Kaz Williams’ dad, Jim Simnett, has lived with us for 18 months, while Wendy Burton’s husband, Ian, moved into the home’s Churnet Lodge household four years ago because of his young onset dementia.
“Dad really settled into Barrowhill Hall after we tried a couple of places nearer to home,” said Kaz, who lives in Stapenhill in Burton on Trent.
“He’s very happy here. He loves to sit in the lounge in front of the fireplace and put his feet up.
“I can’t fault the staff. They are doing a brilliant job. I’d love to be able to touch him and hug him but I know that’s not possible at the moment.”
Kaz, her two sisters and her mum, used to visit two or three times a week. Their children and Jim’s grandchildren did, too.
They now visit weekly at the window or, when it’s permitted, in a chalet that’s been installed in the garden. This is where families can sit with their loved ones at a safe distance and wearing masks.
“We’re not sure how much he realises what’s going on,” said Kaz, “but the first time I saw him in the family chalet, he said to me, “Where have you been?” That’s the most he’s said to me in ages!”
Reassuring care offers Wendy a chance to rest
Wendy used to regularly make a 42-mile round trip from her home in Derbyshire to visit husband, Ian. Much as she misses him, the lockdown has been a chance for her to have a break.
“The whole situation has only been concerning in that it’s out of my control. But, I feel really confident in him being at Churnet Lodge,” she said.
“I know I can call at any time to see how he is and we get weekly updates every Wednesday. Our daughters and I went to see him a while ago in the chalet. Although we were wearing masks, he knew who we were, even though he can’t speak to us anymore.
“He put our coffee cups together, which was really romantic, and he sat with us for maybe half an hour. He usually wants to walk all the time. He looked so well, it was wonderful to see him.”
Our families have access to a private Facebook group where staff can share photos and information. Home manager, Matthew Whitfield, holds monthly meetings for families via Zoom so they can share any questions or concerns.
“I’m always available at the end of the phone should a family member want to speak to me,” he said.
“We keep them in touch with their loved ones as much as possible. We know it’s not the same as being able to hold their hand. Their patience and understanding has been amazing and we would like to thank them for that.”
Recent research suggests confidence among the public to move a relative into residential care has fallen during the pandemic. Around a third of respondents are now less likely to seek a place for their loved one.
Confident to come into care
Sharon Farnell’s mum, Eileen, has lived at Barrowhill Hall for just over a year. She said people should have confidence in choosing to move a relative in.
“I would like to be able to see Mum more but I know the staff are trying to keep her and all the other residents safe.
“I’ve recommended Barrowhill Hall to a number of friends,” she said. “They are getting to a point where their relative needs care and I don’t want them to be put off by the pandemic.”
“It was a wonderful day of great local people and medieval revelry!” said Charles, who has valuation and auction rooms in Etwall in Derbyshire, London and an auction showroom at Bishton Hall near Stafford.
“In my world of antiques, Barrowhill Hall hits the heights, it’s a wonderful listed building.
“We had a great day celebrating the home’s history and its success.”
It was a return to the site for Charles, who opened Churnet Lodge three years ago.
“It was wonderful to see Charles here again,” said home manager, Matthew Whitfield.
“He brings such energy and everyone loved meeting him because of his warmth and his genuine interest in them and their items.
“It’s also great to open our doors to the community – and for me to get cooking on the barbecue!”
Our friend Anna Milton Lewis has completed an 89 mile walk in memory of her dad.
Douglas, who spent 18 months living with us, loved the countryside of Staffordshire and Derbyshire. He spent many happy years in the area, exploring with his wife, Mary.
Douglas passed away at the age of 89 in February of this year.
Anna planned the walk to raise £890 for The Alzheimer’s Society and to revisit the local spots her dad loved so much.
“As a young couple, Dad and Mum used to cycle all over,” remembered Anna. “He found this area very beautiful and has such lovely memories of particularly Dimmingsdale and Alton where he lived for a while.
“I wanted this walk to connect the places in which he lived, loved, laughed and ultimately died. I followed memories and stories told before vascular dementia took its toll.”
Anna’s first stop was at Barrowhill Hall, 15 miles into her walk. It was wonderful to see her and offer her a well-earned rest before she set off again.
“He loved the view from the home,” said Anna. “He would sit with his binoculars and watch the birds, animals and admire the countryside.”
Anna’s route then took her through Alton, Oakamoor, Waterhouses, Bakewell, Chatsworth, Matlock and Carsington.
She completed her walk at the top of Thorpe Cloud with her mother and members of her family down below at Dovedale.
“I then decided to walk home from Dovedale as a personal challenge for myself,” said Anna. “This was very very hard going (23miles!) but I walked in my kitchen door 120 miles after I had left it!”
She smashed her fundraising target by raising almost £2,500.
“My father loved being out in the countryside. My hope is the money I raise will help people like him to continue to enjoy the benefits of the wonderful outdoors, where lost memories don’t matter because the distractions of the ‘here and now’ are just too great.”
Staff have shared their love of the care profession as they celebrate a combined total of more than 60 years’ service.
Five of our 78 strong team at Barrowhill Hall have worked here for more than 10 years, with housekeeper Christine Rigby chalking up 18 years of dedication and loyalty.
We are bucking the national trend which has seen care homes struggle to recruit and retain staff.
“I started in the laundry team here in 2001 after I was made redundant from Staffordshire Tableware,” remembered Christine.
“The management joked that I was ‘too chatty’ to work in laundry – they saw it as a talent that should be used to the benefit of the residents – so I became a cleaner where I could have more contact with the people living here.
“I’ve since taken qualifications in care and as head of housekeeping I know all the residents. You’ll often find me having a dance with someone when a singer is in, or stopping for a chat. I just love coming every day.”
Senior night care assistant, Sheila Thornley, have reached her 15th anniversary with us and senior care assistant, Andrew Docherty, has made 12 years.
“Care started out as a job for me but it’s become a career,” said Andrew. “I’ve had the opportunity to progress since I’ve been here, and that’s ongoing.
“It’s rewarding, the residents always make my day, and it’s a beautiful place to work – nothing compares to the view from up here!”
Head of Laundry, Rosie Naylor, is close behind them with 11 years’ service as is Christine’s daughter, Lucy Dale, a cleaner.
More than 10% of the staff at Barrowhill Hall have worked at the home for five years or more.
“We are extremely proud of our team and their dedication,” said Dion Meechan, Director of MOP Healthcare which owns Barrowhill Hall.
“The staff turnover rate for the adult residential care sector currently stands at around 27% so to be celebrating 13% of our staff being here for more than five years is quite something.
“We offer training and development opportunities to all of our staff, and everyone has a role in our residents’ care whether they work in the kitchens or as a registered nurse.”
The home also recognises effort and achievements in monthly staff awards.
“We hope those things help to make this a great place to work,” said Ashley, “but we also have a beautiful grade II listed home, as well as a modern unit for those in the earlier stages of dementia. And we have the best view in Staffordshire.”
“It’s never boring here, every day is different,” said Christine. “I’m part of people’s lives and I love it. I plan to stay – I’ve already picked out my room!”