwarming and inspiring stories come in handy. We have prepared some of our most inspiring stories for this year's last report. 

 

Volleyball on wheelchairs: when nothing is impossible

When it’s warm and dry outside, the residents of the care home in Vyazma play volleyball. As wheelchair users, the game was first a tough one — the ball wouldn’t even fly over the net — but the difficulties spurred up the interest. Regular training with their care worker turned the players into quite an advanced team who now enjoy their new hobby anytime the weather is fine.

Working with residents of care home is making a huge difference to their quality of life. Many people, due to their health conditions and associated functional limitations and/or disability, could not as much as walk outside for years and definitely never thought of playing volleyball again. The care we provide with your help, increases the number of happy days in people’s lives.

Picnics by lakeside

There is a picturesque lake surrounded by trees not far from the care home in Kargopolye. On warm days, local residents go for a walk and a picnic there accompanied by their care worker Maria. In late summer, they pick ripe blackberries and mushrooms in the forest, swim in the lake and have a tea and a chatter by the lakeside listening to the soothing sounds of nature. Before we hired additional care staff, the residents could only dream of something like that, so every happy memory they bring back from these picnics is due to your help.

Support for elderly artists

This autumn in Tovarkovo care home (Tulskaya region) the paintings by a local resident, Evgeniya M., were put on display. She started her creative endeavours six years ago — now she has a small studio in the care home and a personal Instagram account volunteers have created for her. Evgeniya M.’s landscapes have been exhibited before, along with works of other local artists. This time, the show includes mostly portraits of her neighbours in the care home.

The artists feels enthusiastic about the future and is looking forward to mastering new genres and techniques. Many people send pigments, brushes, wax crayons and other expendables for the care home’s art therapist Lyudmila to hand over to Evgeniya M. 

Another elderly artist, Zinaida M., also lives in the care home of Tovarkovo. She specialises in oil paintings deriving inspiration from books, folk tales and the surrounding nature.

When the followers of our charity on social media saw the works of Zinaida M., some were willing to buy them. She agreed and after a small auction two of her paintings were sold. Our art therapist in the care home helped organise a studio (we have already mentioned), took pictures of the paintings and then brought them to the post office to be sent to their new owners. Lyudmila also regularly helps with ordering and receiving oil paints, canvases, paint thinner etc.

Zinaida M. can barely speak but there was no need for words to tell how happy the was to have sold her works because it meant the recognition of her talent and skills, which is, after all, one of many human needs. 

Being able to take care of the residents’ needs beyond feeding and bathing is what we owe to your long-term support and belief in our cause. The sense of meaning and fulfilment older people get in workshops or while pursuing their hobbies would hardly be possible without the additional care staff to organise, supervise and encourage art classes and displays and without the materials for arts and crafts we provide with your help.

Surviving a stroke and walking towards recovery

For the last paragraph, we have saved the most inspiring story of September. It is about a resident of the care home in Vyazma (Smolenskaya region) who survived a stroke in the middle of July. By the end of the month he was discharged from the hospital and returned to the care home, unit for residents with severely restricted or lost mobility (“department of mercy”).

Before we started this programme, there would have been 1 care worker per 30 patients with most complex needs in this unit. No need to describe how hard it would be then to stick to the advice of the rehab specialist. And the sooner a person starts the rehabilitation after a stroke, the better the outcomes (up to a full restoration to the previous level of ability).

Fortunately, Alexey (for that is the name of the man) could rely on our additional staff in the care home. They put all their efforts (and the new skills they got in the training we provided with your help) into re-teaching Alexey to read, write, count and draw.

He used to like drawing before the stroke, so he feels stimulated to carry on with the rehabilitation process. Thanks to massage, exercise bicycle, occupational therapy and, most importantly, attention, Alexey’s motor skills started to return. In late September he was already able to leave his room and walk the hall using a walking frame and grab rails. 

 

In each inspiring story of success, like these here, there is the effort, knowledge, skills, equipment which it takes to overcome difficulties and to get to the top. We give the residents of Russian care homes the necessary equipment and the right people with the right knowledge and skills who are ready to put effort into making the lives of elderly people and people with disabilities better. All that, of course, with your constant support and kind attention to our cause. Your help makes a lot of other people happy, you make them happy. For the forthcoming holidays, we wish you to be happy too and also overcome any difficulties with the support of the right people by your side. Stay tuned!

Picking wild berries during a walk
Picking wild berries during a walk
Artwork by care home residents on display
Artwork by care home residents on display
Artist with her work
Artist with her work

Links:

Aug 16, 2019

Summer Success Accounts

Celebrating Russia Day with a sports event
Celebrating Russia Day with a sports event

Hello, dear friends!

Do you remember a moment in your life when you received news so good you couldn't believe it was true? The more you had been working to achieve the goal - the more astonishing the achievement was, right? We haven't yet achieved our goal, as you can see by numbers of our project - but with your support we have gained something numbers can't fully show.

For the first time throughout our project we have received such amount of trust from the local authorities, that in one of the regions we work with (namely Tverskaya region) ALL the nurses we hired, educated and paid for are being employed by the social institutions! Speaking of numbers - these are about one hundred care practitioners in 6 institutions, now being officially budgeted and counted for. The result we would have never achieved without your support and strong belief in our professionalism and effort!

As you remember from our previous newsletter, the official staff rate in social care institutions of our country is undergoing dramatic changes now: the appalling reality of 1 nurse per up to 50 residents is now being replaced with the international standard of 1 care worker per 8 residents. Being very a recent upgrade of the social system, it makes the regional authorities gather all their strength, resources and skills to put the updated standard into practice. Tverskaya region is among the vanguard sites, so it’s one of the first to take the challenge and our already trained care staff turned out to be a great help for them. Moreover, these changes guarantee the staff rates increase in all social institutions within the region. We hope that it's just a matter of time for these changes to happen within the whole country.

While we dare think big with your encouraging attention and support, small yet tangible changes happen in everyday lives of the institutions our caring staff work in...

Sports festival on National Day

The elderly residents of the care home in Rzhev celebrated Russian national day (the 12 of June) with an amateur sport festival. The main point was to complete different exercises and become the quickest. Those who need major assistance also took part in the competition, which is the great success of our physical therapist Svetlana. Of course, the winners were awarded with letters of recognition and small prizes. But every person got a motivating experience, empowerment and positive attitude.

 

Cooking club and shepherd’s pie

When the weather is too gloomy for sports or walking, it is high time for cooking something and sharing it with your friends. In Velikie Luki (Pskovskaya region) nursing home there is a kitchenette where residents can cook by themselves. Our occupational therapists organised a cooking club there that enables people to remember their favourite recipes and to learn some new ones.

In the beginning of June the club session was dedicated to making a shepherd’s pie. In the pictures you can notice wheelchair users taking part. It is close to miracle for “mercy departments” and it’s you who make it possible. With your donations we pay the wages of additional care workers who help with shopping for the ingredients and assist in actually getting to the kitchenette to take part in the cooking club. When the pie’s ready, what better than sharing it with friends and neighbours?

Vyazma Tea Party

On July, 18 Natalia and Elena, the occupational therapists we hired for the care home in Vyazma, organised a tea party for residents with restricted mobility. The two women prepared some pancakes, tea and a lecture on the culture of tea consumption. They told the elderly residents how to store and make tea, described different traditions associated with tea parties, discussed the variety of kinds and sorts of tea.

New information is important for keeping the brain active and safe from dementia-like processes. The isolation care home residents face severely restricts the amount of new information they can get their hands on. But the staff are always there to help. By supporting their work you make the gift of discovery to those who once brought us into the world.

A summer wedding

And finally, what better news than a wedding? Two residents of the care home in Tovarkovo (Tulskaya region)  got married in July. Our art therapists helped organise their best day in the best way possible. All the traditional elements of the ceremony -- the matchmaking, “buying out” of the bride, registration which took part in the event hall of the care home, games and dancing -- were in place. Our congratulations!

 

When we get to know stories like these ones, it seems evident that the scale of changes for each and every single person should never be underestimated – to whatever big picture they add up. Thank you for living through these stories together with us, for supporting us and caring for the elderly people who have an undeniable right to live as healthy, fulfilled and encouraging lives as possible!

Cooking a shepherd's pie
Cooking a shepherd's pie
And tasting it afterwards
And tasting it afterwards
Tea party in Vyazma
Tea party in Vyazma
Registering a new family created
Registering a new family created
"Just married"
"Just married"
 
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