The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge turned bingo hosts for the first time in a surprise virtual visit to a care home.
The royal couple joined residents at the Shire Hall Care Home, in Cardiff, via a video call from Anmer Hall, Norfolk, as residents played bingo in the home’s cinema.
With their own bingo spinner which Prince William took charge of, the pair took turns holding up balls to the screen, calling out the numbers in “bingo lingo” as they joined residents Margaret Stocks, Margaret Jones, Ray Donoghue and Joan Drew-Smith for a game on Wednesday afternoon.
William told them: “Catherine is going to pick out the first ball,” as Kate held it up to the screen for the residents to see, as she announced: “So, the first number is five and eight, 58.”
The duke then chose a ball and held it up to the screen, calling out: “One little duck, number two,” followed by Kate calling out the next two balls: “Eight and seven, 87. Six and two, tickety-boo.”
Hearing Ms Drew-Smith call out “I won”, the couple clapped,and William congratulated her with a “Yay!”
“Hi Joan” said Kate. “Well done!”
“How are you?” Ms Drew-Smith asked them.
But when William replied “we’re very well thanks” and asked her “How did we do at bingo? We did OK?” she gave a cheeky reply.
“Very good,” said Ms Drew Smith, before adding: “Wasn’t as good as it should have been,” prompting more giggles from William and Kate.
They also spoke with Mrs Stocks, who is in her eighties. Kate said: “Hi Margaret. Lovely to meet you, how did you get on?” Mrs Stocks said: “We won one line in the bingo.” Kate replied, “Oh fantastic, well done!”
Mrs Stocks later described William and Kate’s call as “amazing” and “a wonderful afternoon” which she was “happy to be part of”.
They also spoke with Margaret Jones: “Hello Margaret,” said William. “Hi Margaret,” said Kate.
Mrs Jones said: “Hello,” before her carer sitting with her appeared to echo Ms Drew-Smith’s assessment of the Cambridges’ bingo hosting skills: “They haven’t done so well in the bingo there,” said the carer, prompting more laughter from William and Kate.
“Not so well,” laughed William. “We’ll say a big thank-you and goodbye to everybody. We’ll try and do a bit better at bingo next time.”
Kate signed off with: “Stay safe everybody and thank-you for your time today, it’s lovely to meet all of you,” as William added: “And enjoy your cake. Bye!”
After their game of bingo with William and Kate, the residents celebrated their virtual royal visit with a glass of wine and a cake which the Cambridges had specially arranged for the Shire Hall chef to prepare for the residents.
Shire Hall is part of the Hallmark Cark Homes group, a family-run business which provides residential, nursing and dementia care to more than 1,000 residents across locations in England and South Wales. It is currently home to 87 residents aged from 58 to 99.
Before joining the bingo game, the couple spoke with some of Shire Hall’s staff, including Karen Grapes, the general manager since 2008 and a former nurse, Sheila Charles, the lifestyles leader and Harriet Boobyer, the senior care assistant and dementia co-ordinator.
Harriet has been leading the home’s implementation of the RelsApp, an app specially developed for Hallmark Care Homes which allows residents and relatives to send each other pictures, videos, music and memories, helping to bring families together when they cannot visit the home.
The couple heard about the impact of Covid-19 and the challenges they have faced during the pandemic, including greater use of technology to keep residents in touch with their loved ones.
“Good afternoon everybody,” said William. “Hello,” said Kate. “Good afternoon your royal highnesses,” said Karen. “Welcome to Shire Hall.”
William began: “Maybe you’d like to start just by telling us a little bit about the care home and what the challenges are you’ve been facing at the moment?”
Karen spoke first: “Yes. I mean, it has been quite a hard couple of months, I must be honest. I’ve been in the care home industry here for 12 years in Shire Hall and worked for Hallmark and we’ve never, ever – as you can imagine – come across anything quite like this.
“The challenges have really been around reassuring the team, the residents, and the relatives. Because that’s been our hardest challenge is the fact that the residents are missing their families, the families are missing their relatives and, you know, a lot of our residents have got dementia, so they’re struggling with dementia so it’s really difficult for them to try and understand. They don’t really understand what’s going on, but they know that their family aren’t here.”
Sheila filled them in next: “We’ve had other tablets donated to us so that we can make sure that the residents are kept in contact with their families every single day. So we’re reassuring them, they can see their residents having fun, looking well, doing things. And Skyping… children…Everybody loves children.”
Sheila then told the couple about a young girl, Lily Hewitt,who has been entertaining the residents via Face Time with her singing, dancing and writing poems for them in Welsh.
“And we do have one little girl, who is amazing, her name is Lily and she’s eight. She got in contact with us, her family, because she wanted to be part of and helping. For the last eight weeks, either once or twice a week, she Skypes some ladies. We give her a challenge… So, she’s Welsh speaking so she done a poem. She dresses up as fairies and princesses and she does stories and she sings and it’s amazing. And she’s eight. And she’s been doing that… Oh, even a family TikTok.”
“Really?” said William. “I bet everybody loves that.”
Sheila added: “We’re doing what everyone else is doing at home because we’re all in the same position, but that doesn’t have to stop because families don’t come in.”
Harriet then spoke to the couple about her experiences: “We are family, and it does feel that way with our residents and in my view, it’s almost been a sort of relief being able to come here when I haven’t been able to see some of my own family, but I still can here and see everybody and feel that kind of sense of normality in this really strange time.
“But it’s all about making sure that our residents and their families and friends as well still feel very connected with us and with them.”
William asked: “So you’re doing a lot more hours, you’re a lot more involved, I guess, and are there a lot more than normal. How is that, plus the sort of responsibilities you all have now with keeping all the PPE kit on and everything else? Is that worrying?”
Karen told them: “I think what Harriet was saying there, the fact that it almost makes it feel a bit more normal because we are coming to work and this is how we come in the norm.
“So we’ve sort of grown into it because to start off with it was just the hand washing and the masks, and then it was the aprons, then it was gloves, then it was, you know, all the extras that go on on top.”
“It’s very hot in all of the gear,” said Harriet.
“But the morale in the home is lovely,” said Sheila. “I think there is… because we’ve got a treat trolley, doing chocolates and drinks and crisps that goes round every single day to keep things up… And the night team, that’s day and night. Adapted things, it’s different things but they’re all different things that we will carry on doing.
Karen added: “We’ve had a lot of positives that have come out of it that we thought, ‘Why weren’t we doing this before?’ So there will be some good that comes out of this, you know, lessons learnt, and we can move forward then so that, you know, if it happens again we’ll be well prepared for it.”
Harriet said: “It’s brought everyone closer together. You know, people… like I said, we’re a family, we take care of each other. You know if someone is stressed, you let them take that five minutes out, you talk to them, really, it’s so much… it’s such a good community that we’ve got in here now and it is… we’re all taking care of each other, not just the residents, we take care of our friends, our work colleagues as well. It’s really great.”
Sheila said: “To be honest with you, although it’s a terrible situation that the world and the country is in, we can still have fun, we can still have activities, you know, it is a positive daily live at Shire Hall at this moment.”
William laughed, telling them: “I’ve never known Welsh people not to know how to have fun.”
Speaking after William and Kate’s call with the residents,Sheila described it as “emotional” for the team and the residents. “It was all very secretive because it’s important to have a surprise and they were all engaged, they all enjoyed it.”