*All pictures were taken before social distancing.
Please tell us about the Ann Harding Cheshire Home?
The Ann Harding Cheshire Home is a residential care facility for adults who have a physical disability. We have forty full-time Residents, of which only a handful were born with their disability. The rest were as a result of trauma or adult-onset illness. We are registered as a non-profit and public benefit organisation.
Founded in 1976, how have you grown and evolved over this time?
The original Home was housed in the original farmhouse on the property, which is now our Charity Shop. We started out with a few Residents, but soon grew, and before they knew it, we had outgrown the farmhouse. The existing Home was then purpose-built to house forty Residents.
The Home has gone from strength to strength, we are very proud of the homely atmosphere rather than institutional. New developments are underway with the building of 22 independent living units for people with disabilities, and family members or a caregiver. The show house is completed, and the balance of the Homes are being sold off-plan. We also have plans to build a step-down facility, as well as a skill development centre.
Your amazing staff moved into your premises for lockdown…
Our staff, which includes our Nursing Sister, Staff Nurses and Caregivers, as well as our Housemother and all of our cleaning and kitchen staff, are the real heroes of this lockdown for us. While the rest of us are working from home, they are keeping the home going, and ensuring that everyone remains happy, healthy and well-fed. The majority of the staff have given up this time with their own families to move into the home and look after our Residents.
Has lockdown, which prevents family visits, taken a toll on your residents?
The lockdown has definitely taken a toll on the Residents, because their families are unable to visit, and because they are unable to go out for weekly shopping trips to Northgate. On the other hand, they are coping well, and have each other for company. The staff and our Residents themselves are arranging games and activities to keep themselves occupied, and we set up a DVD and book library for them before we left. The world is also very small with smartphones and computers, so they are still able to communicate with their families. We are also in daily communication with them via a Whatsapp group; they are keeping their sense of humour.
Tell us about your online charity shop?
The online Charity Shop was born out of need. Our Charity shop is a large source of income for the Home, we are very dependent on it. When we made the decision to close the shop (a week before the actual lockdown), for the safety of our residents, most of whom are immune-compromised, we knew we would take a big financial knock. We had to come up with a way to mitigate that loss, and so the online shop was born. It’s actually fantastic because we may never have got around to doing it without the lockdown. The online shop opened on Thursday evening and we are already seeing many sales coming through, which is extremely exciting for everyone.
Do you still have volunteers on your premises over this time?
Unfortunately, our volunteers are not able to visit during lockdown. This definitely impacts the Home and makes the work of the Caregivers so much more difficult. The volunteers are a huge part of our Residents lives, and many have been around for 10 years or more. They have become friends and family to our Residents, they are greatly missed. We look forward to the day when they can come back.
We are so very grateful that we can house our Residents in safety and comfort during this time, and we feel deeply for those who are living in uncomfortable and unsafe environments.