In a time where social distancing has become a normality, how do we support individuals to continue to access social networks and meaningful activities to maintain physical and mental wellbeing and a good quality of life?

A lady baking biscuitsThe Trust's Community Learning Disabilities and Intensive Support Teams have been working with individuals and care teams to promote continuing contact with relatives and offer support networks and guidance for those who may have found it difficult to adapt to new routines, access meaningful occupations and cope with change.

We have all experienced what it has been like to adapt to a huge change in routine, structure and social contact and felt the emotions that have come with this. As the world readies itself to resume some form of normality with businesses opening and visiting others outside of the family, it is essential to remember that this has highlighted the importance of social contact and support as part of leading a fulfilled life. Individuals with learning disabilities often experience occupational deprivation, social isolation and difficulties with actively participating as a member of their community whether the world is in lockdown or not.

As an Occupational Therapist, it is important to support individuals to access meaningful activities and feel part of their community by working in a holistic way to address both health and social care issues (Royal College of Occupational Therapists (RCOH): Leading Fulfilled Lives report, 2019).

This is something that all healthcare professionals and support services can achieve together through thinking outside of the box, promoting social prescribing (RCOT: Occupational Therapy’s Role in Social Prescribing, 2020) and recognising when individuals need additional support with their skills and environment. 

5 friends sat on a sofa with biscuitsAt the start of the pandemic, our team put together information packs to send out to service users and their carers to help with continued engagement in meaningful activities in and around the home, as well as virtual resources to access such as fitness videos and craft demonstrations.

On occasions we have delivered face-to-face assessment and treatment for individuals who have been in crisis and found that changes to the environment and an increase in social support has provided overwhelming recovery and re-engagement in healthy routines and activities.

One of our service users has rediscovered an interest in baking during her stay in residential support and shared this with others she has developed friendships with. They have planned film nights, local walks in the countryside, craft groups and baked for a games afternoon.

Service user quotes

  • "I like having friends here, it's good, we watch films and talk"
  • "Thank you for coming in and doing things."

Quote from Melinda Wall (Care Manager, Castlehaven Care, The Pines)

  • “The support and security offered through companionship in shared living has helped both service users and staff cope with difficulties of lockdown restrictions and the situation in the outside world. Having in house activities and social groups at The Pines has offered a valued distraction from this and has definitely helped our service users to cope with what could be a stressful and frustrating time.”

As health professionals, we will continue to work together to look at the bigger picture of inclusion, support and quality of life as well as skills and independence for individuals with learning disabilities.