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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Thrower

Self-care sessions for care home staff

Updated: Nov 15, 2022

Self-care sessions for care home staff have been started by network member Catriona Foster, pastor for older people at St John's Church, Harborne, Birmingham:

'We have all been aware of the traumatic effect the pandemic has had on carers, including those who work in care homes. As restrictions eased, our church wondered how we might respond to this by offering some support. As a result, two of us have been visiting our most local care home three times per term to offer a drop-in session for staff.

'Our aims are:

  • To provide a safe space for staff to relax and feel able to take a break from the pressure of the day.

  • For each person we spend time with to feel valued and cared for, encouraged and empowered; for them to be listened to and actively cared for, refilling their emotional/spiritual tanks.

  • To give staff an awareness of the need for self-care and provide tools to enable that to be practised in their daily lives.

  • For every staff member to have the opportunity to be touched by the presence, care and compassion of God in the workplace whether they realise it or not at that time.

'We have the use of a small lounge in the home (which we share with some wheelchairs, a hoist and a table of PPE), and we seek to make this feel like a pleasant environment and a safe space to come and talk. We create this ambience using battery tealights, a reed diffuser, some gentle background music and sometimes fresh flowers. Snacks are provided and a table is set up with cards, pictures and various discussion starters. For example, pebbles with words on them enable a person to choose one according to how they feel or what they might like to talk about. There are also cards with tips on self-care. Anyone who drops by is given a small "goody bag" to take away – this might contain a herbal tea bag, a chocolate and a card with an encouragement on it. A new development this term is the offer of a free hand massage which some staff have enjoyed.

'We have run these sessions now for almost a year, on a trial basis. Sometimes we have sat for up to an hour with no one coming, then one arrives, then another, then another, and we end up spending longer than we expected.

'Two challenges are evident every time – firstly, the staff are often very busy and find it hard to find the opportunity to take a short time out, and secondly, some staff are nervous about opening up, feeling fearful of becoming upset or feeling that their problems are so big that a short "time-out" won’t help.

'However, we are gradually winning the trust of a number of staff members, and some are beginning to drop in whenever we are there. We have always come to the end of a session feeling that it was worthwhile – we may have listened as someone opened up and shared some deep issues they face in life, or perhaps someone had the confidence to come through and simply meet us, have a snack and be reminded of the value of the work they are doing.

'It would be great to offer this to some of our other local care homes, however, that would require more time and more helpers. It is something we will consider in the future, now that we have tried and tested it and seen the benefits.'


In our 'A Carer's Guide' series we have an edition devoted entirely to advice for care home staff on how to look after themselves in stressful times. Visit BRF Online for more details. The booklet costs £2.50 and if you select all five titles in the series you get one copy free.




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