Saturday, 17 October 2015

5 ways to avoid the perfect care home being a recipe for disaster!

We thought the first care home we found for Nan was absolutely perfect. It was a second home from home, a large double fronted end terrace, where the aroma of lamb dinners whafted through the door as you walked in. It was immaculately clean, the staff were friendly and there was such a calmness to it. That was, until Gladys arrived. You see, she was in the midst of her 'argumentative phase', although if you ask my Mum Lyn, she'd have told you it was a phase she'd been in for 80 odd years!

Many families I deal with, just like us find this phase the hardest to cope with. It's the one where an individual will use every physical and verbal power that they have left, to tell you that they are frustrated and unhappy. Although they don't know exactly where they do want to be, they know it isn't here. This is the point Nan was at, after booking her into what we thought, was the most perfect home for her. How wrong we were.

Looking back, they key is right there in that sentence: "what we thought". It was perfect for us but Nan had other ideas. Within the first week, she had literally shook the front door off its hinges and walked across one of Manchester's busiest roads, in her nightie and scarf and walked into the bank asking politely for her money. Luckily for us, the banking staff were wonderful. They made her a cup of tea and called the police, who very quickly matched her up with the frantic care home staff that were walking the streets looking for her.  The home was far from perfect for Nan, as it couldn't keep her safe.

These next five points are what we've learned over the years and hopefully will help you choose the right care home for your loved one:

1) Location, Location, Location

The biggest mistake that can often be made is the location of the care home. If your relative needs care and they have always lived in the countryside, where it's quite and they can hear the birds & see the trees change colour over the seasons - whatever you do, don't put them in a busy care home, with it's own cafe, nestling in a suburban area! No matter how lovely it would be for you all to sit down in the cafe with a Latte. Think how it would be for them to live there and what they would miss.

2) Losing my Religion

"88% of the UK population aged 65 state their religion as Christian" [source: Age UK Later Life in the United Kingdom] To so many of our clients, their faith is very important to them and always has been. Why should this be any different just because they need care or have been diagnosed with dementia. On many occasions we have seen people who may not remember their own relatives names, come to life in church and sing beautifully to every hymm, not missing out one word.  Faith gives people familiarity and comfort - no matter what your church, mosque or temple looks like.

If the care home you have found ticks every box except the religious one, then arrange with the family or an external care agency to take your relative to a regular service, if possible.

3) Safety First

We know from first hand experience how important it is to keep our loved ones safe in their most frustrated hours. When looking around a care home, ask them how they deal with unsettled residents and what their security measures are for keeping residents who wander safe from harm.

Ask them how they deal with erratic residents who may become violent.  Whether or not your relative falls into this category, you need to know, incase they could be unwitting victims of unintended violence.

4) Girls just want to have fun, but so do the Guys!!

The latest statistics from Age UK say that there are almost three women to every man who lives in care. This is plain to see from the number of bingo nights and hairdressing salons I see in care homes these days. Which is great if you're a woman! Spare a thought if you are one of the hundreds of families looking for a care home for a relative who is a man! What is there for him to do?

We know of a care home near to us that has an old Morris Minor that encourages its gents to tinker to their hearts content and are driven to the pub on a Saturday to watch their favourite football team play. Hobbies do matter so make sure you ask what there is for the men to do. Boredom can lead to frustration which in turn, can turn to problematic behaviour, so don't be afraid to ask about events and activities.

5) Food Glorious Food! 

As much as my generation loves variety and food from all over the world, neither of my grand-parents shared this enthusiasm and hated garlic with a passion. Don't forget to take into account what food is on offer at your care home of choice. A number of care homes I've been to, invite the families to join them for lunch so they can sample the food themselves and see how everyone is treated first hand.

If your relative is a fussy eater and likes only plain traditional food, then ask the care home if they can make sure this is known, as it can cause upset at meal times if they get it wrong. Something as simple as knowing that someone likes toast in the morning and not cereal, (like my lovely grand-dad) can make the world of difference.

If your relative has always liked a brandy before bed, or a gin & tonic at meal times, make sure that the care home allows alcohol and will allow it's consumption, in moderation of course.

I hope these tips have helped and by all means, if you have any others that can add to the list, please add them to the comments below and post a link to your blog - we'll make sure to share it!

About Liz Faye

Liz Faye is the Founder and Head of Care Services at Carepal Assist Limited
for further details go to:
or call on 0800 6891000

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Five Point Plan for Care!

Having been involved in the care sector for over 10 years and financial services sector for nearly 30 years, I've seen first hand the actions that work and more importantly, the actions that don't work for families caught in the care maze for the first time.

Based on this experience, here are my top 5 recommendations if your loved one needs care:

1) Keep talking! That means you need to talk to family members about what is going on but more importantly, to the person at the centre of the care need. Whether or not they have a form of dementia, talk to them to tell them what's going on. Include them as much as possible and help to ease their fears about the changes. 

2) Keep smiling! One of the best and most useful things I have learned is "a smile is universal". It is one of the expressions that human's possess that helps put people at their ease and quickly. As 70% of all communication is NON verbal, you need to make sure that your expression is a positive one. By smiling when entering a care home or prior to talking to a person with dementia, you can immediately put the person at their ease. This can make for a much better, more positive conversation or visit so don't forget to SMILE! 

3) Get Organised! You are going to be asked a lot of questions and often, the same questions over and over, as you work through the different agencies involved, Pension Service, NHS, Care Home, Bank, Care Adviser (Yes, we need answers too!). You will need to be organised and have information to hand. Buy two leaver arch files and a set of dividers and get busy! One should be for Property and the other for Health. (This will help a lot with point 4).

4) Get Legal! The agencies mentioned above are unlikely to speak to you unless you have some form of legal authority from the person who needs care. This can be via a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) of which there are two types. Let me be clear on this.......get BOTH the Property & Affairs AND the Health & Welfare LPA. If you only get one, you can bet it's the other one you'll need! These powers can only be given to you whilst the person has the mental capacity to understand the powers they are giving you. It is always better to get the legal paperwork in place as soon as possible and there is no such thing as too early, so make this step a priority and when you become an attorney, keep good records, as per point 3 above.

5) Start counting! Understanding the finances of the person needing care is a vital point to tackle. Again, make sure you involve the person as much as possible as they will undoubtedly be able to offer valuable insight into their affairs. You will need to know things such as whether they make regular gifts to charities, do they own 100% of their property (sometimes a surviving spouse only owns a percentage of their property, with a relative or trust sharing ownership). Understanding the expenses/purchases that are important to the person is vital, be it a certain talcum powder, brand of whiskey, magazine. (see the earlier blog below "what's my line" for further explanation). These familiar items, tastes, smells, textures really do help with keeping people calm in stressful situations.

Hopefully these pointers will help you begin your care journey. For everything else, you can give us a call!

Liz Faye is the Founder and Head of Care Services at Carepal Assist Limited
for further details go to: or call on 0800 6891000

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Walk a mile in my shoes...

I've met hundreds of people with dementia since we started on our own care journey in 2004 and each person I've met has taught me something new or interesting either about the way they've had to change the way they communicate or shown me how to improve my own communication skills.

I have always tried to smile and be open with each person I've met and have sometimes been rewarded by a smile returned or a hand squeezed.  On a number of occasions, I was unable to even make eye contact, as the individual was so encased within their own world.  As empathetic as I try to be and as hard as I try to imagine, I had no idea what the world looks like or how it fees to them.

With my own Nan, Gladys, when she would loop her sentences or repeat the same names over and over, I knew who she was talking about and could add context to the conversation. Having been close to her all my life and spoken to her about her vast family over the years, even though "Aunty Lizzie" and "Mrs Payton" died many many years earlier, through her previous stories about them, they lived on in our conversations and in Nan's world.

It's always been different with my clients - as much as I've tried to help, you can't hope to have the same impact or relationship in a couple of meetings.  I've often come away longing to find something that I could leave with the families to give them even a bit of what I had with Nan.

And then came along this book, "Elizabeth is Missing" by Emma Healey.

The blurb on the back reads:

"Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Sometimes her home is unrecognisable - or her daughter Helen, seems a total stranger. 

But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud's damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.  Everyone except Maud..."

This book took me on a journey into the mind of someone with dementia and beautifully and painfully illustrates the impact this disease has on the persons own perception as well as how it affects her relationship with family and friends.

Written from Maud's perspective, the insight is invaluable and I will be recommending it to everyone I come across and each family meeting I go to.  I'll tell them all - everyone who has a loved one with dementia should read this book - it is the nearest you'll ever get to walking a mile in their shoes.

About Liz Faye

Liz Faye is the Founder and Head of Care Services at Carepal Assist Limited
for further details go to:
or call on 0800 6891000

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