Last year we published an Advent Calendar of 24 amazing stories full of positivity about care, real stories from people working in the sector. The stories gave a different perspective to the one we see so regularly within the media. As specialists in learning and development within the care sector, we regularly meet inspiring people delivering exceptional care and support working for organisations that strive to be the best that they can be. It is for all of those care professionals, for all of our partners we #CelebrateCare.

Merry Christmas - gift tag

TWENTY FOUR

Sophie is an Area Support Manager for Borough Care. Having worked in the care sector for many years, she sees the need for constant innovation and improvement and she knows that this involves her whole team.

“I started my career in health and social care when I was 16. I soon realised that some people perceived it as a ‘dead end job’ with little prospects. There was – and still is – a sense of shame when some families considered moving loved ones into care homes. As soon as I realised that care came with such negative views it became my ambition to challenge those views and do the best I can to deliver the best possible outcomes.

“The past 18 years have been some of the hardest, most challenging times, that I can remember. Yet, at the same time they have been the most rewarding work I can think of. It takes very special people to work in health and social care – every one of them deserves recognition for the part they play in maintaining and improving the lives of others.

“Each day we should celebrate care homes and the staff that make a positive difference, regardless of how big or small – all interactions have the potential to make a marked difference to someone’s life.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we do at Borough Care. We strive to be the best at what we do. We are always looking for ways to learn from best practice. We attend training and listen to our people to deliver the best possible outcomes – seeking the next innovation that will make us stand out as the best provider. The most important part of this is our people. It’s true that our staff are our greatest asset – they are what drives innovation in our organisation.

“In 2015 we implemented a new role of ‘Activity Lifestyle Facilitator.’ These people deliver activities that are designed to make a holistic difference to the physical and emotional needs of individuals living in our eleven homes.

“When we were setting the standards for these roles we realised that the special people we wanted in these roles already worked for us – we had become so busy that we almost failed to see what was right in front of us.

“Now, two years on, we have eleven incredible Activity Lifestyle Facilitators from different backgrounds including housekeepers, care assistants and seniors. They are all making a massive difference in the home by creating unique environments and engaging activities for the people who live with us.

“I’m incredibly privileged to oversee these staff and to be a part of the difference they make to the lives of the people we work with. The most striking thing for me is the smiles that lighten the room when they walk in. Like all of the stories I’ve read here about health and social care, my team are truly inspiring. Thank you all for what you do!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Wrapping Christmas gifts

TWENTY THREE

A simple idea changed Jayne and her mum’s lives forever. Jayne’s mum is becoming tech savvy in her 80s, thanks to the quick thinking of one of her community carers. Here’s Jayne’s story:

“Living and working in another country to your parents as they get older can be an anxious experience. Mum does so well – she’s 87, living independently, managed to attend to my dad and get through his passing away. I’m so very proud of her. She is starting to be a little forgetful, and she was struggling to cope with some of the chores around her home, so a couple of years ago we talked about getting some people in to help.

“We found a lovely agency where the staff are fantastic. Mum very much enjoys the company of the men and women who help her, and I have peace of mind that there are people watching out for her a few times a week. It’s lovely to know that she is getting the help that she needs to continue living how she wants.

“Mum has me on speed dial, and the carers all know that they can call me on mums behalf or encourage mum to call me at any time. I’d rather speak to her in the middle of the night than her worry.

“A few months back, mum wasn’t well. The carers had told me that she had a urine infection and it was clearly making mum confused. We increased the care calls to ensure that she was getting what she needed, but one day she was more confused and couldn’t stop crying.

“The carer called me just as I was getting out of bed. Mum refused to speak to me on the phone, it was quite awkward until, the carer had a brainwave and asked if I had Facetime. She suggested that I could call her mobile and that I could talk to mum so that she could see me. It was a moment of brilliance – and something that would never have crossed my mind!

“Mum and I chatted for a few minutes and she seemed calmed by the fact that she could see me. She was also quite intrigued! Thankfully, a few days later, the infection was gone and mum was back to feeling well again.

“I immediately called the agency and thanked them for their wonderful staff. I wasn’t planning to be back in the UK for another month or two, but asked the agency if I could purchase an Ipad and if they could work with mum so that she knew how to use it.

“It’s been wonderful. I now see and speak to mum several times a week. Often, she introduces me to the carers and she’s now talking about email and that she’s going to get one of the carers to teach her all about it! Amazing. Mum receives so much more than care. I am forever grateful to the woman that introduced the idea and I am indebted to all of the staff at the agency for the wonderful service that they provide. Thank you!

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Red baubles covered in snow hanging from a tree outside

TWENTY TWO

Rachel believes that it is valuable to always have in mind the interests of your service users and colleagues, and that doing so helps us all learn to do better, even if expressing interests can sometimes be challenging.

“I work as a supervisor for a domiciliary care agency. My role involves supervisions and spot-checks on the carers that work in the community. It can be a challenging job – we have to recognise that we’re working with people, sometimes in very difficult circumstances. Despite this, we’re a good strong team.

“I want to dedicate my Advent Calendar story to my colleague, Fay. Fay has worked for us for just over a year. She came to domiciliary care from working in residential. Fay will tell you that she’s nothing special, not remarkable in any way. She would probably describe herself as a bit of a loudmouth, a bit of a trouble-maker.

“But for me, Fay, like all of my team has amazing qualities. Fay is great at challenging. If you didn’t know Fay you might think she is being very ‘assertive’ – even aggressive. To me, this is a great strength that I really admire. I admire her for always standing her ground and saying what she thinks, particularly because nearly every time she does it, she is standing up for a colleague or a service user.

“My hope over the next year is that we can work with Fay to be even more effective in her methods of challenging. Sometimes we all need someone to fight our corner. My team and the people we provide services to are better off because we have Fay working with us.

“The nature of working in care means that many of our service users are vulnerable. What many people don’t realise is that many of our staff have their own vulnerabilities too. To provide the best possible care and support we have to see things from all angles. We sometimes have to challenge the status quo and develop new best practices. It’s the only way that way can we possibly grow and do things differently. We need to learn from each other and give everyone a voice.

“Fay is an incredible carer and advocate. I don’t doubt for one moment that she’ll be even more incredible as she learns how she can channel her abilities to make them even more effective.

“To Fay, and all of my colleagues, I wish you a very happy Christmas! For many, it’s not the easiest of time of the year to be working in care – but thank you all for doing what you do!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Crystal Snowflake pendant

TWENTY ONE

 

Josie works as a cleaner in a large residential home, but when she’s not working she’s kind of an all-year-round ‘Secret Santa’… We asked her why she spends so much time in charity shops and the impact that has on her residents.

“Every day after work I  pop into one of the local charity shops in my town. It’s amazing what you can find in them, and often for just a few pence. One day I might find a cup and saucer, or a little thimble. Another day it will be a cushion – there’s always something that attracts my attention. I take it home, clean it carefully, and the next day, I’ll take it into work and carefully place it somewhere, without a word.

“It’s become a bit of a talking point now. Of course, everyone knows that I’m the one doing it. But they don’t always know what I have brought in, or where it is.

“I’ve been working in the home for six years, so there are quite a few things that I’ve brought in. They don’t always stay – sometimes they get broken and thrown away, sometimes I take them back to a charity shop for another life with someone else. As a cleaner, I want the home to be spotless. I want the residents to have rooms that they are proud of.

“I also want them to have an interest – things to discuss, look at and discover. Of course, there are lots of activities at the home, but not everyone wants to do them.

“It makes me smile when I hear one of the residents say ‘oh that’s new! Isn’t that lovely?’ to a vase placed on the fireplace, or a cushion on a chair. Or to see one of the old chaps looking at an old toy car, and talking about how that was the first car he bought.

“Recently, I bought in a little plate. It was quite beautiful, and at 15 pence it was a total bargain! I placed it on the dresser in the dining room. As I returned later to that room to clean, I saw Ruth holding it and looking at it fondly. She saw me and said ‘Josie, have you seen this? It’s so beautiful! It’s the exact set that I was bought by my husband’s parents as a wedding gift.’ We chatted for a while about her wedding, her life, and how she missed her husband. It was a precious moment that we shared. I’m so glad that I was able to enable it to happen.

“I’m always surprised that the tiniest thing that costs hardly any time or any money can have such an impact. It’s not hard to make a difference – it’s sometimes hard to make the effort, but if we all did it… just imagine.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas lanterns

TWENTY

Denise, a nurse from Italy, came to the UK to improve her English. While she does that she also teaches some Italian. When we caught up with Denise she expressed how impressed she is by the care given by care professionals.

“I moved to the UK from Italy around two years ago. I moved here as I wanted to experience life in the UK and to improve my English. I am a trained nurse and back home I worked in a hospital. Here, I am currently working as a live-in carer, something that I am enjoying very much.

“I work for a wonderful couple, they are in their 90s. Sadly, the lady has quite severe dementia, her husband refuses to allow her to go into a residential home – they’ve been married since they were 18, and he tells me that they fell in love when they were in primary school!

“The past two years living with this couple has been an amazing experience for me. I have learned so much and my English has improved vastly. The gentleman is also learning some Italian from me – it just goes to show that you are never too old to learn.

“We spend our days mostly sitting, watching old films, reading and listening to classical music. Sometimes we go out, always all together. He very rarely leaves her side. You can see the love in Mr Green’s eyes for her, even though she can’t remember who he is. Mrs Green is comfortable with him. You can see that she feels safe and secure.

“I’ve worked with people with dementia before, but in hospitals, where the seeming chaos of an unfamiliar environment can cause so much anxiety for a person. It’s nice that Mrs Green is in the position where she seems to suffer little of this chaos.

“I am unable to do some of the things that Mrs Green requires alone, so there are community care workers that come in several times a day to work with me assisting her to get up, bathe, use the toilet or go to bed. It always strikes me how knowledgeable, compassionate and professional these carers are. It such a pleasure to work with them all.

“I don’t understand why so many people perceive the care industry and carers so negatively in this country. It really is a job of passion and commitment. I’ve not yet had one bad experience with a colleague in two years of working in care. We really should celebrate carers as much as we do nurses and the NHS. They are amazing people, doing incredible things. Merry Christmas to my fantastic colleagues!

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Gifts, wrapped in white

NINETEEN

As a Director of a busy domiciliary care company – Bluebird Derbyshire Dales and Amber Valley– Susan is constantly looking for ways to drive quality in her provision.

“I’m incredibly proud of what my team achieve, every day we make a difference to people’s lives, helping them to live independently the way that they want. It’s an incredible feeling, and I’m privileged to have a wonderful team of people who share my vision.

“For me, it’s more than what we do in our business, it’s also about what we can do for our community. We have a local singing group for people living with dementia, it is a fantastic project that allows people to get out, in a safe and understanding environment. It also gives family carers the opportunity to meet other people who understand what they are going through and can offer support.

“I go to help out with refreshments, but between making drinks and washing up, I get the chance to sit with the visitors and join in with the singing.

“On one occasion I decided to sit with Dennis and his daughter. I had not spent much time with either of them before, but Dennis was genuinely engaging, and we chatted about his life. Dennis told me that he used to live near to the village hall building we were in. He told me about his earlier years and his work – he was fascinating.

“While Dennis and I were chatting, his daughter was chatting to another family carer. She seemed very comfortable that she didn’t need to ‘keep an eye’ on her Dad.

“Soon, it was time to start singing. Dennis and I sang our hearts out, he has an amazing voice. He seemed to enjoy himself thoroughly, and so did I!

“At the end of the session I was busy in the kitchen when Dennis’s daughter came in and said to me: ‘I can’t believe how Dad sat with you, chatted and sang away; he hasn’t spoken for two weeks following an operation – there were complications and he was traumatised. Thank you’.

“I went away feeling uplifted by her comment. The power of making a connection with someone and the companionship of singing together can make such a difference to so many.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas tree lights, unfocussed

EIGHTEEN

Ben doesn’t work in care yet – he’s been working as a painter and decorator for the past two years since graduating college, but it has not giving him the satisfaction he craves.

“Painting and decorating is great – I work with some good guys – and it’s nice to see the finished work, but overall, I don’t feel it gives me anything to be especially proud about.

“My nan used to run a care home. I remember spending time there when I was younger, talking to the residents and playing games. I have many happy memories of those days.

“I didn’t do that great at school and was never an academic kid. My dad is a builder and encouraged me to go into a trade so I chose painting and decorating. I think I’m quite good at it – there’s plenty of work and you can make good money. Life’s not just about that though – not to me anyway.

“So, I’ve done some research and I’ve been talking to some friends who work in care. Once I’ve finished the jobs that I’m on now, just after Christmas, I’ll be applying to some local homes. I’m feeling confident that it will be a good move.

“I’ve even joined some Facebook groups where Carers discuss their work. I’ve got a few tips and ideas under my belt ready for my interviews. Hopefully, it won’t take long to get a job!

“I aim to work either with people with learning disabilities, or people with mental ill health. I think I’d be good at that. People say that I’m very caring and that I take time with people that others quite often push aside. I’ve also had a few issues with my mental health over the years, so I think I can empathise with people who are misunderstood.

“This time next year, I’ll be telling you about the new me – the Ben that has a career in care! I’ll say that I’ve loved the last 12 months and that I have learned so much. I’ll be feeling much more positive about myself too, knowing that I’m doing something that has real value, something that I can be very proud of, just like the people in the stories that I’ve read about here this year. Merry Christmas, everyone!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Lantern

SEVENTEEN

Jess believes that when the people she supports smile and laugh, it makes them feel happier – for her, it’s an important part of her job.

“I don’t see the point in being miserable. There’s so much misery in the world that there really isn’t a reason to add to it in my view! I was always branded one of those ‘happy-go-lucky’ kids – maybe it’s my nature, but I think we all have so much to be thankful for, regardless of how difficult life can be.

“I work for a domiciliary care agency. I don’t drive, and although I could do a walking round, I usually get paired up and do a double-call round. I love what I do, the people we see are mostly lovely and I enjoy seeing them and supporting them. But what I really love is spending time with my colleagues.

“Of course, in dom care, we have the luxury of spending time together where we can chat, laugh and sing between calls. My absolute favourite time is when I work with Becky. She’s quite like me, she seems to love life. So when we’re together we’re constantly singing and laughing!

“I think it helps us to do a better job. If we’re happy and engaging when we visit someone, they feel happier. It’s important to try to brighten people’s days.

“We visit a couple who are in their late 40s, the husband had a massive stroke when he was at work and their whole life changed. The one thing that didn’t is their love of fun and practical jokes. It is the one call where we are guaranteed that by the end of it, the four of us will be laughing our heads off. He’s a practical joker, and he gets his wife to hide things from us, or to move things when we put them down.

“It’s something that keeps us on our toes and at the same time makes them smile, so all is good. There’s never a dull moment when me and Becky are working, bringing sunshine, even on the dullest day is what we do best!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Angel Decoration

SIXTEEN

Cathy knows that a simple ‘thank you’ can have the most powerful effect, and that recognising staff for their achievements, whatever these are, is a huge part of leading a team.

“As the manager of a residential home, I know how hard care staff work. As managers we expect a great deal from them.

“Part of my job is leading my team well and to me, part of being a great leader is to truly recognise staff for their work. I believe this recognition should be for a lot of reasons. Sometimes, I think it’s important to recognise staff for things that they wouldn’t expect.

“I keep a pile of little thank you cards in my desk drawer together with some small boxes of chocolates. I make sure that I give out one each week.

“This week, I thanked Charmaine. She hasn’t been working with us very long, but she has already embedded herself as part of the team and is a great asset. Earlier in the week, at handover, one of the incoming staff received a phone call that her daughter had fallen at school and an ambulance was on the way. Obviously, the staff member was very upset. We managed the situation and released her to go to her daughter, but she was very concerned about how she would get to the school on time.

“We’re a close team and we know a lot about each other. We knew that the staff member’s daughter has autism and that the school she goes to is two bus journeys from here. Charmaine, as one of the staff finishing her shift didn’t hesitate in offering a lift.

“It wasn’t until the next day that I found out that it was Charmaine’s 25th wedding anniversary, and that by helping her colleague she made herself late to meet her husband for an anniversary lunch together.

“When you have team members that look out for each other it makes all of our jobs much easier. Actions like this make us closer, and stronger. We arranged an emergency whip-round, called all of the staff and spoke to all of the residents. We got a card and a huge bouquet of flowers arranged.

“I wanted to recognise Charmaine myself, so gave a box of chocolates and a ‘thank you’ card from me. I’m thankful to say that the ambulance wasn’t needed, although the ambulance created an opportunity for us all to build even stronger bonds, thanks to the actions of Charmaine.

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Snowflake Christmas Tree Decoration

FIFTEEN

Tom is generally found on a building site during the days, but by night you’ll find him working with people with mental ill health. His involvement in this is something for which he has his partner to thank.

“I spend my days on building sites and my partner is a nurse at the local nursing home. We have a great life but she works shifts. Until recently found myself feeling a bit lost when she was away overnight.

“I’ve always found what she does interesting, but I don’t think I could ever be a nurse. Then, I saw an advert for a local housing scheme for people with mental health issues – they were looking for someone to do some sleep-in shifts.

“Sarah thought it would be a good idea so I applied and to my surprise I got the job! After some training, I was put on my first shift. I was a bit anxious, but managed to sleep and the shift went without incident.

“I’m basically there ‘just in case’ one of the residents has an issue, or needs some urgent assistance. Otherwise they’re all completely independent. The staff are here as a safety net at night and to offer support and guidance in the day.

“I’ve now managed to get my shifts synchronised with Sarah’s so we’re both on nights at the same time.

“The shifts are 12 hours. I start at 7pm, so too early to go straight to bed! I sit in the common room, reading or watching TV. Residents can come and sit with me and chat whenever they want, which is great for building relationships.

“There was a guy that lived here called Dave. He was about 25 and had a pretty bad start in life. Then he fell on some even worse luck and his mental health suffered. Dave had never worked. At first I was a bit shocked, but finding out more about him, I started to understand why. Anyway, he wanted to work, and I knew a guy that was looking for a couple of labourers. I spoke to the project manager and told her.

“I spoke with Dave about what was expected in the labouring job and offered to find out more, if he wanted. Well, he did want me to, and now Dave is working! He has moved out of the project and has his own flat. I see him from time to time on sites and he’s really doing well.

“I guess the point of my story is that if Sarah didn’t work in a nursing home I wouldn’t have had this great experience. I know Dave didn’t get the job because of me, but I hope that in some small way, I gave him the confidence to give work a go. We have a little chat about life whenever I see him, and he seems in a good place. I’m proud of him. To some it may seem like a small step – trivial almost, but to me, and to Dave it’s so important. It’s important that we’re proud of ourselves and others for every little step we make.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas drink

FOURTEEN

Tina is committed to ensuring that her residents always have something to do, but more than that, she is dedicated to debunking the myth that people living in residential care have nothing to live for.

“As an activities coordinator for a residential home, my job is two-fold. I have to provide stimulating, fun and rewarding experiences for our residents to support their mental wellbeing. Secondly, I support the tireless work of the superb care staff and give them the opportunity to get involved with something on a more social basis with our residents.

“I run a varied and busy schedule of activities. I’m always tweaking what we do, ensuring that there is something for everyone. Today is no different. We start most days at 10 am, when most people are up and about. We discuss what is happening in the world and in our local community, we look at the day’s newspapers and talk about our feelings and thoughts – sometimes it can get quite heated!

“I always think it’s tragic that some people think that older people living in residential care are just coming to the end of their days – that they are simply in ‘God’s waiting room’. I have made it my mission in life to challenge that view!

“Our home is in what is typically described as a ‘deprived ward’. We see people struggling through life everytime we look out of the windows. This features quite heavily in our daily-roundup discussions. Recently, there was an appeal by the local Foodbank for supplies that was picked up by Grace, one of our residents, who saw the article in the local newspaper.

“The residents set out to ‘make a difference’. They decided to hold a coffee morning in support of the local Foodbank! With agreement from the home manager, they made cakes, created invitations and posters and with support, they delivered these to the local area.

“On the day of our Community Coffee Morning, our residents were up, bright-eyed, ready to welcome guests. The cakes looked delicious! Beryl who had worked for years baking and decorating cakes had done a superb job. Ruth a former receptionist and self-branded ‘party girl’ together with Bill, a suited and booted ex-military man, took the role of the welcoming committee.

“Slowly, a few people arrived, then more, and after a while the home was full! Residents were busy serving guests, chatting and making them feel welcome. The staff worked hard to support the residents to do as much as they could independently – it was the most breathtaking experience.

“During the afternoon, everyone was on a high, it was a very successful morning. Margaret, a retired bookkeeper counted the donations and we’d raised just over £100. Margaret made the announcement at afternoon tea and everyone gave themselves a massive round of applause. Margaret then called the Foodbank to tell them of our donation.

“For me, the success of this was less about the money raised – although that is fantastic, it was challenging the preconceptions of people, and for us staff and residents working together to achieve something great. I’m so proud of us all.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

A Christmas gift

THIRTEEN

Vicky, a social worker with West Berkshire Council understands the need for joint working with agencies and most importantly the individual to get the best outcome.

“Harriet is 94 years old, she had been in the hospital for a period of rehabilitation after a fall in her kitchen. Before this, Harriet was an active and very independent woman, regularly going out shopping or to the library.

“When she was admitted to the hospital, the diagnosis was that she had low blood pressure, and that this was probably the cause of her fall. Thankfully, Harriet had no other injuries.

“While Harriet was in the hospital, she was rushed to the acute ward with a twisted gut attack that caused her intense pain. As part of her discharge, there was a referral for a care manager to facilitate a transfer to a nursing home with a medical rationale that this could happen again and it would be a life or death situation.

“We looked at Harriet’s network of support, she had close family and good friends. As social workers, we are always mindful of the funding issues and always try to reach the best outcome for people. Harriet was very clear about what she wanted. She turned to me and said ‘Can I go home with a carer to look after me’. I knew this had to be the outcome.

“The clinicians reported that Harriet couldn’t go home and from a medical perspective they were not able to treat Harriet’s condition. As a social worker, it is often difficult to challenge medical decisions. Thankfully, with the Mental Capacity Act and Best Interest Decisions, I was able to support her.

“Harriet wanted to go home. Her relatives, too, could not believe that it was being recommended that she move to a nursing home. As she is a very mobile lady who cooks and cleans for herself, I thought that she would find living in a care home a challenge.

“The whole discharge process was challenging for me, but more so for Harriet. I ensured that as her advocate, Harriet was at the centre of the process. In my mind, I had 24 hour care in Harriet’s own home, I felt this would be the best option.

“One of the Occupational Therapists told me that they had written a care plan on how to recognise the signs of another attack. We approached some local care providers and found one with a live-in carer who had previously been a nurse. Everything felt like it was starting to fall into place!

“I’m very pleased to say that Harriet has now been back in her home for three months, there has not been another attack and she has the care and support of some exceptional care professionals ensuring that she remains as active and independent as ever she was. Outcomes like this, that put the person in control of their care decisions and treat them with dignity and respect are what this job is all about to me!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas tree decorations

TWELVE

In a busy city domiciliary care branch, a diverse workforce is vital to ensure that people’s cultural and linguistic needs are met. Since caring for her mother-in-law, Shazia found a passion for caring for her community.

“My husband’s parents, Taufiq and Saliha, moved to the UK in the 1950s like many Muslim immigrants. Life was hard, people were suspicious of outsiders, so Taufiq and Saliha stayed close to their community. Taufiq spoke very good English and worked in a local factory. Saliha, like most Muslim women of her generation, kept the home and family running. Saliha learned English when she lived here and although she could get by she always felt more comfortable speaking Bengali.

“Sadly, Taufiq died several years ago, so Saliha moved in with us. She loved spending time with us all, keeping an eye on the growing children – she was such a help to me when I was working at the local supermarket.

“After a few years, we noticed Saliha becoming increasingly forgetful, to the point where she was leaving the gas on. We decided that I would give up my work and stay at home to care for her. We had a great time, went to many community events and clubs, but it was clear that her dementia was getting steadily worse. It got to the point where her needs were more than I could handle alone.

“At first, we tried a local domiciliary care agency for additional support. Carers would come in to help me to care for her at specific times – like getting up, washing, and going to bed. We quickly learned that this wasn’t working well for Saliha. She had been so used to mixing with the community and now that it was so difficult to take her out, we felt that she was being deprived.

“We looked for a nursing home that understood the needs of Bangladeshi people. Luckily, we live in a large city with a good choice of homes, and Saliha got a room at a lovely vibrant home. It was nothing like what we had feared.

“I was now able to return to work, but from the experience of caring for Saliha and visiting her in the home, watching the professionals take care of her, I wanted something different from the shop work that I had always done.

“I decided that I, too, wanted to work in the community, so I applied for a job with a local agency, received some fantastic training and felt completely embraced.

“I now visit many people in the community. I’m a big believer in us being integrated, we all are British, despite our cultural background and we should live and work together. For some people, especially the first and second generation migrants to the UK, this can be confusing and difficult.

“I visit many different people from all backgrounds, and I cherish each moment that I am able to care for them all, but there will always be a special place in my heart for Bangladeshi women who, because of their generation and our culture, struggle that little bit more. I believe that we can only truly understand the needs of others if we open our eyes, ears and our hearts to the lives of the people we support. Listen to their stories, empathise with their challenges, offer support where we can. Once we do this, we can provide the care and love that is right – no matter what background we are from. Ultimately, we are all human, and all of us share similar needs.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Snow man decoration

ELEVEN

Like all loving parents, Jane and Simon wanted to protect their child, Annabel, from the world. Annabel has learning difficulties so being protective is the easy option, but Jane and Simon know it is also an option that would impact on their daughter’s experience of life. Jane explains why care and support from professionals means so much:

“Annabel is a young woman of 19, she is loving, caring and has a real zest for life. She loves music and has a particularly soft spot for Ed Sheeran – the most gorgeous man alive! Annabel also happens to have Down’s Syndrome.

“I think most parents want to protect their children. It’s natural of course, but when you have children who are more vulnerable, it’s easy to take your protection to extreme levels! Simon and I knew that if we truly respected Annabel, we couldn’t do that. We wanted her to live life to the full – and what young woman can do that with their parents breathing down their necks?

“Annabel has the most amazing support package. Her direct payments mean that she goes to College, she goes out to gigs and she regularly meets friends at pubs and clubs. She’s your regular 19-year-old woman. She’s amazing.

“We couldn’t do this without Annabel’s three wonderful support workers, Charlie, Gemma and Nicky. All were interviewed, selected and are managed by Annabel – we do lend a hand from time to time, but Annabel does most of the management herself.

“With the support of her team, Annabel is now looking to the future. She has ambitions of living in her own place, of total independence – you cannot imagine how proud we are. Thanks to Charlie, Annabel now attends a service where she is learning the various skills required for independent living.

“Simon and I have so many fond memories of Annabel growing up. She is truly blossoming now at 19, and it is wonderful to watch. We get to hear of the exciting adventures she’s been up to. As older parents, we could never give her that kind of life experience, so this Christmas we will once again celebrate the exceptional people like Charlie, Gemma and Nicky.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Winter landscape

TEN

When the weather turns in winter, life as a domiciliary care worker can be tough, but Maria knows that being alone, unable to get out of bed and prepare food is much, much tougher.

“We all get that early morning feeling, it’s cold, wet, or worse, snowing outside and we have to get out of our warm, cosy bed, it can be the last thing we want to do.

“Then, I think to myself, without me, Brenda has no choice. Brenda is my first call of the day, without support she would have to stay in bed, with no breakfast, nothing to drink.

“I battle the weather, arrive at Brenda’s home. ‘Good morning’ I shout up the stairs, ‘It’s Maria, I’ll just get a cuppa on for you’. A quiet voice responds ‘Thank you, love’. That’s why I do this job.

“Brenda likes to talk, the only people she ever sees are us carers, the district nurse and the doctor. As she sips her tea in bed, we chat about life, choose some clothes, I get some water ready for a wash.

“Finally, Brenda is sat in her lounge, her table in front of her. I serve some egg on toast and another cup of tea. It’s time for me to go, I have other people to assist. Brenda says to me ‘Thank you, love. Take care of yourself out there, I need to see you again’ she flashes me a big smile. I’ll see you at lunch today, I reply, I’ll be careful, I wouldn’t want to miss our chat later!

“As I close the door, in her soft voice, I hear Brenda shout ‘God bless you, Maria’. God bless you too, Brenda, I say to myself.

“I’m glad I had the choice to get out of bed this morning, comforted to know that Brenda has eaten, is safe, that she had been able to make that choice too. That’s why I do what I do.

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Cookies

NINE

Cindy runs a Community Interest Company with a strap line of: ‘enriching the next generation’. Arterne CIC provides a transformation programme where a team of consultants work with care homes that have been rated as inadequate during their CQC inspections with the aim of turning them around to work towards being outstanding.

“People are my passion,” said Cindy. “I believe in unconditional love and positivity. We all need a little boost at times – people can get caught in a rut and find it difficult to move forward. The same is true of care homes and people that work within them.

“Recently the Arterne team worked in a care home that had received inadequate in nearly all ratings during their CQC inspection which resulted in them being placed in special measures. Cindy thought that Arterne could help. Clearly this situation impacts on the staff and the residents within the home and it’s something that as a team we’re determined to make better.

“Often the most noticeable differences we see are with the residents of a home. When I first met Mark, he didn’t make eye contact, didn’t dress well and grunted responses which no one could understand. Most of the time his tongue hung from his mouth. He had no relationships and didn’t know how to take care of himself – he had very little in his life that gave him meaning.

“The home is a place of support for people who have mental ill health from which they are trying to recover.  Love, honesty and integrity are so important in life and especially when working in care homes with those suffering mental ill health and in need of extra support.  Mark’s life had become very difficult – our ambition in turning the home around was to make life better for him and the other residents living there.

“After a few months of working at the home we started to see changes. Mark managed to make eye contact with others, started to speak with people and achieve the small step of cooking an omelette for the first time. This might seem insignificant to most but we knew for Mark it was a huge milestone and something we were proud to see him achieve.

“Within a year of the Arterne CIC improvement team working with the staff and residents at the care home, Mark was communicating in a very articulate way – he seemed happy joking and enjoying a laugh with other people! One day he explained to me how he used to run a plumbing business and how he used to do banger racing. Mark was a well-travelled man, but for whatever reason, his mental health took a turn, and his life changed.

“Mark wrote to an old friend who had moved to Australia and he began to reconnect with his past. These were massively significant steps. He now goes out shopping, buys clothes and takes pride in his appearance. He has even bought himself a mobile phone.

“This week, the improvement team received a Christmas card from Mark’s Mum. Inside was a small note saying thank you and telling us that Mark seems happy once again. Mark will be spending a few days over Christmas with his family – a first in many years – everyone is looking forward to it.

“During the last few months of working with the home, Mark had a review from the DoLS Assessor. They commented that this was one of the best pieces of positive risk management that they had seen. Recently we received a handwritten letter from Mark which simply said: ‘I am very happy living here and the staff take care of me very well, Mark’. We were so proud when we saw that!

“Most of all, we’re proud of being part of giving Mark some spark back in his life. What other sector can you work in that enables you to touch people’s lives so extraordinarily?”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Football Christmas Decoration

EIGHT

Four years ago Gordon was made redundant from the only job he’d ever had in a local factory. With a family to feed, Gordon began to feel really worried about the future. Then a chance meeting with an old school friend changed everything:

“We were completely skint. I had a couple of pounds in my pocket and I was queueing to buy some bread and butter, thinking how expensive it was and feeling pretty low. I turned around and who should I see, but Rob – a friend I hadn’t seen since leaving school.

“It felt good to catch up. Rob told me all about his work, then he asked what I was doing. My heart sank as I told him my situation. He suggested that maybe I could give care a go, and that the home for adults with learning disabilities where he worked was looking for staff.

“To be honest, I initially thought no chance! I thought it was not very ‘manly’ work… I said to Rob that I would think about it. We exchanged numbers, and he invited me to give him a call and go for a pint, sometime.

“I thought about it for a few days. I needed work but could I really care for people? I hadn’t been particularly good at changing nappies for my own kids.

“I decided to bite the bullet and call Rob. We chatted about the role for ages and I started to feel better about things. Rob called the next day to say I was invited in to meet the manager, have a look around and meet some of the residents and staff.

“It was nothing like I imagined. It’s amazing how what you see on TV affects you. That’s why I wanted to be part of this Advent Calendar – so I could set things straight. The home was lovely, the people living there were really nice, very friendly, although I felt a bit anxious at first! The staff were all great, showed me things and answered my questions. I went home on a high, thinking it was something that I could do, and enjoy.

“I called the manager of the home, and said that I was interested in applying for a role. Soon, I was asked in for an interview, and the rest, as they say, is history!

“I’ve learnt so much, and although I thought I enjoyed my job in the factory, I realise now that this is the job for me. For anyone who has preconceptions about care, I urge you to find out more. Don’t believe everything you see on TV – caring for people is amazing!

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Woman in snow and Christmas lights

SEVEN

Lorraine works in a vital behind-the-scenes role in social care. Previously a carer, a change in personal circumstances left Lorraine thinking she may have to leave the sector until a chance opportunity presented itself.

“I was a Community Carer for six years and I thoroughly enjoyed it. At the beginning of last year I discovered that I had early onset rheumatoid arthritis. It was becoming increasingly difficult to drive and care for people, and I started to feel quite depressed. I explained everything to my manager and told her that I would need to leave. A little while later, my manager called me and explained that Sharron, who coordinated the care calls, was going to be off work for a couple of months. My manager asked me if I would like to give it a try. I was delighted and immediately agreed.

“Within weeks, I was shadowing Sharron’s every move. After seeing what she did I was anxious that I wouldn’t be able to do it. On my first day without Sharron, I was thrown into the deep end. Jane, a fairly new carer was scheduled to support Mrs Jones to make breakfast.

“The phone rang, I answered, it was Jane, she sounded incredibly anxious. ‘Mrs Jones has fallen over, she’s on the floor, she’s bleeding, I don’t know what to do’. Calmly, I reassured Jane and asked her to hang up and to call an ambulance.

“Immediately, I looked at the system, thinking that Jane would need some support, I found two carers locally that I could rearrange so that one could go and meet Jane. Mike was a seasoned member of staff and supremely calm, he rushed over to Mrs Jones’ house to give support.

“Jane called from the hospital later that morning. All was well, although Mrs Jones was quite bruised from her fall. When Jane arrived at the office, I gave her a big hug and a thank you, I explained to her that we all have moments where we’re not sure, but that she had done the very best thing – ask for help!

“At the end of my first day in the driving seat, the manager called me into the office, she gave me a bottle of wine and said well done, not only for dealing with the incident but for how I looked after Jane, I was so proud of myself, I nearly cried!

“For me, it shows how important it is to be honest, upfront and to reach out. It’s only by reaching out you get the support you need. Jane got the support she needed to assist Mrs Jones, and I got the support I needed to remain working in care by doing a different job. Despite the pain I’ve been in, it’s been a wonderful year.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas gifts

SIX

Jake readily confesses that he has the singing voice of a donkey, has two-left-feet and is tone deaf, but to one particular resident, he has the voice of an angel and would win Strictly easily!

“The one thing that I am blessed with is a very high embarrassment threshold. I doubt my Grandad would be impressed – he was a member of a male voice choir and, according to my mam, he was an amazing dancer. I guess I must take after the other side of my family!

“I work in a home for people with dementia. It’s tough work physically and mentally exhausting most of the time. We’ve got a fair few residents that certainly challenge us to find the best ways to work with them. But I love it.

“I know we’re supposed to be professional and treat everyone equally, but I’m human and, if we all admitted it, we probably all have our favourite residents. Mine is Jean. Jean’s in her late 70s, she’s tall, slender and elegant. From the photographs of her when she was younger you would think she was a film star. She is also incredibly down to earth, full of fun, a real spirit and zest for life, despite being forgetful, quite often not knowing where she is, or who any of us are.

“We’ve learnt a great deal about Jean’s early life from her family. We discovered that she was a dance teacher and was actively involved in theatre.

“A little while ago, Jean was quite upset. We never found out why, but she was very tearful. I suggested to Jean that we sit in one of the lounges, have a cup of tea and watch a film. With a cup of tea in hand, Jean decided that she wanted to watch ‘Singing in the Rain’.

“We were about halfway through the film and a small group had gathered to sit with us when, all of a sudden, Jean stood up in front of me and told me that we should dance! Well, like I said, I have two left feet – but I’m not one for being shy, so I got up and Jean took me in her arms and started to waltz – at least I think it was a waltz! I tried my hardest to follow her, but I just couldn’t stop laughing.

“Of course, laughter is infectious and soon Jean and the other residents were laughing at me too. Very soon, we had an audience of the entire home. Jean said we needed to turn the film off and put some music on. One of my colleagues put on a CD of music from bygone years and turned the volume up loud.

“As if my inability to dance wasn’t enough, the residents started singing along and demanded that I join in, ably supported by my colleagues. Thankfully, I knew the words having heard this CD so many times before, and even though I can’t sing I gave it my best!

“That day, we turned a very upset Jean into the happiest woman on the planet. I received a big smile and a ‘thank you’ from her which was simply wonderful.

“And our unique take on Jake Astaire and Jean Rogers didn’t end that day… Jean now gets me up on my feet and singing along at every opportunity she has. I’d like to think that I’m improving, but really, I’m having too much fun to care about my signing.

“It’s moments like this that make me know I have the best job in the world.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas door decoration

FIVE

Yvonne has worked as a carer all her adult life. Having turned 63, it is time to hang up the PPE… or is it?

“Things have changed so much in care. I think back to some of the things that we used to do – things that  were considered okay, and I shudder! Those practices are best left behind. Change can be a challenge, especially for those of us that have worked in this sector for so long. ‘We’ve always done it like this, why do we need to change it now’ is a common phrase.

“When I think back over all of these changes, I really do think they are all mostly for the best. As Care Professionals, we work with people. It’s all about a relationship of trust, dignity and respect, that’s the bottom line.

“Take things like moving people safely. Practices have changed so much, and what’s good for the person is good for me. Yes, it might take a little longer using equipment to move someone, but it’s far more dignified than hoiking them around – gosh, it’s better for our backs too!

“Then there are the standards set by CQC and Skills for Care, the best practice that gets passed around. It’s all about making sure we’re safe to do what we do both for ourselves and for the person we’re caring for. It is a win-win situation, though at busy times it often feels like more pressure.

“I never wanted to go into management, I had the chances, but I always liked working at the front-line. Working with people has been my passion, and it still is. I worked up to being a senior carer and drew the line. Being hands-on with the people we care for and with new staff has been an exciting and stimulating experience over the past few years.

“The great thing for me about working in this environment has been the constant need to learn, to help pass on knowledge and to prove that we know what we’re doing. Where else do you get the opportunity to learn from people who are many years older than you, who have lived the most varied and interesting lives? Or from people younger than your grandchildren who show you the most astounding things with technology.

“So, I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to hang up my PPE! I’m not ready to stop learning, I’m not ready to stop sharing, and I think I’m still very able to prove that I know what I’m doing. Instead of retiring, I’m going to work part-time and drop back from being a senior – that way, I get to spend more time with the people I love at home and still get to spend time with the people I love at work.

“I know my decision is the right one, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what else I learn over the next few years. It’s by learning that we improve ourselves, and by improving ourselves we can do a better job of giving people the best lives possible.”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Lanterns

FOUR

‘I couldn’t do your job’, is a sentence that Mandy hears far more often than she’d like. Mandy has worked as a general care assistant at a children’s hospice for the past five years, a position she feels incredibly privileged to hold:

“I understand why people think it, but I just don’t understand why they have to say it. I try to always treat it as a compliment, although I’m not always sure that it is. I do think my job is hard, and maybe not everyone is cut out for it. Actually, I can think of quite a few people who probably shouldn’t go in for work like this.” Mandy’s laugh is infectious.

“It is easy to feel down. So many things in this world that affect us all, little things like not waking up at the alarm, someone cutting us up in traffic or someone pushing in when we’re queuing. My job gives me some much needed perspective on life!

“I deal with death, pretty much on a daily basis and it’s awful. There are no two ways about it. I cry, a lot – in secret. I have to put on a brave face in public. I have to be supportive. I have to be professional.  It’s not easy. People say you get ‘hardened’ to it, I don’t think you do, you just get better at dealing with the emotions.

“There are two very powerful forces that help me keep going, especially when things feel tough. One of them is my family, I’m blessed to have a very loving family that just know. They understand that at times work will have moved me, that it’s been a difficult day or week. They keep my passion burning, simple acts, like making a lovely dinner, or just giving me that special long hug.

“The other powerful force, and the one that I feel the need to share more about here is my team – my wonderful colleagues. The most brilliant, caring, dedicated, loving bunch of emotional wrecks you could ever meet. Working as a team is so very important, we all have our specific roles, we have a fantastic management team, they’ve made sure we all know what everyone’s job is, and how together we make one experience for the child and their family.

“What we do so well is communicate. We’re open, we’re honest, we’re not afraid to challenge and more importantly, we’re not afraid to be challenged. We talk about these core values at every meeting, they’re part of our DNA.

“When new members of the team join, all of this communication can seem unusual. Generally, people don’t seem to communicate so well, but with guidance and support, everyone soon sees the benefit.

“Communication is the key to everything we do. We leave nothing unsaid, even if we know everyone knows what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. We say it, just to make sure. We can all make mistakes, we’re all human, but if everyone knows what we’re doing it’s like a big safety blanket that’s there to make sure everything goes as smoothly as possible for the children and their families.

“Every single member of the team actively cares about each other. We notice the small things, we notice when defences are becoming depleted or when one of us needs a little break or a pep talk. We notice and we act. We are stronger together, we know that.

“Every night, I wish my job wasn’t needed. I am exceptionally privileged to work with my amazing colleagues. Together we are there for the children, we are there for the families and friends. We are one big family that grows, that faces loss together, that remembers everyone who has touched our lives. We share a deep love of people. This Christmas, we’ll be sharing as much love as we can.

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Toy car delivering a Christmas Tree in the snow.

THREE

What do a tall, well built, 21-year-old rugby player and a busy city hospital have in common? Ben may not look like your average hospital Health Care Assistant, but when he’s not on the rugby pitch or finishing his studies at Uni, you’ll find him at the hospital providing care to patients on the ward:

“I love working as a Healthcare Assistant. Of course, being a student, money is always useful, but it’s great for many other reasons too. When I was younger, my Grandfather had a stroke, my Grandmother had died before I was born, so it was decided that Gramps would come and live with us. It was great having him around, and it taught me how fragile we are as humans and how our lives can change in an instant.

“Gramps needed loads of help, and it seemed perfectly natural to me and my brothers to just help. One of us was always there for him for whatever he needed. So, when I saw an advert at Uni for bank HCAs at the local hospital, I thought I’d give it a go.

“While I should use this as a platform to talk about why the NHS needs more support, I’ll focus on what the frontline staff of the NHS do best. I’ve worked on a few different wards and what I’ve found consistently is that people work so very hard despite how tired, under-supported and overworked they are. No matter how much resources are stretched to threadbare levels, NHS staff do their best to not let this change the quality of their care for patients.

“A few weeks ago, I was working on a ward where one of the patients had dementia. He was, being quite unpleasant to the nurses and some of the other patients. He swore constantly, and despite their professionalism, it was clear that some of the younger nurses felt quite challenged by him.

“One afternoon, I was helping give out lunches, I approached this man with his lunch, and he was quite rude about what was on his plate. Politely, I asked him if he would like something different, to my surprise, he looked me in the eye and said ‘no, thank you, but would you sit down for just a moment?’

“I sat down and saw tears in his eyes. It quickly became clear that Mr Jones had no idea where he was or what was happening to him – he was terrified. Everyone was busy, no one had been able to take a moment to stop and understand. I explained what was happening to Mr Jones. I held his hand and I encouraged him to eat. I had other patients that needed assistance, so I told him I’d be back.

“After assisting the other patients and completing my duties, I asked the lead nurse if I could sit with Mr Jones for a while, explaining my thinking about his anxiety. I sat with Mr Jones talking and trying to make him feel more comfortable in his surroundings.

“I feel like I made a difference. I didn’t work on that ward again – that’s one of the hard things about being on the bank – but hopefully, I made Mr Jones’s stay in hospital that little bit easier for him.

“From doing this job, I’ve got a special Christmas list that I’d like to share, I don’t want for much, but if I could have these, I’d be eternally grateful:

  1. Support and fight for our NHS, we need it more than we will ever realise until it’s too late.
  2. Think about all of the people, like me, that work in care, what we do is so very, very important.
  3. Take time to listen, you could just make the biggest difference to someone’s moment.

“I wish everyone who will be working so hard over Christmas – just like they do every day, the biggest gift-wrapped box of kudos I can find!

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Biscuits

TWO

Bethan tells us that going to work for the first time was something that filled her with trepidation after having a family early in life and being a stay at home mum, yet Bethan feels she has fallen firmly on her feet with ‘the best job ever’:

“I didn’t do that well at school. My husband and I were highschool sweethearts, and we had our first child, Megan, while I was at college. Bryn is a supportive husband and a great dad, so we decided that I would stay home and look after Megan while Bryn went to work. Not long after Megan, we had our son, Joey.

“When Joey was six and settled at school, I decided that I wanted to get a job, I didn’t know what I could do. I thought about cleaning as I needed to be available for the kids after school. Then, a friend of mine told me that the care home she works in was looking for a part-time cook. At first, I thought I had no chance – how could I cook for all of those people?

“My friend explained to me that it was a small home. Nervously, I gave the manager a call, and I was invited in for an interview.

“I had never had an interview before in my life! I’d never even filled in an application form for a job. I thought there would be no chance that I would get the job – but I did!

“The home I work in has six people living there, and there are always at least seven support workers and the manager, so I end up cooking for more than six people every day, and I love it.

“I arrive at work at seven a.m. I’m greeted by the night staff drinking mugs of hot chocolate with one of the residents, George. George likes to get up at six and watch television with a mug of chocolate. When I arrive I always get the biggest smile from him! I go and hang up my coat and put my cooking clothes and apron on then when I get to the kitchen, George is there, waiting for me, smiling.

“It took some time to get used to all the residents. George’s speech isn’t like mine, so at first I felt embarrassed and frustrated that I couldn’t understand him. But George doesn’t give up and now I understand most of what he wants to say.

“It’s a great feeling when you make a connection. I like to think that I’m George’s kitchen assistant now! Once we’ve prepared his breakfast and he’s brought everything back to the sink, he washes his hands ready to make breakfast for his housemates.

“Together we make everything from toast, to a full English. We make cakes, biscuits and all kinds of meals for everyone. I’m really proud of what we achieve, and I know that George is too.

“My manager tells me that George has always liked spending time in the kitchen with the cooks, but I’m the first cook that they have had that fully embraces him, that sees him as an equal and wants him to be a part of cooking. At times it can be a bit difficult – we don’t always get things right or George may want to do things in a way that I don’t think are best, but we always get there in the end!

“I think back to before I started and how nervous I was about going to work and I can’t believe where I am now. I have my dream job, I do something that I enjoy and I do it well. It’s a great feeling knowing that I’m making a difference to George, but it’s an even better feeling knowing that I’ve learnt so much from him.

“This year, I’m working on Christmas day for the first time ever, my manager invites the families of all of the staff who work on the day for Christmas lunch, so my husband and kids will be there too. It’s going to be amazing and I’m confident that together, me and George will cook the best Christmas dinner ever!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

Christmas Star Decoration against fairy lights ONE

Until taking early retirement recently, Edward was a primary school teacher and spent most of his day making learning fun for children under 10. When we chatted with Edward, he reflected on his successful career with tremendous pride and fulfilment, and on how life now is very, very different!

“My wife and I both worked in education and, now that we’re retired, we want for little. We’re healthy, fit and active and we both have so much to give. My wife volunteers with an organisation providing mentoring and support to young adults who have left the care system – it’s a remarkable thing to do.

“A little while ago, I heard about a residential home working with a nursery school. I was blown away! The simplest of ideas often have the most significant impact. I decided that I would approach some local residential homes to see if they could benefit from a volunteer.

“The very first person that I met – the manager of a local residential home – was an astonishing woman. She was keen to hear what I had to had to propose despite being unmistakably busy.

“After my background checks were complete, I joined the team for my first day of induction. The home has a full-time activities co-ordinator, and the rest of the team ensure everyone has access to do whatever they want to enjoy their lives. That’s a tricky thing to manage in a home with just over 30 residents, but the happy atmosphere is striking.

“I’ve been volunteering at the home now for three months. I’m scheduled for two days per week, but quite regularly I’ll be there a few extra hours – I can’t help myself, it’s such a fantastic place to be.

“My positive care story isn’t about me though. It’s about the amazing people I work with. In education, you often meet people wholly dedicated to their work. It is a highly pressured environment, and at times you feel under enormous pressure and scrutiny. The same – perhaps even more so – is true of the environment at the residential home every single day.

“Yet what impresses me most is the fun and passion that the team apply to their jobs all the time. Whether dealing with the sombre moments of a resident’s passing, or the joy of celebrating a birthday, it is done with enormous respect, dignity and love.

“I am proud to have met some of the most incredible people in society through working in care. We must all celebrate them, every day. I wonder how my life would have been different if I’d discovered care earlier. I dedicate my opportunity to write in this Advent Calendar to every one of you!”

#CelebrateCare #CareProfessionals #BeOutsanding #QualityMatters #MerryChristmas

#CelebrateCare – Advent Calendar 2017
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