“Princethorpe Court 4”

For earlier stories on this subject, click on   “PRINCETHORPE COURT STORY”   in the TAG CLOUD.

The Staff Support Team

From the very outset of developing our new concept, it was not just about bricks and mortar, it was about creating a more fulfilling life for residents.   A life that was able to reach beyond the tasks of daily living  and lift residents above their concerns about increasing frailty.   That said, it was also about maintaining and promoting their independence, by empowering them to build on their valuable skills and considerable life experience.

In other housing and care models, the care element creates dependence and communal living can reinforce the negative images of getting old.   We wanted to reverse that thinking and create positive opportunities for ageing, with support to overcome increasing frailty.

To do this we needed a special staff team, who aspired to do much more than offer comfort and care.   Our first Princethorpe Court Manager was an inspired and inspirational appointment.   Sister Anne Miller was a Franciscan Nun ,with a background of working in the third world.   She did not have the obvious recent experience in care management, we had set out to look for.   I was one of the interview panel and I have to admit before I met her I was very apprehensive.   My Welsh Chapel upbringing made me very nervous about having an overly pious scheme.   I think I expected Anne to come to the interview in a habit and be rather timorous.   I could not have been more wrong.  There was no habit, just a cross on a necklace and timid she was not !   She was very self-assured.   Obviously compassionate about the elderly and quite a feisty lady.   She even argued with me, which was a dangerous step in a job interview, but her conviction ( not the CRB type 🙂 ) made a lasting impression on me.   I still was not 100% sure, but Liz Taylor argued very strongly in favour of Anne, and that swung the day.

We never had reason to regret the decision.  Anne proved to be an exceptional manager who helped improve our vision beyond measure.   She built a strong staff team around her and helped them to understand the difference between the care background most of them had come from, and the supportive environment we wished to create.   We didn’t rush in and do things for people, we wanted to help and encourage them to do things for themselves.   It is about restoring confidence to people.   This takes time and patience, which can easily be squeezed out of a hard pressed staff schedule.   The result is that care hastily delivered can often lead to greater dependency.   This lesson has certainly been lost in the modern-day express style speedy boarding NHS.   It was also seldom seen in minimum staff levelled residential care, where high staff turnover and frequent use of agency staff meant there was little time to really get to know residents’ individual needs.

At Princethorpe Court, Anne’s team developed support plans which embraced the whole of a residents’ life, not just their immediate care needs.   Later this became known as a “Book of Life” and was a written and photographic record of a resident’s past life and future ambitions.

It was testament to Anne Miller’s mentoring skills that her two senior staff, Mary Saint and Ginny Larkin, both went on to become managers of their own schemes in the ExtraCare Charitable Trust.   Many other staff also were promoted to managerial and team leader positions in the following years and transferred the Princethorpe culture to other schemes.


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