Hallmark Carehomes
Turn it Down – Hallmark Care Homes’ noise awareness campaign

4 November 2020

Turn it Down – Hallmark Care Homes’ noise awareness campaign

By April Dobson, Hallmark Care Homes’ Head of Relationship-Centred Care.

How does noise affect you?  I’m sure we can all think of occasions where we’ve been disturbed in some way by noise.  Whatever the source, noise can be a major cause of stress, anxiety, poor sleep, reduced appetite, depression, and problems with communication.

Earlier this year, team members from Hallmark Care Homes came together to form small ‘Blue Sky’ innovation groups, and one of those groups decided to focus on ways to reduce noise in care homes.

To help identify the main causes of noise in care homes, the group took some time out to sit quietly in different areas of the homes and listen to the noises around them.  They used decibel monitors to measure noise levels, and conducted surveys and interviews with residents and team members.  The feedback from surveys was really interesting.  Initially the group’s focus had been on the impact of noise on residents, however the feedback from Hallmark team members revealed that noise is a significant cause of frustration and has a negative impact on their well-being.

Through their research, the group identified five key themes;

TVs and radios were a real problem; they were often found to be on when no one was watching them and sometimes multiple radios and TVs were on at the same time.  Once identified, this was really simple to rectify.  A number of different types of headphones were tested and made available for those who needed the volume up high which reduced the noise disturbance considerably for others, particularly in the evenings and at night.  A box containing a selection of headphones is now standard kit in the homes.

The group observed that noise at mealtimes was ruining opportunities for social interaction and in some cases detracting from people’s enjoyment of their food.    Simply loading or unloading dishwashers, putting cutlery away in drawers, and stacking crockery caused sufficient noise to make communication difficult, and noise caused by chairs scraping on floors added to the challenge.  Given the importance of the whole dining experience on health and well-being, the group honed in on the changes that needed to be made to rectify this.

Our hospitality service teams implemented some changes to working practices which instantly made a difference, and in new care homes, separate ‘dishwasher rooms’ are now standard.  The interior design team at Savista Developments sourced some simple pads to fit to the bottom of chair legs which got rid of the scraping noise, and, inspired by the work of the group, they went on to explore ways the acoustics of dining rooms could be improved through the use of acoustic panels and different soft furnishings.  The designers are using this awareness to help inform interior design schemes in Hallmark’s new developments and have already changed many of the specifications for accessories; For example, not using metal tea, coffee, or sugar canisters, and using wooden implements and materials other than metal for serving and baking.  Soft closers on drawers and even toilet seats have now become standard, and instead of framed pictures, artwork on canvas is being used as an alternative as they can help to absorb noise.

The project group became acutely aware of how easy it was during a busy shift to overlook small things and no longer ‘hear’ them.  Banging doors for example can cause no end of anxiety and distress, and are so easily fixed by adjusting door closers.  Squeaky trollies are another example of something that can quickly be remedied.

A fair amount of the noise in care homes is of course, human in origin!  Quite unintentionally, noise disturbance can be caused by us calling out to each other and having small group discussions.  This, added to the noise of appliances such as vacuum cleaners, all contribute to the discomfort many feel.  Some residents reported that they found it difficult to get off to sleep at night as they were disturbed by people talking, and many members of the care team shared that they found it hard to communicate with residents due to levels of background noise.

The project team felt that a noise awareness campaign would help focus everyone’s attention and decided that rather than yet another ‘good practice guide’, simple key messages could be conveyed really well in a short-animated film.  They worked together to develop some characters who could tell the story of the problem, the impact and the solutions, and wrote a script for the film.  With the help of a professional film maker, the ‘Turn it Down’ campaign was born.

The campaign launches on 5th November (notoriously one of the noisiest days of the year) and will run for 30 days.  Our teams will be taking part in a two minute silence on the 5th at 11am and there will be a top tip for reducing noise in care homes for each day of the campaign on social media to help increase awareness outside of Hallmark.  For our teams, a set of posters and coasters featuring the characters from the film have been produced as reminders, and of course the film will be shown at various conferences, on the Hallmark website, in the homes, and absolutely anywhere we can find a willing audience.

The message from the project team, and from the campaign is simple.  Small actions can make a big difference with little or no cost, so, ‘Turn it Down’, please!

To watch the film, click on the YouTube link below.

For further information or questions about Hallmark’s Turn it Down Campaign, please contact April Dobson, on April.Dobson@hallmarkcarehomes.co.uk.

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