Steff Watts is the Co-ordinator for ENRICH Cymru, based at the Centre for Innovative Ageing
When I first started with the Centre for Innovative Ageing at Swansea University in late summer 2017, the planned launch of the new initiative Enabling Research in Care Homes (ENRICH) in Wales seemed like a long way off. The first few months were spent getting to grips with how ENRICH works in England and the developing the approach that I wanted it to take here in Wales. Working alongside Suzy Webster (from ‘My Home Life Cymru’), I involved Care Home managers from the outset to ensure that ENRICH Cymru was developed as a network for Care Homes, both to take part in current research and have influence in future research projects.
Fast forward to the first week of January 2018 when the festivities of Christmas were well and truly over and the last of the mince pies had been eaten; suddenly the proposed launch date of March 8th didn’t seem very far off at all. Preparations began in earnest: I got up to speed with developing new web pages while trying to negotiate University systems to make sure the website going live would coincide with the launch in March. This required determination, perseverance and a steeper learning curve than I had anticipated. However, aside from a last-minute hiccup with website access, the pages went live on schedule. I breathed a sigh of relief when the final printed copies of the leaflets and promotional booklets arrived with only days to spare. Similarly, the roller banner which displays the new ENRICH Cymru logo and aims/objectives arrived from the design company just the day before the conference. All just in the nick of time!
One of the biggest challenges of the launch was making it ‘pan-Wales’. However the benefits of the CIA’s close working relationship with Bangor University meant I was able to manage this by pooling resources with Dr Kat Algar-Skaife at CADR, and Louise Prendergast and Gill Toms at the Wales School for Social Care Research. This enabled a much wider reach for ENRICH Cymru including distribution of brand new bilingual leaflets at the Dementia Conference in North Wales on March 7th. This marked the beginning of the pan-Wales network launch, with over 200 delegates in attendance. Short of tele-porting myself I am not sure how else I would have managed covering so much of Wales in the same week! There will also be an official launch event in North Wales in summer 2018, which will keep me nice and busy in the coming months.
On the day of the launch, the two-hour drive to the My Home Life Cymru conference venue in Pembroke was fraught with worries about whether I had remembered to pack everything that was needed for the launch. Lo and behold, while I had remembered everything (and more!) in terms of leaflets, workshop materials and presentations I had left behind the outfit I had planned to wear. A quick trip to a clothes shop and I was back on track! Needless to say, my work brain was fully engaged but filling up rapidly by this point in time. I joined Suzy Webster at the venue to set up and felt slightly overwhelmed (and quite excited) by the amount of chairs that were ready for delegates for the next day! After a relaxing dinner with some of the delegates and speakers at the conference, I retired to my hotel room with the nerves beginning to build…
The day itself got off to a great start with over 120 people arriving and there was a real buzz in the air, the sun was shining and the butterflies in my stomach thankfully provided with me a boost to deliver the launch presentation with lots of enthusiasm. I was relieved and pleased it went well and I didn’t lose my train of thought! There was a great reception from delegates about the emphasis on co-creating research with staff and residents in Care Homes and a theme around inter-generational activities in Care Homes seemed to emerge throughout the day.
The afternoon workshop ‘Care Homes research can be fun – honest!’ was well attended with 20 people exploring through interactive discussions how research can bring benefits to residents and staff, as well as considering what might enable research to run more smoothly. Courtesy of ENRICH Cymru and Victoria Shepherd (Cardiff University), workshop delegates were given a booklet with a flow diagram, to help Care Home staff understand how residents who lack capacity can still take part in research. It felt really satisfying to be able to distribute a tangible resource to help facilitate more research in Care Homes, and I noticed a few surprised faces when I talked about including residents who may have fluctuating capacity to consent to taking part in research, so this felt like a good step forward.
In between juggling organisational tasks with Suzy throughout the day, I managed to talk to many delegates to discuss ENRICH Cymru and how homes can get involved with research. ENRICH Cymru was very popular on Twitter, with over 6000 impressions about the launch throughout the course of the launch week. The world of Twitter is a new one for me, but I am enjoying sharing the great things going on in Care Homes across Wales and getting to grips with what a good tweet looks like!
Happy but exhausted, I arrived home late that night to a surprise visit from my best friend with a beautiful bunch of flowers followed by my favourite home-cooked dinner with my partner. I felt a sense of achievement and pride at a successful launch and enjoyed a much more restful night sleep than the night before. Onwards and upwards for ENRICH Cymru…!