Posted by: ayrshirehealth | January 21, 2015

My home assessment by @lauraholmesOT

Occupational Therapy Department

Camp Merry Heart


Laura Holmes

Date of Birth



Ross Lodge 1


Camp Merry Heart

21 O’Brien Road

Hackettstown, New Jersey, USA              

GP/Consultant  Camp Doctor

Date of Assessment  20.05.14 -29.08.14

Home assessment  report


Approximately 50 staff members – counsellors, activity specialists, medical technicians, nurses, admin staff and the leadership team. Each 6 or 12 day session would bring between 60-70 campers of various ages and abilities. The short answer is… some of the most inspirational people I have ever had the pleasure to work with.

Social situation – support/activities/benefits:

CabinsCamp Merry Heart (CMH) is part of Easter Seals New Jersey…a charity organisation which provides opportunities for people with disabilities to” live, learn, work and play” in a variety of settings.

At CMH campers have the opportunity to be supported in an environment where they can be themselves, meet new friends and try something new.

Activities on offer include sports & games, arts & crafts, boating & fishing, swimming, nature & science, dance & drama, media and a ropes & challenge course. As well as activities organised by the staff to fit in with our themes for the week…who knew it could be Christmas in July?!

Accommodation:  Rented – Private – Council    House – Bungalow – Flat

Cabins in the woods…Each cabin has between 10-16 camper beds and 8-12 staff beds. Staff sleep in a curtained off area however are available for campers during the night for personal care etc. I lived in a cabin named Ross lodge which was a staff only cabin with some additional facilities such as a bathroom with a shower and a small kitchenette! Some perks of my job!

Physical state at time of assessment:   CAMPERS

Mobility:  Various levels of mobility :- independent, physical assistance such as guiding, walking aids or wheelchairs

Bed:           Single, height adjustable beds with additional bed rails if required. Many campers would require assistance to transfer into bed.

Chair:       Mainly benches placed at activity areas. Wooden chairs in dining hall without arms. Campers may have required prompting or assistance to transfer.

RampsBath/Shower: Shower house has a male and female section each with three shower cubicles. Limited equipment within this area.

Toilet:      Could be difficult, with limited space and equipment.

Access:   Ramps, ramps and more ramps!


Hearing: Many of our campers also had additional sensory needs due to hearing or visual impairment.

Mental state at time of assessment: ME

 Memory:   Not so good, having lots to do means having lots to remember. Prompts were a big help!  The memories on the other hand I will never forget.

Orientation (T/P/P):    Disorientated to time, place and occasionally person. I settled very quickly into life at camp and it’s bubble. Surrounded by English speaking staff it was sometimes hard to remember I was in America until they didn’t understand works like “footer or fankle”

Concentration: Needed to have good concentration and attention skills…especially when the weans were about!

FishingMood: Bright and reactive…not a day went past that I was not thankful for the opportunity, even when things were tough there would be someone there to pick you up even if they didn’t realise it. I was however an emotional wreck, anytime one of the campers did something that surprised me or were sad to be leaving I’d be right there with them with a tear in my eye.

Behaviour:  I went out thinking I could be whoever I wanted to be, do anything I wanted to do and come back a whole new person. BUT I was me, just me I couldn’t get away from myself and realised I didn’t actually want to I am okay with how I am. I came back a different person because of the experiences I had but in a good way. My behaviour was in fact much the same as it always is, appropriate to the situation.

Motivation: The campers were the biggest motivator, they made the long hours, hot days and being miles away from home worth it.

Insight: Appeared to lack insight into camp life and how it would impact on my life. It was everything I hoped it would be and so much more.

Sleep:  Or lack of! 17 hour days meant sleep was very precious and I would take the opportunity of a break to take a nap.

Safety: Part of my role was to ensure the safety of both the campers and staff. Despite camp being a huge area of potential risk I feel we managed to maintain this.

Self Care – Campers

Bathing/Washing:  The campers were supported to attend to their personal care each day. Usually showering in the shower house in the morning/afternoon/evening depending on individual preference, male to female ratios and if they participated in swimming.

Dressing:  Campers were supported with dressing with prompts, guidance or physical assistance.

Eating:  All dietary requirements were catered for by the camp kitchen. If campers used specific equipment this had to be brought with them to camp. Counsellors could provide assistance if this was required.

Toileting:  Designated cabin time allowed campers to go to the toilet regularly as well as toilets located around the camp grounds should these be required during activity times.

Medication:  Medication was administered by the camp nurse and med techs to campers during each meal time. Those requiring specific medical attention were able to get this by visit the nurse at the health centre. There were times however that people did have to be sent to hospital if they became unwell.

 Household Tasks:   ME

Shopping:  Lots of opportunity to shop on our days off.

Cabin bedsHousework:  Part of the daily routine included cabin cleaning time where the staff would perform cleaning duties within their respective cabins.

Laundry:  Camper laundry was done on site. Staff were allocated one night per 6 day session for laundry and would be driven to the local laundry mat to do this.

Finances:  We received pocket money through being in the Camp America programme. Don’t think any of us were there for the money

 Additional information

I have come away with this experience with a feeling I have made a difference in the lives of the campers as much as they have made a difference to mine. It is an amazing opportunity and I am so grateful to have been able to experience it. Huge thank you to NHS Ayrshire & Arran for supporting me through a period of Sabbatical leave making it possible. Thank you to those of you who have taken the time to read my blog…I could talk about it forever if you have any questions please feel free to contact me!

Areas for improvement – My camp wish list

  • More equipment to assist with ADLs at camp – grab rails, raised toilet seats, Mowbray frames, small aids and adaptations
  • Adaptations to make bathrooms/showers more accessible
  • An indoor sports hall
  • An auditorium
  • A jukebox J
  • Sensory equipment and lights for the pool.
  • A camp pet!

This week’s blog was by @lauraholmesOT (Laura Holmes), Occupational Therapist, Elderly Community Mental Health Team, NHS Ayrshire & Arran

This blog is a follow on blog from Laura’s first blog in October 2014.



  1. Brilliant, thanks for taking the time to share your amazing experience Laura.

  2. […] My home assessment by Laura Holmes on the Ayrshirehealth blog. […]

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