By Greg Watts
We try to see each person as a precious individual, loved and representative of God’s human creation — not a worn out part person of no use,” says Jeremy Lamb, chief executive of Field Lane, a Christian charity that provides residential care for older people.
As we all live longer, there is a greater chance that, one day, we might not be able to remain living at home and have to find residential care.
But finding a care home where you will be well looked after can be daunting. Media reports of poor standards and even abuse in some care homes only serve to increase anxiety, both for the older person and their family.
Jeremy says there are several things that you should look for. “First impressions are very important. Smell: there should be no unpleasant smell. Are the residents enjoying their lives? Does the home support their wishes and encourage and enable interests?
“Also, is there a sense of home? Do you feel confident in the manager and do you like the surroundings? Managers are expected to be walking the home, talking to residents and observing and advising the staff all the time. Good leadership and support for managers, procedures that are followed, and an expectation that residents have a good and enjoyable life which they can influence however disabled they might be.”
He adds that you should try and visit a care home more than once. That way, you are more likely to get a true picture of its standards.
A former social responsibility adviser to the diocese of Canterbury, and a member of St Mary of Charity parish in Faversham, Jeremy says the gospel values of love and justice shape the way Field Lane’s two care homes, in Reigate, Surrey, and Worthing, West Sussex, are run.
Its home in Worthing, The Priory, specialises in caring for those with dementia. It is estimated that about one in every 20 people over the age of 65 has dementia, a brain disease that often starts with memory problems. Amongst other things, dementia makes communication and coping with simple daily tasks difficult.
Manager Allena Edwards, a former nurse, understands the emotional roller coaster of caring for someone with dementia and how difficult it is for a family to decide to place a relative in residential care.
“They worry about placing them in the right setting. Will they get the right level of care? Will they settle? Will they become more confused? We try not to influence someone’s decision but we do always listen and give advice where we can.
“The families are generally involved right from the beginning, as it is usually them who make the first contact. They also have input when we start the care plan. We ask the families to give us a brief history of their person’s interests before they became ill.
“Some families find it hard placing someone in care and feel guilty for a long time afterwards. Those families rarely visit and don’t keep in touch to find out how their relative is settling in and getting on. But we never judge, as we don’t always know the circumstances surrounding someone’s admission.”
The Priory provides a range of activities for residents, including music sessions, art, aromatherapy and exercise. Staff take residents to local shops and restaurants, to church and for walks along the seafront.
Unusually for care homes, staff turnover at The Priory is low. Most of the staff has worked there for a number of years. Deputy manager Julia Rowe joined 23 years ago.
“Our philosophy here is anything goes. We are led by the people we care for. Their life doesn’t stop because they’ve come into care. We try to maintain their past hobbies and interests and make every day fun, fulfilled and worthwhile,” she says.
Field Lane also advises and supports other organisations providing care to older people with dementia. Jacky Owen, its director of operational services, says the kind of issues it helps with include care planning; risk assessment; policies and procedures; budgeting and managing staff.
It also provides help in meeting the requirements of any new legislation and those of the Care Quality Commission.
“This enables any home to run smoothly leaving plenty of time for staff teams to spend with residents. Dementia is a complicated condition that affects everyone in different ways,” she says.
“The condition also changes quickly, which requires a swift response to any changing need. This can be a challenge for any organisation.”
She adds that with people living longer more of us will develop dementia, “The 50-70 age group in 2012 will be the group needing care and support in 2022.
“They and their families will be more assertive and have a very focussed view of the type of care they will want and how that is delivered and paid for.”