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A Couple in Care - Ben and Nikki Brown’s story

29/03/2021

This is the first of a series of 'good news' stories that we hope to share over the coming months.

White House Care Home - A Couple in Care - Ben and Kikki Brown's Story

Over the last 12 months or so, social isolation has become the norm for many of us.  As well as looking after our mental health, we have had to find new ways to communicate, stay active and keep positive.

This has been particularly challenging in the care home environment, where residents have had to self-isolate in their room, go for long periods without seeing family members and generally change their daily routine. 

However, one Stockton couple - along with their team - have been ensuring that the care home blues have been completely banished by providing innovative ideas to keep their residents energised, motivated and smiling during the pandemic.

Nikki and Ben Brown from the White House Care Home in Hartburn were determined to do everything they could to ensure that life was as normal as possible for residents and their families, and that any worries were put to bed.

Firstly, the creation of a pioneering Covid safe ‘visiting pod’ allowed residents to chat with family members at a safe distance (via an intercom). This vital safe space has ensured that families could stay connected with those they love throughout 2020. The pod was even used for guest appearances from both Santa Clause and Mike McGrother - of ‘Wildcats of Kilkenny’ fame. (Although we’re not sure who is the most famous)

As well as this, they also ensured that everyone could go to their Christmas party – even those who had to isolate in their rooms!  This was done via the use of two iPads, meaning one resident could talk to another… while in completely different rooms.

Other events have included; a puppy visit by Wag & Co, a Wii sports bowling tournament and a VE Day celebration with vintage singers, outdoor church services and interactive video sessions. (All at a safe and secure distance)

“The residents always say that I have an old soul.” said Nikki.

“That’s because I put myself in their shoes and think about what they want. We also do research, speak to family members about our residents’ interests and talk to those we care for individually about what they want from us.

“We try not to leave any stone unturned when we work on our delivery because we don’t want anyone to miss out. We see the residents as our extended family really.”

As well as building a close connection with those they care for and their families, the couple also ensure that they seek out any training opportunities they can, for both themselves and staff members.

“We want to ensure we deliver the best service possible.” said Ben.

“We have had a lot of training and there’s also been a lot of partnership work with the Education Alliance, Public Health and Stockton Council’s Transformation Team, so we’ve put a lot of effort in behind the scenes to ensure we have all the tools needed to be successful.”

The couple have had a long-standing affiliation with the White House. Nikki started working there as a Healthcare Assistant over 20 years ago, having been introduced to the sector during a brief secondment period while at secondary school.  Fast forward to today, and her determination and love for the role has seen her advance to become the care homes Manager.

Ben’s journey began at entry level. First starting out as the care home’s cleaner, then as its main activities co-ordinator. He is now a Deputy Manager working alongside Nikki.

Recent years has also seen them awarded with an excellent rating from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and they are one of only two care homes in the area with that accolade.  The couple say that the rating is testament to each and every member of staff they work with.

“We’re constantly improving as a team. We have a 36 week ‘Affina Team Journey’ training module coming up for all of our staff, which will help them find out more about themselves. We’ll then work with them to hone in on these strengths to help develop the care home even further.”  said Nikki.

“The staff make it a family environment as well. Its more of a family hub than a care home, and that’s important.”

They have also noticed how staff have stepped up to the plate and gone the extra mile during the pandemic. Whether that be with routine tasks, activities, learning opportunities or general care and maintenance.

“A prime example of the outstanding work being done in our care home comes from our current Activities Manager Julie Welford.” said Ben.

“She is always thinking about new events and how we can accommodate all of our residents so they can take part.

“You’d think it would be tricky in the circumstances, but she’s taken the bull by the horns and produced some outstanding ideas.”

Another example of this trailblazing work is that which has been carried out by Healthcare Assistant Lucy Williamson.  

“Lucy initially joined us on an apprenticeship basis.” said Nikki.

“To see someone come on leaps and bounds like she has is absolutely incredible. She’s advanced so quickly, so it’s been a god send in the circumstances.

“She’s now an integral part of the team and we always value her input.”

Despite this great work, The White House and many other care homes across the country have had to deal with extremely difficult situations over the last 12 months, much like the NHS.

When talking about the future and how care homes can keep fighting the good fight in a post-Covid world, they said; “It will always be difficult to some degree, but the reality is that people need to be in a naturally caring environment that’s more suited to them. They may need round the clock care, household aids (like hand bars for the shower), or they may be severely ill and need specialist our care.

“If you have any concerns though, come in and speak to our staff and have a cuppa. They can tell you what they do on a day-to-day basis and how they will cater for your loved one in the best way possible.  

“We’ll always keep working to ensure we give residents exactly what they want.”

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