The Queen’s Nursing Institute has published a resource for community nurses caring for people living with Covid-19.
Commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement, the resource is called ‘Living with Covid-19 (Long Covid) and Beyond’.
It provides information to support nurses working in community, care homes and primary care and also to the wider multi-disciplinary team including clinical knowledge, care responses and skills when caring for people during their recovery and rehabilitation.
It is predicted that there will be a ‘new wave’ of physical, mental and emotional health challenges as individuals enter recovery from Covid-19 infection – and for some this is combined with issues resulting from the social and economic impact of lockdown, such as isolation and unemployment.
The resource also aims to help nurses assist people, families, carers and employers to work towards managing post Covid-19 symptoms, regaining everyday life activities and returning to independent living wherever possible.
It includes information on physical care, psychological and neuro-psychological care, social impact and features several case studies.
Sharon Aldridge-Bent, the QNI’s director of programmes (leadership) who led on the development of the resource, said: “The resource was led and developed by community and primary care nurses, including district and general practice and school nurses, end of life specialists, mental health and safeguarding nurses.
“There was additional input from both occupational health nurses, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.
“The expert reviewers worked collaboratively and contributed with their experiences from working with people living with the long term effects of Covid-19.”
Showing young people what’s possible
Young adults with disabilities are being supported in understanding and articulating their feelings, enabling them to increase confidence in themselves and their abilities, through a new innovation from two specialist neurorehab providers.
MyAbility was developed to enable young people to better understand their disabilities and express themselves, while allowing parents and carers to learn more about ways they can support them in doing so.
Aimed at young people with conditions including Cerebral Palsy, brain injury and autism, MyAbility has devised a 14-week pack tailored to the needs of the person involved and written in an accessible and engaging manner, alongside an accompanying parent or carer pack.
Among the MyAbility initiatives is MyAbility Reflection, which gives the chance to focus on their abilities rather than disabilities, and reviews their aspirations from the start to the end of the period.
The project, created by ATtherapy and Recolo, has recently completed a pilot study, with strong feedback attesting its effectiveness in supporting the emotional needs of young people. It is set to launch later this year.
MyAbility was the brainchild of Francesca Sephton – a highly specialist speech and language therapist at ATtherapy, who works with children and young people with severe speech limitations – who realised the many questions they had, but were often unable to ask.
I was working with a number of teenagers with Cerebral Palsy and they were given the communication tools to be able to successfully articulate themselves. While they did have a good level of understanding, they weren’t able to express themselves without the use of technology,” she recalls.
“They had so many questions, such as ‘Why do I have Cerebral Palsy?’, ‘Will my disability go away?’ and ‘Why am I different to other people?’.
“There were lots of questions about their disability that had never been discussed or responded to in an inaccessible format, but nothing was available for the young people on my caseload to discuss their disability in a comprehensive, accessible way.
“It’s quite a complex thing to explain, and might not be something they had ever discussed in this way with their parents or carers, but they really needed to know the answers to these questions.
“We also talked about their aspirations and what they wanted to do in their lives and careers, so I wanted to show them what was achievable and reflect positively on their abilities.”
From there, Francesca realised the need to create something new and specific for this age range – “there were books for children which had characters with disabilities, but nothing for my teenagers to answer their questions”.
She approached Dr Andrea Pickering, consultant clinical psychologist at Recolo, a community neuropsychological rehabilitation provider for children, young people and their families, to work alongside her to develop the idea further.
Recolo and ATtherapy set about creating MyAbility, to address the need for appropriate clinical resources to assist the young person to understand and adjust to their diagnosis.
“By creating these packs, we wanted to make something fun and engaging, but that would have the very important role of helping the young person and the parent or carer to work through questions they may have,” says Francesca.
“There are some really important opportunities for young people to think about what they can do and who they are, while also understanding more about their disability.
“It’s been great to work with Recolo, and Andrea has been instrumental in the development of the packs, service delivery and the research and development.”
Emma Bowers (Highly Specialist SALT) and Niki Dutton (Highly Specialist SALT) were also key members of the MyAbility development team, with Emma developing the traumatic brain injury version and Niki designing the autism version.
And following successful feedback, the team are now focusing on launching MyAbility later this year. A YouTube channel has already been created, to help pave the way for its release.
“The feedback has been really positive, in that it confirms we are doing what we set out to do in supporting young people to talk and express their feelings, parents to have open discussions, and psychologists and speech and language therapists also said they found it very thought-provoking,” says Francesca.
“We are continuing to develop and refine it, with a few tweaks here and there, and are really welcoming feedback from clinicians to ensure it is appropriate for both users, parents, carers and clinicians, and additionally to make this remotely accessible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The full team are working hard ahead of our launch and we are so excited to share MyAbility, particularly with those young people and families who will benefit from it.”
Anthems help people re-learn to sing and dance
Iconic songs are helping people living with dementia use their love of music to rediscover how to sing and dance.
The Music Makes Us! project combines singing and dance lessons with speech and language therapy and physiotherapy, and has engaged hundreds of people with dementia to use their love of music to re-learn lost abilities.
As well as seeing participants who couldn’t talk begin to sing to The Farm’s ‘All Together Now’, others with severe mobility problems began to dance to The Beatles.
Music is known to activate different pathways to speech in the brain, and not only stimulates endorphins but can transport people living with dementia to happy moments in their pasts.
And now, Music Makes Us! – which is run by The Brain Charity, and has been used to date in care homes in its native Liverpool – is being rolled out as a free 12-week online video programme, which can be used by individuals and groups anywhere in the UK or indeed the wider world.
“We understand the past year has been especially tough for people living with dementia, and we also know music can play a vital role in their daily care – it stirs memories and reduces agitation,” says Kym Ward, dementia project coordinator at The Brain Charity.
“That’s why we are delighted to be releasing this free, innovative music-based therapy series for people from anywhere in the world to take part in.
“Pre-COVID-19, our care home workshops were incredibly beneficial to hundreds of people across Merseyside living with dementia.
“It was truly remarkable to see first-hand how participants who had previously been non-verbal began to sing along, and those with severe dementia who struggled to engage with the world enjoyed moments of joyful connection with others through dance.
“So we hope these videos will give easy access to this fantastic resource for households, care homes and people living with dementia across the UK and beyond.”
The Brain Charity’s programme is made up of five Music Makes Us! Move workshops, and seven Music Makes Us! Sing classes – all set to familiar classic tunes by artists including Elvis Presley.
Combining dance and physiotherapy is proven to minimise the risk of trips and falls and help people living with dementia retain independence by increasing their mobility and maintaining balance and flexibility.
Blending singing and speech and language therapy also strengthens mouth muscles, improving communication and reducing swallowing and breathing difficulties.
Before COVID-19, these sessions were running in care homes and community settings across Merseyside and had already helped nearly 250 people.
Now, it is hoped the fact the workshops are digital means that level of engagement can be significantly increased.
Anyone who signs up will receive one email per week containing a specialist exercise video and guidance on how to join in safely.
Participants will also be able to consult with The Brain Charity’s speech and language therapist and physiotherapist about any specific issues faced.
There is another version of the programme for people who may benefit from its effects, but do not identify as living with dementia or have an official diagnosis.
The courses have also already been proven to reduce anxiety and improve wellbeing for both participants and their carers and relatives, against a backdrop of reduced dementia support due to COVID-19 – something which has had a huge impact on mental and physical health.
“During the lockdowns, The Brain Charity assisted with research studies which revealed being unable to access support service due to COVID-19 worsened quality of life for those affected by dementia in the UK,” adds Kym.
“So it is vital now more than ever that as many people as possible know about this free support – we have already seen its incredible benefits first hand.
“We hope this resource will be useful for loved ones at home, for residents in care homes and, when it’s safe again, for participants in community settings.”
To sign up, visit www.thebraincharity.org.uk/dementia
Music enables new family interactions
Parents have been able to interact with their children in new ways through the introduction of music therapy into the home during lockdown, according to one business which has overseen remote sessions.
Prior to the pandemic, ELM Music Therapy worked widely in schools and with charities across the North East of Scotland, supporting children with neurological conditions and other disabilities with their development through harnessing the power of music.
But as of March last year, ELM has taken all of its sessions online, also making use of YouTube to deliver content to the children it would ordinarily teach in person.
And through doing so, parents and siblings have been able to watch or join in with sessions, enabling them to interact as a family in new ways.
“A lot of parents have said to me they have been given a completely new insight into how to interact with their child, particularly if their child is non-verbal,” says Emmeline McCracken, music therapist and clinical supervisor at ELM.
“They have seen for themselves how their child responds to their music therapy sessions, which has given them new ideas as a family about how to communicate.
“I think many have seen abilities their child has that they weren’t previously aware of, which is such a huge thing for those families.
“When you hear stories like this, it’s lovely to know the impact music therapy is having. The use of technology to take these sessions into people’s homes has really been a silver lining of the past year.”
While having never delivered sessions online previously, the success of doing so over the past year means it is something that will continue.
“It has opened so many doors and the uptake of our online sessions continues to grow, we’re busier than ever at the minute session-wise,” says Emmeline.
“We’ve had a great reaction to the work we’ve been doing on YouTube even from other music therapists, who have said they love our work and it’s given them new ideas for how they can help people they’re working with.
“One of the big advantages of using virtual sessions that we can take forward is that for a child who is poorly and can’t travel, or a child who is isolated in hospital, we could still have their session online.
“We’ve seen that it works and the flexibility it can give, so we can continue to turn to it even once we resume sessions in-person.”
Through working primarily with children, ELM often works with them for several years, supporting them through major milestones in their lives and using music as a means to deal with their emotions around them.
“Music therapy is all about positive engagement, it’s person centred and can enable communication where words are not necessary,” says Emmeline.
“It can be important in enabling a child to manage their feelings. For example, if they are working at a younger cognitive age but are going through puberty, that is a lot to deal with and there will be emotions of confusion, frustration and many others.
“Music provides the safe holiday to be able to express those feelings and for us to give that unconditional positive regard which tells them it’s OK to feel sad, we can work through that together.
“One of the real blessings of what we do is seeing the progress these children are making. When I was 16 and was training, I shadowed a music therapist who worked in a nursery. Some of the children I saw then are now 17-year-old young men and it’s wonderful to see the progress they have made over the years.
“Working as part of a team, with teachers, speech and language therapists and physios, we all come together to support a child during their early years and time at school, and it’s such a lovely thing to be part of.
“And more recently, to hear from parents how our work can impact on their family life and enable them to find new ways to interact, has been a huge privilege.”
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