I am proud to say that at our care home Worcester, we established and successfully
run on a regular basis, independent family meetings that serve to provide support and information for the families of our residents.
This forum is totally independent to the home and it was a particular passion of mine to get it set up.
But, it took quite some time to do so.
The reason? Because I wanted them to be run not just by an independent outsider but by someone with direct experience of having a family member in a care home setting.
Indeed, I hadn’t ruled out that the person I was looking for may well still have had a family member in a care home.
I was completely aware that taking on the role as our family meetings chair would mean extra responsibility and at the same time acknowledge any emotional aspects or considerations that person may be dealing with.
So, I had to be patient and wait until the time was right for perfect person to take the reigns of our Worcester care home family meetings.
I persevered as I felt the meetings would be more successful if they were chaired by someone who a) had direct experience and understanding of a relative in a care home situation and b) was also a neutral non-staff person.
I wanted the chair to not just empathise but really understand the complex emotional needs of the family members of the residents at our Worcester care home.
And Deborah Dawson, who has been chairing for several years now, was certainly worth the wait.
Deborah’s involvement with our care home began about ten years ago when her dad began to show signs of vascular dementia. She notes, it was a:
“Difficult, emotional and terrible time for Mum and myself, also my husband and four children. It was bewildering and extremely upsetting to witness someone you love descend into a person we didn't know, with occasional glimpses of the lovely man he was, and especially hard for my Mum who had been married to him for over sixty years.”
For a long time, her dad was cared for at home by her mother. But eventually, after an increasing number of falls due to symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, this was no longer appropriate. Following a considerable deterioration, three days before Christmas 2007, Deborah’s dad was given a couple of weeks to live by specialists.
“He went to Stanfield for palliative care and due to his own willpower and determination, our constant attention (particularly my Mother who was there all day, every day, also well looked after [by the Stanfield team]) and the excellent care given by the staff at Stanfield, he managed to live for another seven years.”
It was during this time that I approached her about running a family meeting and she agreed.
I’m delighted to say that the family meetings are a part of our care mix that has grown from just a few attendees in the early days to now include representatives from a lot of family members.
At them, everyone can contribute without any names recorded in the minutes and we encourage participants to talk freely about anything that is pertinent to them.
The agenda usually includes food and beverages, entertainment, GP visits, medical issues, rooms, staffing etc and sometimes we have speakers. Such as a solicitor to talk to us about power of attorney, wills and probate.
Ultimately, the purpose of our Worcester care home family meetings are to provide a space to discuss freely anything of concern - whether directly related to the home or not.
What are the benefits of the family meetings?
The family meeting is a great way of sharing views, solving problems, even laughing together and exchanging ideas. Someone might say "this is such a small, petty worry, I hardly like to mention it..." but then often others will have the same concerns and are pleased it is brought up.
As Director of our Worcester care home, myself and Pat (Stanfield Nursing Home’s Matron/Manager), like to know people's views and encourage feedback. If we are unaware, nothing can be resolved.
The word home in our name means exactly that. We are interested in continually improving, wherever we can, every aspect of the care we provide. By completely engaging with our residents, their families and each other it helps to achieve this goal
As Deborah comments:
“Instead of having snatched conversations in corridors, everyone can share ideas and Richard can respond. Sometimes there are reasons for things being done in a certain way which relatives need to know too. Communication is key in any organisation.
The meetings provide a platform as a sounding board and a sociable way of meeting other family members in a convivial setting over tea and cakes, supporting each other. The meetings are held in an informal setting in the dining room for Stanfield’s residents’ family and friends. We advertise meeting with posters on the front door and entrance hall and emails are sent out. Inevitably there are new faces as residents pass away, with different concerns and input.
On a personal level, I am glad to be of any service to Richard and his team, as my Dad was shown so much kindness during his final years at Stanfield. Some feel they can't return when they lose a loved one, but it keeps me and Mum attached to the home, where we still feel close to Dad.”
I’m happy to say that the Stanfield family meetings have become an invaluable source of emotional support, since each person can relate because of similar experiences.
When a family member goes into a care home setting, I know, as do all of my staff, that it is not just the person in question who is affected.
Stanfield’s residents are always our number one priority. But, as a responsible care home Director, I wanted to make sure we provided support to their families too.
Being an independent care home meant we were able to initiate something that would enable exactly that.
It was a passion and drive to support our Worcester care home residents’ families which bought the family meetings forum about. I am so proud of the supportive environment that has been created here by all involved. The value of this as a self-nurturing therapy is immeasurable.
The work by everyone involved in the family meetings is a real credit to them and reflects the philosophy of care we deliver at Stanfield.
If you’d like to learn more about our family support groups or to enquire about care at Stanfield, whether for yourself or a loved one, please call us on 01905 420 459.
Alternatively, you are very welcome to arrange to come and have a look around our home and grounds.