We receive more than 300 thank-you letters each year from residents’ families. One that really caught our eye recently was from Maureen Jones, whose husband Peter lived at Court Lodge. Maureen shared with us some personal thoughts on what makes a good care home. Below is a summary of what she said.
As Peter’s health deteriorated, we had gone from carers visiting our family home to short-stay respite care and finally the need to consider a long-stay care home. After unsuccessful interviews with the heads of four care homes, we had a visit from Jackie Seeborun, Home Manager at Court Lodge in Lymington.
- Initial interview
Jackie was quite the opposite to the others we spoke to. I offered her a chair or a seat on the sofa but she immediately said: ‘No, I’ll take that stool and sit right next to Peter so I can talk face to face with him’. This was a surprise as my impression of the others was that they had all chosen to sit as far away from him as possible. Jackie conducted the discussion between her and him with me joining in only when necessary. He was the prime person throughout. This was a very important step as it made him feel so much happier. He was not left out and knew he had a part to play.
- Feeling involved
Before we chose Court Lodge, it was becoming clear to me how important it is for relatives to feel involved too. I learned from experience to ask myself: ‘Are they interested in me and what I think, or is it just about admitting Peter?’ Jackie took me in, every bit as much as she did Peter. A good care home should involve both the family and their loved one in the initial admission and the ongoing decisions on care. My daughter and I felt we could discuss anything about Peter’s care with Jackie and her team. We felt involved.
- Role of the manager
A strong and thoughtful manager gives a home its confidence. From the beginning, Jackie said: ‘If you ever have any complaints please bring them to me straight away so that they don’t fester’. When I did discuss something with her, she said: ‘I am so glad you told me. Let’s make it better’. She is very approachable. I knew that she was around and visible, not sitting in her office with the door closed all the time.
- First impressions
My initial impression was that all the staff smiled at you, said ‘Good morning’ and were happy to chat if there was time. They actively welcomed you rather than hiding in corners or flitting away down passages trying to avoid conversation. Everyone was extremely pleasant and you got the feeling it was honest.
On my first visit to see Peter after he moved to Court Lodge, I opened the front door of the home and heard gentle laughter coming from the lounge area. I thought to myself: ‘I’ve never heard that in any other home before. Things will be alright here’. I think people should trust their judgment about the atmosphere of a home. If something feels wrong, it most likely is.
- Choice of room
Peter had a lovely room at Court Lodge, overlooking the garden. This made a big difference to him as he was an outdoor man. Being able to see people walking about and gardeners at work was very comforting. It helped to ensure he didn’t feel isolated or cut off from life.
- Gentle encouragement
I am amazed by the energy and creativity of care home activities organisers. They seem to love their job and that shines out. Peter was happy as he could be, cared for and nursed, but on top of that, he was also able to join in occasional activities, which was excellent. That involvement only came about through gentle, sensitive and appropriate persuasion by the activities organisers.
- Continuing care
All Peter’s carers were excellent professionals. It is a hard job but nothing appeared to be too much trouble for them. The fact that Peter was able to give some rapport back to them is testament to the quality of continuing care they provided. Their expertise, concern and kindness were clear to me and the family. We all felt so grateful to them.
- One team
Peter really loved all the staff, though he had favourites who were given a special, gentle smile. We had a wedding anniversary during Peter’s time at Court Lodge and the catering team laid on a special lunch party for us which was marvellous. They always do a lovely birthday cake for residents too. The same dedication to overall care could be seen not just in Jackie, or the nurses or carers but also the caterers, laundry staff, cleaners and receptionists. I offer them all a big thank you.
Because Court Lodge is such a very well run home, I have recommended it to quite a few people. I think word of mouth is an accurate gauge of the standard of care you can expect. The personal recommendations of those you know and trust are likely to lead you to a good home.