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Months of separation at an end as Chigwell care home reunites residents and families in bespoke summer house

02 Jul Months of separation at an end as Chigwell care home reunites residents and families in bespoke summer house

It was an emotional reunion when mother and daughter Winnie Mulgrew and Margaret Godfrey were brought face to face after months of separation, thanks to a Chigwell care home’s innovative summer house.

Lambwood Heights on Lambourne Road installed the summer house in its grounds so residents and their relatives can meet safely during the coronavirus lockdown.

Margaret, from Buckhurst Hill, could finally meet her beloved mum Winnie, 92, who is resident at the 73 bedroomed home. The pair performed the ‘opening ceremony’ to applause from the staff, cutting a ribbon on their respective sides of the summer house.

“It was the most joyful experience!” said Margaret. “I’d missed Mum so much. All the phone calls and video calls are great, but it’s just not the same as being able to see her. It helped having the staff there clapping and making it into a ceremony. It helped me keep it together but I did have to wipe my eyes a little bit!”

Lambwood Heights is run by Oakland Care. Like its sister home in Loughton, Woodland Grove, it closed its doors to all but essential visitors in March. Both homes have remained free of COVID-19 through strict infection control procedures, introduced at a very early stage. Families have their temperatures taken before entering the summer house. There is a clear screen fitted between them and their loved one with an intercom that allows them to hear each other clearly.

Residents enter from one side while up to two family members from the same household are shown into the other side via the garden. Families book half hour appointments and the summer house is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between each visit.

Home Manager, Sonia Kasese, said bringing families together is benefiting everybody.

“It’s been amazing for our residents’ wellbeing, and for their families’ too. We have kept them in touch via Skype calls and FaceTime, but as Margaret says, it’s not the same as seeing your loved one in front of you. It is wonderful to be able to bring them together safely. We have been, and currently are, COVID-free, and because we want to maintain that status, we won’t be opening the doors of the home any time soon. But anyone who is thinking of moving in can be reassured that they will be able to have contact with their family.”

Margaret and Winnie, a former dancer and Windmill Girl at the London theatre of the same name in the mid-1940s, are planning to meet again very soon.

“I’ve already booked my appointment,” said Margaret, “and my sister’s coming from Hertfordshire to see Mum with her daughter. All I’m waiting for now is when we can have a hug!”