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We couldn’t have asked for a more caring nursing home

Reader story

We’ve heard a great deal about difficulties visiting loved ones in care homes during the pandemic, and even before then it seems it’s as ever the bad experiences that makes the headlines.

A long-time friend of When They Get Older recently had to find a nursing home fast for her mother, and she now wants to balance the scales with a real appreciation of the caring staff they encountered.

We talked to Anita about her experience.

Why did you need to find a nursing home?

Mum was in her late 80s and had always lived independently at home. We could help her do that as she lived literally around the corner from me, and my sister is only half an hour away. But recently we had brought in carers to help morning and evening on some days, just so she wasn’t quite so reliant on us. Then she became quite ill suddenly, and we discovered in hospital that her heart was in a bad way, and there was little they could do to treat her. Mum was moved to the palliative ward, which wasn’t the right place for her because she was still alert but very anxious about what has happening to her. We knew we didn’t have the skills to care for her back home at this stage, so we needed to find a better, livelier place than hospital for her as soon as possible.

Why did you choose the nursing home that you did?

Location played a large part. This was a home that was 10 mins from me and 20 mins from my sister. We had a look round, and it seemed fine, though it is hard to tell on one quick look. Crucially for us, it didn’t have that tell-tale smell that you used to find as soon as you walked in the door of some care homes. We looked at reviews and we asked friends, with varying responses. But in the end, it was our gut feeling, plus the fact that this home had space for her immediately.

Did the transfer go smoothly?

No, that was a bit tricky. There seemed to be a bit of a breakdown in communication between the teams at the hospital and the care home. With Platinum Jubilee weekend coming up, we were a bit concerned that she would be stuck in the hospital bed for the whole of the four-day bank holiday weekend. Happily it all worked out and she moved just in time.

So how was the national celebration weekend for mum?

Brilliant. There was party in the garden with live music, which mum has always loved. We went downstairs with her and we have photos of her looking really happy in a singalong.

What about the general care?

The carers and the nursing staff were absolutely wonderful. Nothing was too much of an effort. They got to know mum really quickly. We even had a couple of the men chanting for Chelsea football team when they came in to see her, as they discovered really quickly that she was a supporter.

How was visiting?

We knew mum didn’t have much time left, and as a close-knit family, we wanted to see as much of her as we could. The home didn’t complain at all about the number of family members that turned up – they would just go and get more chairs! And make more tea.

On mum’s last night my sister and I decided to stay overnight in her room. One of us had the armchair and another took the floor. While we brought in a few things to make ourselves comfortable, the care team managed to rustle up some blankets to help. And in the morning they insisted on bringing us tea and toast, so we didn’t have to leave mum to go out and find breakfast.

Were they supportive at the end?

They really couldn’t have been kinder. When it was time to clear mum’s possessions, we took some straight away and came back later for the rest. By that time the carers had rearranged the room, so it didn’t immediately look like mum’s room without mum. And they’d laid out her belongings for us. No rush – just when we were ready.

On top of that the home was really helpful with contacting the local doctor for the formalities. Mum had had to change GPs when she moved into the home, so we didn’t know anybody, but the home just did what was necessary.

So are we talking a top-of-the-range care home?

Mum wasn’t there long enough to have to consider fees, but this certainly wasn’t one of the most expensive homes in the area. And yet the home was well staffed, with people who cared and had the time to care.

What would be your advice to others to get the best out a care home?

Communicate, and treat the team with respect. We were lucky that we are close by and mum had family visitors every day. That did give us the chance to meet and get to know the care team. And it gave us the opportunity to appreciate how much effort they put in.

The communication needs to be both ways too. We were grateful that the home would call us if mum was feeling anxious, or needed something that we could provide. So they were happy to keep us informed about what was going on. That really did ease the whole experience.

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

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