Home » Lifestyle » Innovation of care homes should be praised
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Kay Cox

Chief Operating Officer, Signature Senior Lifestyle

Care homes have been at the sharp end of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the pressures have been well reported, the great innovation displayed by many providers should also be recognised.


As far back as April, the Office of National Statistics reported 83% more deaths from dementia,1 as a result of the negative impact of isolation and the onset of depression in those who have been forced to shield from their loved ones.

“Visits are a lifeline to our residents. When that was taken away the psychological impact was really hard,” confirms Kay Cox, Chief Operating Officer at Signature Senior Lifestyle, who provide assisted living, nursing and dementia care. “Interaction and activities form the basis of physical and mental wellbeing in our homes, so the challenge has been how we can continue to do these in safe ways.”

Availability of rapid response tests

Like the rest of the world, the care home operator has turned to technology by using software such as Microsoft Teams, Facebook Portal and Zoom to help keep families connected. While well received, this is no substitute for face-to-face contact.

The Government announced on the 1st December that lateral flow COVID-19 tests would be sent to 15,000 care homes before Christmas. Signature are already offering rapid 15-minute COVID-19 antigen tests for family and friends visiting all of their homes.

Kay confirms: “We sourced our own tests before the Government roll out so could accommodate safe visiting throughout the summer as we knew how important it was – when most homes couldn’t accommodate it, we were ahead of the curve.”

“For families, the impact was instantaneous. It’s given them such peace of mind,” adds Kay. “While PPE still has to be worn and social distancing observed, we are doing everything in our power to allow visits to take place with dignity and a sense of normality.”

Staying connected to those we love is really the best Christmas gift of all.

Timing is crucial

Loneliness and isolation are exacerbated during the cold, dark winter months, so the timing of the tests has been crucial.

The announcement that a vaccine rollout will start imminently, with care home workers and residents at the top of the list, has also helped to boost spirits. Beyond this, Kay also believes that the changes they’ve made throughout the pandemic will ensure that care homes will be even more desirable in the future.

“We’ve certainly accelerated innovation,” says Kay. “We’ve listened closely to our residents and invested in technology and developed new activities, which will make our homes even better in the future.”

Signature Senior Lifestyle

Signature offers luxury assisted living, nursing and dementia care in 13 locations across London and the home counties. Residential care at Signature is designed around each individual’s specific needs and preferences. The team pride themselves on ensuring the independence, dignity and respect of all their residents.

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Home » Lifestyle » Innovation of care homes should be praised
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Jenny Kronbergs

Head of Gifts in Wills, Unicef UK

How including a gift in your Will to Unicef UK can help save children’s lives in South Sudan with therapeutic food.


In the city of Aweil, South Sudan, Akot stirs an enormous pot filled with peeled peanuts.

Nowadays, the world is an exciting place for Akot. Every flower can be sniffed, and every leaf is a potential toy – his world has no boundaries.

Just eight weeks ago, things were very different. For months, Akot had a raging fever and was impossible to comfort. His mother, Anyang, was already struggling to afford food for her family. Now she could no longer work.

Anyang’s family used to own a patch of land where they grew vegetables. The conflict in South Sudan forced them to move. No longer self-sufficient, the family needed more income to survive.

“To get my child porridge I have to go to the market to earn a living. However, I have not been able to do this recently because of my child’s illness. As a result, I have not been able to buy food for my children.”

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© Unicef/Wilson

Helping to tackle malnutrition   

Concerned for Akot’s life, his mother took him to a nutrition centre, supported by Unicef. There he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.

Severe acute malnutrition is a serious condition which often leads to death. In South Sudan, over 250,000 children under the age of five suffered from the condition in 2019. The prolonged food insecurity in South Sudan now means that more than six million people have no idea when or where their next meal will come from.

For children like Akot to grow and develop, they need food with the right mix of nutrients. But when food insecurity is high, you eat what you can get.

Akot was given antibiotics for his infections and special therapeutic food to treat the malnutrition. In just eight weeks, his weight increased from 6.3 kg to 7.3 kg.

The therapeutic food Akot received is designed to treat acute malnutrition among children. It’s based on peanuts which are turned into a paste and enriched with dried skimmed milk, oil, sugar, and a combination of vitamins and minerals. The sugar, as well as adding calories, makes it appealing for children who’ve lost their appetite, which often happens when severely malnourished. With this treatment, children usually bounce back to a healthy weight in six to eight weeks.

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© Unicef/Wilson

Empowering people by providing support

“My heart is so happy. He wants to stand and walk and play,” Anyang says as she watches her son study a green leaf from the mango tree.

Now I am able to move about freely. I can go to the market to sell some things but before I do that, I’ll prepare porridge for him then go to the market. At two, I come back and cook lunch. Before, I was not able to leave him at home and I didn’t earn any money.”

All the stress I was experiencing is now gone. I’m still so poor that I can’t even buy soap, but I’m just smiling.

“When Akot is old enough I will take him to school. I hope he becomes a nutritionist, so other children can get help, just like he did.”

Thanks to life-saving treatment from a Unicef-supported nutrition programme, Akot put on 1kg in just eight weeks. He is now a healthy 17-month-old toddler.

With a gift in your Will, Unicef UK can continue to support 1,100 nutrition centres across South Sudan – saving the lives of thousands of children like Akot. Join the Unicef UK community today by visiting unicef.uk/giftinwills

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