By Gail Godson, director of Home Instead Senior Care West Lancashire and Chorley
As a former head of nursing I’ve experienced poor care agency visits first-hand and, over the years, had to pick up where they failed to ensure even the basics of care were given. So when my husband Robert and I decided to set up our own home care service a few years ago, we wanted to use a care model that had quality and dignity as its starting point.
We looked at various care models and found that the philosophy of Home Instead Senior Care UK – an independent home care provider that supports a network of locally run services across the country – was the perfect fit for us. Services in the network offered care visits of a minimum of one hour and recognised that companionship was just as important as personal care. It was exactly the philosophy, Robert and I aspired to so we joined Home Instead’s network, covering West Lancashire and Chorley.
We set up our office in 2012. Three years on our service has just been rated by the Care Quality Commission as one of two ‘outstanding’ home care services identified in the first round of inspections under the regulator’s new framework.
Identifying and supporting staff
Our staff, known as CAREGivers, have been key to this success. When we recruit, compassion and empathy are the two key qualities we look for. We believe these attributes are what make for outstanding care standards on a day-to-day basis. We don’t necessarily look for previous care experience, we provide training that complements our vision of care. It’s an alignment with Home Instead’s values that we look for.
From day one, our staff are supported with a thorough induction process, continuous training plans as well as ad-hoc additional sessions that may stem from a change in a client’s care requirement.
CQC inspectors singled out our approach to induction and training for praise. I’m particularly passionate about the delivery of personal care. This is one of the most intimate parts of a care worker’s role and it’s essential to undergo thorough training to understand how to correctly wash, dry, move and handle adults and older people to maintain their respect and dignity. That’s a fundamental standard of care that I was passionate about ensuring, so much so, that I now deliver induction training to our new starters.
The importance of nutrition
The CQC also highlighted our approach to nutrition. We have a weekly meeting with clients to plan meals for the week ahead. This ensures they continue to eat the foods they enjoy and have the right balance of proteins and fresh produce.
The planner doesn’t stop there, we also monitor whether a client has eaten all/part of/or left the meal. This means we can assess appetite, adjust the food plan around the meals that were savoured, or consider other actions that might be required to care for a client’s diet and health in turn.
I also introduced a bespoke personal care activity chart for clients too. It tracks mobility, diet, hydration and skin integrity. We recognise that changes in any of these elements can affect our clients’ overall wellbeing, we need to be able to recognise changes, no matter how small, to provide a genuinely holistic home care service.
Communication is key
Communication is a lynchpin to outstanding care, with our staff, clients and their families in turn. We have an ‘open door culture’ with our team. We encourage them to come to Robert and I with comments and suggestions for improvements, that we will listen and make great ideas reality.
We know our clients’ families value real time updates too. We email, text or call, whatever communication channel their preference, to keep them appraised. That gives them peace of mind that their family member’s care is in trusted hands.
The family of our very first client, Grace, who did sadly pass away, got in touch to congratulate us on the CQC rating to say it was brilliant news and well deserved. That was an equally proud milestone in our journey. Home Instead’s ethos left a legacy with the family, a positive memory of her care provision, to me that represents ‘outstanding’ at another level entirely.
Gail Godson is the director of Home Instead Senior Care West Lancashire and Chorley, part of Home Instead Senior Care UK.