Looking After Young Care Home Residents’ Mental Health

Children’s Mental Health Week takes place every year in early February with various initiatives taking place around the country. Launched by young people’s mental health charity, Place2Be, the week aims to shine a light on the importance of protecting and supporting the mental health and emotional wellbeing of young people.

The week particularly serves as an important reminder that children have their own very specific needs and expectations when it comes to making sure that their mental health is supported and nurtured, alongside their physical wellbeing. Children should never be treated simply as ‘mini adults’, especially if they are living in residential care, or have acted as carers to close relatives who have needed extra support with daily living. In such cases, children need even greater support and care in helping them handles their everyday challenges while looking after their own mental health.

This year’s Children’s Mental Health Week theme has been ‘Let’s Connect’. Making meaningful links, connections and relationships is key for everyone to feel part of a loving, inclusive community. From family and friends to teaching staff and medical professionals, everyone has a part to play in helping young people feel connected.

Empowering children in residential care

Children and young people can spend periods of time living in residential care for a wide variety of reasons, and for differing amounts. The levels of support they require can also vary – each child is, after all, an individual with their own, unique needs and experiences. These can include physical disabilities and mobility challenges, as well as issues around emotional or behavioural wellbeing and mental health. The aims of residential settings include empowering those under their care to acquire coping techniques for life’s challenges alongside keeping them physically safe and cared for.

Children living in residential care can experience a range of conditions and issues around mental health and neurodiversity. These include social, emotional and mental health needs, complex emotional trauma, attachment disorders, PTSD and developmental delay. There are multiple approaches, therapies and support solutions that can be introduced to help those affected by these areas and their families. However, these can be enhanced, or backed up by a number of strategies and ideas designed to help improve mental health and wellbeing and empower young people and children in residential care.

Supportive strategies

Residential settings designed for children and young people should automatically have specialist facilities, strategies and activities in place to help them feel safe, cared for and valued. However, there are always new ideas that can be introduced. Existing systems, such as digital care management software, can also be utilised in different ways to help strengthen the mental health of young care residents and their families, friends and support networks. Here are some examples…

Medication management

Many young people and children in residential care take medication, either long-term, or to address a specific, shorter-term physical or mental health concern. In order to ensure correct dosages are given, accurate, detailed records must be kept by nurses and carers. That is where a digital eMAR system is hugely valuable – it keeps track of medications and charts any associated behaviour or mood swings to maintain comprehensive records and assist with shift hand-overs.

Food, fluid and nutritional monitoring

Some younger people struggle with issues around food and drink intake, while others require highly specialist diets or nutritional supplements. Monitoring these areas digitally can help keep track of what each young resident is eating and drinking. It also flags up potential issues, as well as recording likes, dislikes, allergies and food-related phobias.

Events and activities

Involving young people in an enjoyable, engaging programme of events and activities can do wonders for their mental health and wellbeing. Simple things such as taking part in an arts and crafts session can boost self-esteem and help lift low spirits. Planning these events and ensuring adequate provisions of supplies, staff and time is made far easier with care management software that comes with integrated activity planning tools.

Staff rotas and shift planning

Many young people in residential care thrive on routines and knowing who will be looking after them, where and what they will be doing. Feeling safe and fully aware about who is going to be involved in their care and when they will be on duty can really support positive mental health and build confidence and trust in children and young people.

Safeguarding, training and policies

Finally, effective, proactive and informed safeguarding policies are essential to ensure safe, reassuring residential care for children. Using a digital care management system to stay on top of all safeguarding admin, training and related policies is an easy, effective way of ensuring that young residents can feel happy and safe.

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