By Bev Hopkins – Care Home Manager Stoneygate Oaklands
What sort of a care home is Stoneygate Oaklands?
Stoneygate Oaklands, on London Road in Leicester is a care home for adults with mental health difficulties. Clients suffer from any number of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, alcoholism, drug problems, loneliness, dissociative disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorders, anger problems, paranoia, panic attacks and many more.
Each and every client is different and will have their own unique mix of conditions and disorders that have resulted in them needing to live in a supported care home environment.
How do people generally come to be referred to your home?
The majority of clients in my home come via social services. Usually I will receive a call from social services to advise they have someone they would like to place at the home. They will send over a care assessment they will have completed for me to review.
Following this receiving the care assessment from social services I will always go an visit the individual myself to carry out my own assessment. Depending on the needs and conditions the individual may have I can often carry out several assessments before offering a place at the home.
It can be difficult to produce accurate care assessments after only seeing someone a handful of times. By their very nature those suffering from mental illness can be very different day to say. They will often answers questions depending on their mood that day, and they can demonstrate certain behaviours one day and then not the next. Therefore I like to go and visit the person myself to carry out my own assessment. This also allows me to meet the individual and get a feel for whether I think we can support their needs at our home.
Do you also have people who are privately referred to the home, either by a friend, family member or themselves?
Yes we do – although not many. I still go through exactly same procedure of visiting the individual to carry out my own assessment before making a decision as to whether or not I think my home may be the right place for them.
When you are working with people on a private basis it is much more likely they will have family or friends involved. Therefore part of my job is also to support and reassure them and answer any questions they may have about the care needs of the client, and their potential life at the home.
What would a care assessment cover and how are they carried out?
The care assessment is carried out in a face-to-face manner. I will visit the individual and just talk through various aspects of the assessment whilst I make notes based on what the individual tells me and what I observe. The key areas within the assessment include:
- Physical health – how fit and able they are, whether they have any physical conditions or illnesses
- Mobility – how mobile they are, are they able to get upstairs, do they need a wheelchair etc.
- Eating – what are their eating habits like. Are they able to cook for themselves?
- Drinking – Do they suffer from alcoholism or have they in the past?
- Mental health – What mental health problems do they suffer with and are these currently being treated?
- Sleep – What are their sleep patterns like. Do they struggle with sleeping in any way?
- Personal hygiene – Are they able to wash and dress themselves? Are they aware of what is required to ensure they practice adequate personal hygiene habits?
- Communication – How are they able to communicate with others. Do they feel more comfortable in a group or a one-to-one conversation. Are they open to discussing their problems and feelings or do they tend to close down. Do they suffer from anger issues?
Whilst not exhaustive this gives a pretty good idea of the types of areas we will be looking at.
Once you have carried out your assessment how do you decide if your home is the right place for that individual?
Following my initial assessment I will make a decision about the person coming into the home based on a) whether I feel we can meet the needs of the individual and b) how that person will fit in and live alongside others who are already in the home.
If I feel we would be able to offer them a place I would invite them to visit the home with a friend or relative if they have someone they can bring, to stay for lunch and dinner, and to join in with any activities that are happening that day.
Following the initial trial day, and providing both the individual and myself feel that the home can support their needs we will then suggest that they join us for a second trial day – or possibly a weekend stay and then finally for a for a full months trial.
During these trials we would be reviewing and amending our original assessments, seeing how they got along with staff and others in the home, reviewing how we can meet their day-to-day needs and seeing whether the home would have a positive impact on their life.
Once someone has moved into the home, how long do they normally stay?
This is entirely down to the individual. For some it could be for a relatively short space of time – less than a year, but for others it could become their home for the rest of their lives.
For those who wish to regain independence and live in the community again we will work hard alongside them to help them achieve this. This will include helping them to find work, engage in community projects and centres and eventually help to locate them a suitable place to live independently.
How do you go about keeping family and friends involved and informed?
We like nothing more than for family members to take an active role in our client’s day-to-day life where they can and are able. We understand the difficulties both physically and mentally of having a close relative with mental health needs and we work hard to support the family as well as the individual.
We operate a complete open door policy. Our clients are free to come and go as they like, and friends and relatives are also allowed to come and visit whenever they like. We go to great lengths to keep family and friends informed of any developments – phoning on a regular basis to give updates, and even popping round for a cup of tea and a catch up if they live near-by.
Finally what advice would you give to someone looking to place someone with special mental health needs in a care home?
Most care home providers will have a pretty good website. Have a look online, talk to social workers and your local GP and find out about the homes in your area.
Ring the homes you are interested in. Explain what you are looking for and listen to their advice – they will often be able to advise if their home is right for you, or if not recommend somewhere else.
Visit a number of homes – to see for yourself. Think about how you’d feel being in the home, is it welcoming, do you feel comfortable, are the staff approachable and easy to get on with, what are the facilities like – bedrooms, lounge and dining areas?
Speak to the other residents and see what they think.
Go on a couple of trial days. Visit at different times, during the morning, but also when busier around meal times.