Maintaining a safe, loving environment while ensuring fun and happiness continues during such a challenging time comes down to one thing says Michelle Rogers, manager of Shipston Lodge: people. “The staff work so hard,” says Michelle. “They pull together as a team, they support the residents, and smile throughout this difficult time because they love their job and because they actually work for the residents.” Michelle stresses the importance of this ethos. “The residents aren’t living in our workplace we are working in their home.”

While Shipston Lodge has a real family feel, like all families each member is an individual and so residents are no different. “We are all about person-centred care,” says Michelle. “It is all about what that individual person wants, and if they don’t want to get involved then that’s fine, and if they want to get involved we will see what their interests are.” The member of the team responsible for finding out those interests has enlisted the format of a TV favourite from a few decades ago to help out in an entertaining way. Queenie Goudie creates a version of This Is Your Life when residents first arrive with their families. “I make it a fun event,” explains Queenie. “I say to the resident, ‘this is about you, what is it you want, what makes you happy.’”

A This Is Your Life-style book is then created and updated with the details and photos of the activities the resident takes part in, ‘then that book stays in their rooms so family and staff can have a look and reminisce with the resident,’ says Queenie. As an activity coordinator, Queenie enjoys a very hands-on role. “I am involved with all the aspects of choosing, planning and carrying out activities and events for residents on a daily basis at least seven days a week and on an eight hours a day basis,” she says. “I try to make these activities a safe and enjoyable experience for the residents and staff, from gardening to games including hungry hippo and Scrabble, and from fine dining to themed events such as the recent VE Day commemoration,” says Queenie.

“It is so rewarding when the residents join in and thank you for a wonderful time.” Michelle agrees that marking historic events as important as the Second World War allows younger generations to honour those who lived through it. “Our residents mean so much to us,” she says. “If it wasn’t for our residents none of us would be here. And what they went through in their lives we will never experience.” Surprisingly perhaps, Queenie’s route to the job she loves so much was by chance. While working as a student liaison officer in a college she organised a care agency manager visit to talk to Health and Social Care students. “The care manager said to me ‘you should be doing care with your personality and your organisational skills and experience as an event organiser’.

So I undertook the role as a senior carer/office scheduler in the care agency, working in private homes for over six years and went on to hospital (Horton Hospital) as Nursing Assistant for over two years. “But I really did miss the closeness of being near residents and wanted something different from care agency or hospital work; and my colleagues, my family and friends did say to me with my experience and knowledge and my personality I should be looking at being either a care manager or activities coordinator, so I started looking for a vacancy as activities coordinator,” says Queenie. “And have never looked back!” And Michelle is delighted to have her at Shipston Lodge.

“Queenie brings many things to the job: a person people can trust, and she builds that trust,” says Michelle. “Residents open up to her, which is great and proves she gives them time and supports them, to feel comfortable. All the staff at the home, including management, mirror Queenie’s hands-on approach. “Queenie’s enthusiasm gets the rest of the staff on board,” says Michelle, “and myself and Clive [Edward, deputy manager] and the managers get involved as well. I’ll happily help wash hair and other duties; just because I’m a manager doesn’t mean I can’t do that.” Michelle insists breaking down hierarchical barriers and supporting each other works well for the team at Shipston Lodge. “We have cross-boundary work here,” she says. “The chef came down at the weekend and made elderflower cordial with the residents. “Chef gets very passionate about food and also created a big union jack for the VE Day cake, and was more than happy to research what they would have eaten at that time.”

Finding ourselves in another challenging period of our history, Michelle says making sure morale is kept high is important for all in the home. “We’ve been fortunate that we’ve had no residents poorly, no staff poorly and we’ve done a great job with cleaning and with infection control,” says Michelle. “We’ve had no problems with PPE, and our directors have been fabulous – if we’ve needed it we’ve got it. “But since lockdown, maintaining high morale is very important as our residents need us to be that smiley, happy person.” If staff members feel they need to discuss concerns about issues outside of Shipston Lodge, Queenie has organised a space for regular drop-in sessions. “When Michelle arrived here she said we have a lot of space, we should utilise it. So we have an in-house pub, the Lamb Inn – but there’s no beer! – a place where staff can meet up once a week to offload about things if they want,” Queenie says. “We’re all friends here. It’s really nice.” Ensuring colleagues as well as residents feel loved and cared for is everyday reality for Queenie, and her manager is one of her many fans. “I think Queenie is amazing,” says Michelle. “I always say that her last employer’s loss is my gain.”

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