Working with care homes throughout the pandemic: a snapshot of Magic Me’s work and learning



As we approach two years since the beginning of the Covid19 pandemic, we reflect on the work Magic Me has delivered in care homes during this time; what we have learnt alongside our care partners, and why we remain committed to this work. 

The pandemic has been one of the most challenging times for many people, but for those living and working in care homes, it’s impact has been overwhelming. Magic Me has been an ally for care home staff and residents throughout, working closely to deliver projects that celebrate the importance of creative expression, that bring human connection and meet the needs of residents and staff through the lock downs, restrictions and trauma.


The After Party Project  (March – July 2020)


Residents and staff at Silk Court in Bethnal Green engaging with our first ‘Care Package’ by artist Mia Harris


In March 2020, alongside much of the world, care homes made the difficult decision to close their doors to all visitors. Applying social distancing in care homes was not an easy decision to make; it restricted people’s movement around their home, residents were asked to spend their day and eat their meals in their rooms and those living with dementia experienced heightened levels of anxiety and distress due to the change in routine and the lack of physical contact with family and friends. Care staff found new ways to help connect residents with their loved ones, whilst becoming more stretched themselves. 


Care home staff told us they needed creative activities that were easy to get up and running, and importantly, helped residents and staff feel connected and engaged in such distressing times. Internet access was patchy across homes so we worked on creating a project that didn’t rely on this, included materials and activity packs being posted, and provided project phones with data for staff to engage with any online elements. 


From March – July 2020, we re-imagined our Cocktails in Care Homes project to deliver The After Party. The project included printed and e- newsletters that showcased activities from artists alongside personalised messages from volunteers. ‘Care Packages’ were curated and sent via post, which included creative activities, resources and physical items, (i.e letters, artworks produced by volunteers and the wider public). Examples of activities included Design your dream dinner party ! and creative ways of making Introductions and Invitations


You can find the evaluation report with more learning and information on the project here


“ It was an opportunity for us all to come together, residents and staff and forget about Covid [whilst maintaining social distancing] and have fun together” (Care Home Staff) 


Inside Out (March – July 2021) 

As the pandemic continued, Care Homes still had to balance the risks to their residents and staff within the care home environment. Limits to visits for family members remained in place, and although social distancing rules had eased so residents could leave their rooms, there were still restrictions on the amount of mixing that was possible.  Each care home’s community of residents, staff, friends and family had had a different experiences of the first year of the pandemic and we knew that Magic Me needed to be flexible and adapt to the continued changes of restrictions and guidelines. 


Inside Out 2021 connected care staff in three care homes in Waltham Forest with artists from March – July 2021, finding ways to connect care staff inside the homes with artists outside.  Pooling knowledge, skills and expertise, care staff and artists worked together, over zoom, phone calls and through distanced visits, to understand the unique challenges care homes faced in Spring/Summer 2021 and develop creative activities to benefit the residents and staff during this time. Areas of exploration included reaching those residents that wanted to stay in their rooms; bringing a sense of occasion and fun; involving friend and family members. 



Creative activities and outputs were wide ranging and included:

  • A mobile, carnival-inspired, activity trolley on wheels, accessible for residents who preferred to stay in their rooms, alongside use in communal spaces.
  • A listening and recording arcade for residents and staff to record their voices, singing and stories.
  • Scrap books that celebrated residents past and present.
  • Bread tasting activities to elicit memories, tell stories and start conversations.

Find out more about the project and the learning here 


Magic Moments (June – December 2021) 

As restrictions eased, some (not all) care homes were able to open up to visitors outside of immediate friends and family. Commissioned by Essex County Council, Magic Me worked with eight care homes in Tendring on Magic Moments; a project that tested creative activities with artists both in person and remotely, and built a peer learning network of care staff and artists.   Close collaboration between artists and care staff was vital, to ensure the activities were useable, and responded to what was needed most. The artists and network of care staff created an activity pack that focused on sensory activities for residents unable to (or who prefer not to) leave their bed or room and those less likely to join group activities. 


“I never thought I’d do this again, you’ve brought me to life today” (Care Home Resident)




Looking forward 

We’re delighted to now be partnering with Creative Support, a national care provider, to continue the legacy of Magic Moments in eight extra-care schemes in Tower Hamlets and Bromley. Each care scheme will be provided with an activity pack and staff will take part in a programme of in-person and remote offers that aim to support and inform their delivery.