YY Heart & Mind

My journey to becoming a care-home manager

This is a personal story, my journey to becoming a care-home manager.

My lovely mother passed away 10 years ago, after a seven-year illness that caused a slow decline in her wellbeing. During this time, my father, I and my teenage daughters took the decision as a family to look after her at home. My father, who was her main carer, took early retirement to do this. I at the time was working full time as a nurse for the NHS. My daughters were still at school.

When she passed away we were of course very sad. Knowing that she was entering into the end of life stage didn’t cushion the impact of her death. We were lucky insomuch as she passed away very peacefully at home with my father and me with her. That day we didn’t know it was going to be her last: we knew she had a chest infection, but we had planned on going to Newbury races and she was adamant that she wanted to go. She loved looking at the horses before they raced and choosing which one she thought would win. After a couple of hours she told us she had had enough and wanted to go home, so we did. I had prepared Thai prawn soup and opened a bottle of Sancerre. Mummy ate very little and had a sip or two of wine. She was sleepy and we let her rest. before long it became apparent to us that she was dying. We called the out-of-hours doctor just to say they should expect a call from us fairly soon to notify them that she has passed away. We did not want her to go into hospital.

So – you may well be wondering what my story has to do with becoming a care-home manager.

After the funeral, and  several rum and cokes, I found myself reflecting. For the first time, I realised the enormity of the situation we had been dealing with, how much time, effort and planning it had taken to ensure her life had remained good despite her illness and increasing frailty. It was also important to us that she was able to live her life according to her own wishes. On occasions, for instance, we had to advocate when specialist nurses wanted to insert a feeding tube, despite her saying she didn’t want it.

I sat there and a thought came into my head. I couldn’t shake it off. What about those families who for whatever reason weren’t able to do what we did? Those families who cannot stop working, those families who are scattered across the country, or even the world? It was at that moment I knew I needed to so something to help. But what? I wanted to help the families, to support them when making the hard decision that their loved one needed to go into a care home.

So that’s what it did. I left the NHS and became a care-home manager. I learned all the aspects of the role and have worked for some big names in healthcare. I am now so privileged to work for The Brendoncare Foundation at Froxfield. I have found what I have been searching for. I do not need to compromise my core values as they are in alignment with Brendoncare’s. I have the time to make a difference to the families from the first contact they have with the home, through organising the transition from home to care home for the residents. As importantly, I am able to keep in communication with the families and able to shape and share my vision of how the care home can evolve.

This vision is, of course, ever-changing. As one thing is accomplished ones attention is immediately taken up with the next. My current plan, for instance is to offer day care, where the family can drop off their loved one for the day so they can continue to work. And, once that’s in place, there’ll be something else…

Thank you for taking the time to read this personal story.

Karen James Care Home Manager for Brendoncare Froxfield.

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