A Wednesday morning was unfolding in true Royal Star & Garter fashion, with the buzz of residents and staff either preparing to go out on a trip, attend physiotherapy, enjoy the company of volunteers and family in the café/bar or attend the Music & Movement group setting up in the lounge. In the middle of this hive of activity, Ann Macfarlane OBE, a neighbour of the Surbiton Home, arrived for an informal visit.
Ann is an independent-living, disabilities and equalities consultant who works with SCIE, NICE and the Care Quality Commission, providing Expert by Experience inspections to care homes. As a local resident, Ann has seen the Home being built and was interested to learn more about what we do.
We enjoyed an animated discussion about quality standards, common sense and what it takes to make changes happen, including the challenges along the way. From experience, we shared our thoughts on the needs of disabled people and how access, awareness and attitudes have improved over the decades, over a cup of tea. Sadly we both concluded that despite the welcome and necessary improvements and lobbying by people such as Ann, there was much more still to be done and most of it is common sense! Ann believes there is a need for young disabled people to champion these issues and promote change. Ann is also very interested about the issues affecting older and disabled people and I think by the end of our conversation we knew we were both on the same wavelength about our passion for quality and the right to receive appropriate and effective care no matter what your age or ability.
Our discussion was punctuated by impromptu chats with Heather Robinson, Activities Manager, and Matthew Good, Physiotherapy Assistant. Ann was clearly delighted to speak with them both. She was pleased that we have an extensive range of activities and outings and that there is an allocated budget for activities and it’s not a ‘bingo and dominoes’ afterthought.
Moving on to a tour of the Home meant we bumped into Jo Whitehead, Lead Physiotherapist, by the dining room and the topic soon covered access to toilets, vehicles and buildings for wheelchair users. As we passed along the hallway, Ann could glimpse inside residents’ rooms and see the level of personalisation. I explained how when we moved from the old home in Richmond, we offered room décor choices for residents who were able to select from a palate of colours, the colour paint for their walls, the wood colour of their furniture and the soft furnishings. We moved into the vacant short break/respite room and an explanation of the benefits of the ceiling hoist which safely assists residents from bed to ensuite, the height-adjustable work surface in the kitchenette and the benefits to the resident and their carers at home of having a place to come to for a period of a week or more for a welcome break.
Up to Lister, our dementia care floor, and we were soon surrounded by residents, care and housekeeping staff welcoming Ann. I explained the three-family care approach, the vibrant colours of the three hallways, the glass-door fridge with food items for residents to help themselves, the use of soft toys and doll therapy and our dementia care philosophy of staff working with feelings and heart. If Ann was feeling overloaded with information at this point she didn’t show it and continued to ask questions, clearly demonstrating that she understands the issues from both resident and staff perspectives. On to Sandgate nursing floor and immediately out of the lift Ann was warmly greeted by carer, Fiona. It transpired that they have known each other a long time, so it is a small world! I showed Ann the hair salon, and she explained how hard it is to find a salon in the community which has disabled access and suitable basins for wheelchair users.
We caught up with Matthew and Jo again in the therapy room and Matthew and I demonstrated the use of a standing aid hoist which enables people who have the ability to stand but need support in doing so when transferring from chair to bed, for example.
Further along the hallway, Linda Ryan, our Practice Development Nurse, welcomed Ann and we chatted about her role in training and promoting best practice.
By the time we reach the ground floor again many residents and staff were gathered to enjoy a concert, performed a very talented young woman who can play several instruments and has a beautiful singing voice. We watched the concert for a bit, and saw residents and staff appreciating the music, some who could stand to dance were doing so.
I have a feeling that Ann enjoyed her visit, and as always it is with great pride that I show people around our wonderful Homes. Ann told me that:
“The welcome was much appreciated and what was so inspiring was the staff input and the transferable skills and ideas that could be used by other care home staff. It was great to see in action so much that is ‘common sense’.”