Great British Care Awards finalist Jacqueline Edwards talks about her fast and somewhat bumpy journey to running a care home, working in partnership with local health teams and her mission to raise standards.
On 31st December 2000, I walked away from my career in interior design into a very uncertain future.
My journey took me to University to study nursing. Being the ‘new girl’ again at 34 was a humbling experience but I grew in experience as the years passed. My new career kept me busy and happy for many years, until I married in 2014. and I changed lanes again.
So, I became the Registered Manger of my own care home, a dream come true. But the responsibility weighed heavily on my shoulders. On my first morning in charge, a tiny elderly lady with tight white curls backed by two larger ladies with identical dark bobs cornered me.
“Better have,” echoed the two ladies eyeing me coldly.
I felt totally out of my depth. I didn’t know the staff or the residents, there was always someone or other calling in sick and there were constant repairs needed for the neglected building. I scribbled ‘Ginger Nuts’ on my ever-growing list and tried to figure out where to begin.
Even though I had a background in nursing, I felt completely overwhelmed by the switch to the social care environment. The outgoing management had left everything in a mess. The Policies and Procedures manual was hopelessly out of date, there hadn’t been a fire drill in living memory and the staff training programme consisted of videos showing patients smoking in bed. I had to learn and learn fast.
I moved into the Care Home with my family. I worked every shift alongside the staff and even cooked the Sunday Lunch so I could see the problems first hand. There was no vibrancy at all, and this showed itself in the activities programme. In fact, there were no activities at all, just a jumble of battered board games in a dusty corner.
When designing a completely new programme, I came up against resistance, but I continued to push on. One by one, the staff began to see the positive effects. This meant I could turn my attention elsewhere.
The current training programme was woefully inadequate. But I knew where to find some of the best training this country had to offer.
I used my contacts at the local District Hospital to place some of my staff on the NHS basic training programme there. The staff loved coming to the hospital and they felt invested in bringing change back home.
The academy offered us more places on the next training cycle and soon, all our staff were trained to the excellent NHS standards.
I saw a real way to raise the standards of local care and helped roll the programme out to the other local care homes so their staff could access the best training too. This initiative is still running today with increasing success.
While liaising with the training academy, I also networked with other specialisations at the hospital, including the FOPAS (Frail Elderly Persons Assessment Service). Their consultant is passionate about elderly care and came to Compton View for a meeting about how to improve pre-hospital care.
We brainstormed many idea’s that day, and links were created between ourselves and the FOPAS team. As a result, they now come out to our Care Home regularly to assess residents at risk and treat them in the community, preventing admissions. This service has also been offered to local care homes and the response has been fantastic.
It was around this time that I undertook my Nurse Prescribing Qualification, which would allow me to take a greater role in the medications management of Compton View and provide us with an extra layer of audit and safety. This allows us to forge better links with our supporting services such as outpatients and GP practices and relieves some of the pressure on these overburdened teams. This fledgling role is still growing, and I am proud to be a pioneer.
At election time, I contacted all the politicians standing for election and invited them to come and pitch for our residents’ vote. It was an afternoon of intelligent debate. It angered me to see how this community of elderly people had been ignored in local politics.
I wrote to local MP’s stating my concerns for the future of social care, the issues we faced as managers and providers and highlighted the abysmally poor treatment of the elderly in our society. This led to an invitation to write an article for The Parliamentary Review’ on current issues facing the elderly today. And in September 2019, my husband and I travelled to the House of Lords to share our views with other industry leaders and interested political parties.
Whether anything changes as a result or not, we will continue to speak out for those we represent. The elderly community are still relevant, and they deserve to be heard. We will speak loudly, and we will not go away until elder issues are at the top of the political agenda.
I am proud of all I achieved in my first year as Manager of Compton View Residential Care Home. I am intensely proud of the valuable team I have around me and, at the heart of it all, the elderly community that we are proud to serve.
I am also proud to announce that we have never run out of ginger nuts.