Christmas in a Care Home

As it’s December it’s only fitting that we explore what it’s like at Christmas in a care home.  I’m going to look at what happens on Christmas Day and how everyone makes Christmas special for our residents.

Like everyone else our residents look forward to a fabulous Christmas with their loved ones, great food, entertainment, maybe watch the Queen’s speech and perhaps even a little visit from the big guy in red! 

We want to make Christmas a special time for our residents so our dedicated teams of care assistants, activity coordinators, kitchen staff, cleaners and nurses often sacrifice a traditional Christmas with their own families to make sure our residents have the best day. 

I’ve been chatting with some of our activity coordinators about what Christmas Day is like at the homes and what activities are available to the residents, I’ve also been talking to Keiron our Catering Manager about what’s on the menu at Christmas and the kitchen team.

Christmas Tree at Abbey Meadow

Activity Coordinators

Activity coordinators are responsible for organising activities that are tailored to the needs of individuals, as well as group activities to bring the residents together. Booking external entertainment. Organising transport and trips out in the local community. Helping people take part in the activities

Activity coordinators have a key role in the daily lives of our residents.  They organise activities tailored to the needs of each individual resident as well as group activities to bring everyone together.  They not only organise the activities but also help the residents take part in the activities.

Let me introduce you to some our activity coordinators; Nikki is our senior activity coordinator and works at Abbey Meadow, Claire is based at St Lukes and Michelle at Lonsdale.  I asked them a few questions about what type of activities they arrange and what Christmas is like for the residents.

Nikki – Senior Activity Coordinator, Abbey Meadow
Claire – Activity Coordinator, St Lukes

Claire:  Tell me a little bit about what Christmas in a care home is like.

Nikki:  Christmas in our care home can be lots of fun for staff and our residents.  We love to have the residents’ family here in the home as well.  We love watching Christmas movies and singing Christmas songs all together.  We try to make Christmas a music filled time.  The atmosphere is beautiful on Christmas day every year because it’s so lovely to be with everyone.  Our kitchen team always make a lovely Christmas meal.

Claire:  Christmas in our care home is a really lovely experience! The day starts with presents.  Every resident is given a present bought by the activities coordinators with money donated by Risedale, they are thoughtful, personalised gifts that they love to open.  Dinner is a tasty, traditional Christmas dinner and staff join the residents to eat.  It’s different at the moment with restrictions placed on families visiting and moving freely around the home, but our staff do their very best to provide a homely and family feel to the day.  The afternoon and evenings are spent chatting, watching Christmas films and having a drink where possible.  All in all the warmth, fun and love you would expect.

The atmosphere is beautiful on Christmas Day

Nikki – Senior Activity Coordinator

Claire:   How do residents spend Christmas Day?

Nikki:  Everyone is up early; the music is on in the background while the residents all open their gifts together in the lounge.  Breakfast is always lovely and the residents have a nice morning.  Just like all family Christmas days its all about the food!  Lunch is everyone together around the tables with wine and a lot of fun, lunch is three courses.  We sometimes have a singer come into the home so we can all have a singalong.  Family can visit over the day or night.  Christmas would not be Christmas without the Queen’s 3pm speech which we all watch. Then Christmas tea is a buffet around the TV watching a movie.

Claire:  Residents spend the day enjoying each other’s company and the company of the staff.  A lovely buffet tea is laid on, the Queen’s speech is usually included and a good carol singalong will always occur at some point.  Opportunities to put their feet up and have an after-dinner snooze are there too.  This year we are able to have some visitors in, either to share dinner with their loved ones in their rooms or for an hour long visit.  We will also do some video calls to family who can’t be with us.

Michelle:  Christmas day starts with greeting the residents with a cheery Merry Christmas!   After breakfast the residents open their presents from under the tree.  A few gentle games are played whilst listening to festive music.  A Christmas lunch is enjoyed by residents and staff and for those who wish a glass of Christmas cheer!  The afternoon is spent watching the TV with the highlight being the Queen’s speech.  A buffet tea is served and a few more games ending a fun filled day.

Claire:  What kind of activities are available for residents either leading up to or on the day?

Nikki:  Lots of activities are available for residents throughout, such as Decorating the Christmas trees with the staff, Christmas crafts, Christmas baking, singalongs, movies, Christmas shopping, meals out, shows at the forum, children from local schools coming in for carol singing, bell ringers, so many things.

Claire:  Lots!  For my units we have had singers in, a huge relief to be able to have that again, the residents love it.  We had a countdown to Christmas party at the beginning of December.  We have a Christmas party for the residents, food, drink, games and a carol service.  We’re providing a Christmas eve mass service for those who wish to attend.  There are lots of Christmas craft sessions going on too.  This is in addition to our regular activities like move and groove, virtual theatre and our popular ladies afternoon and gents time!

Michelle:  Some activities available are music, games, singalongs, quizzes, bingo, jigsaws, colouring and many more things.

It’s a wonderful feeling to go away knowing that you’ve brought joy to people

Claire – Activity Coordinator, St Lukes

Claire:  What’s the best part of working in a care home at Christmas?

Michelle:  It’s a jolly time of year.  Residents become part of your extended family.  Seeing their pleasure opening their gifts and reminiscing of Christmases past and the stories they tell.  Entertainment from outside is always a happy time for residents and they enjoy singing along which makes is all feel good.

Claire:  Seeing our residents faces when they open their presents.  It’s a wonderful feeling to go away knowing that you’ve brought joy to people.  There’s also a warm feeling of friendship and care between the staff.

Christmas Tree at St Lukes
Santa at Abbey Meadow

What about the food!

We’ve heard about the activities and all the fun residents have on the day, so now let’s look at Christmas day from the kitchen’s perspective, what’s it like in the kitchen at Christmas and what food can residents expect!  I’ve been chatting to Keiron our Catering Manager to find out.

Keiron – Catering Manager

Claire:   Firstly, can you tell me a little about your background and your role at Risedale 

Keiron: I work as the catering manager for all of the Risedale care homes.  With a background in hospitality, I never thought I’d end up in the care sector but there are a lot of transferrable skills and a better work life balance.   Risedale has grown as a company over 25 years and have always provided quality food.  The company was at the stage though where they needed to bring the kitchens in each home together for consistency with IDDSI diets and ordering.  Before my appointment there wasn’t a catering manager, in the two years I’ve been here I’d like to think I’ve made a positive impact for the residents and the company.  I’m able to source a wide range of goods, implement changes company wide and add new ideas, such as the resident mocktail bars. 

Claire:   Can you tell me what’s on the menu or is that top secret?

Keiron: We try to make it a traditional Christmas feast that everyone would expect.  There’s a full turkey dinner, with all the trimmings of course, soup and prawn cocktail to start with mince pies, yule log and sticky toffee pudding for afters. 

Claire:   What’s Christmas Day like for the Kitchen Teams

Keiron: The kitchen teams are busy little elves preparing the food to perfection.   They make some adjustments to the menus throughout Christmas week to provide more festive dishes for the residents.  There is a slight increase in work as we also cater for the staff on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.  Overall though there is little change to the amount of hours that the kitchen team work, unlike restaurant kitchens at this time of year!

Claire:   What’s the best part of Christmas in a Care Home

Keiron: I think it will be the Christmas parties, when they get a singer in, play games, have mince pies and a glass of bubbly, where appropriate.  Generally everyone having a good old knees up.

So, there we have it, a little look into Christmas in a care home.  It sounds like our residents are in for a fabulous day!

I would like to finish by saying a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone at Risedale that works tirelessly to make a difference for our residents all year round.  Thank you to all of you who will be taking time away from your own families over the festive period to make sure our residents have a lovely Christmas and New Year. 

To everyone working in care, no matter where or what role you do, thank you!   You are appreciated for what you do.  I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

A Closer Look at the Homes

In today’s blog we’re looking at a couple of our nursing homes in a bit more detail, exploring the history of the building and the types of care it now offers.  I’m also going to introduce you to some of the amazing people that work there.

Shining the spotlight – Aldingham and St Cuthberts

The homes are situated on the Coast Road between Barrow in Furness and Ulverston.   Aldingham is a stunning mansion with a fascinating history.  It was designed by Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt and built by a learned, wealthy and benevolent cleric, the Rev. Dr John Stonard.  Rev Stonard was a tutor for some time of William Pitt, who later became Prime Minister.  Queen Victoria and the Prince Consort, visited Rev Stonard in his new home and carvings commemorating this event still grace the entrance porch.

Aldingham is a Grade II listed building, it has three spacious lounge/dining areas, a beautiful conservatory and several cosy sitting areas, all decorated and furnished to an extremely high standard to ensure the comfort of our residents.  Two modern passenger lifts connect the three floors. The patios and extensive gardens and seaside location are just some of Aldingham’s greatest attributes.  All rooms are en suite with the bathrooms having specialised baths installed, and the most sophisticated lifting equipment makes taking a bath an easy, safe, and convenient pleasure.

Aldingham Nursing Home

Over the years Aldingham has developed into a home which provides both physical and mental health nursing support.  The home is extremely experienced in providing complex nursing care and has developed skills in caring for clients with dementia. In order to ensure that clients displaying both needs receive appropriate care, support and treatment; we have experienced mental health nurses who assesses, plan, implement and evaluate the mental health needs of each client and registered general nurses on duty to ensure the nursing care needs are also met.

St. Cuthbert’s is set within its own extensive, mature grounds and is part of Aldingham Nursing Home.  It was purpose built and specifically designed for people experiencing dementia; it has wide, bright corridors and all the rooms are on one level.  The home has access to secure garden areas to allow residents to walk freely without feeling restricted.  St Cuthberts has two units Bluebell and Daffodil, each unit has a delightful lounge/dining room, which overlook, and lead to, the enclosed patio gardens.  There is also a smaller lounge which provides more intimate surroundings, perfect for family visits or quiet times

St Cuthberts Nursing Home

The home utilises the Stirling University Design for people with Dementia Audit Tool, whereby colour contrast, use of lighting and space, is utilised and tailored specifically for people experiencing a dementia, in order to promote dignity, independence and enhance their quality of life.

Say Hello to the Team

Well…some of them!  There are around 80 amazing people working at Aldingham and St Cuthberts, all dedicated to the care and well being of the residents.  The teams are led by two Nurse Managers, Adelle on the Aldingham side and Marie on the St Cuthberts side.

Adelle – Nurse Manager, Aldingam and Marie – Nurse Manager, St Cuthberts

Adelle – Nurse Manager at Aldingham

I have worked for Risedale since qualifying as a Nurse in 2009. I initially started at Aldingham as a Staff Nurse and then went on to progress to a Senior Nurse at Lonsdale. After my maternity leave I then went to St Georges and in 2018 I came back to Aldingham to be Nurse Manager. Throughout my career at Risedale I have been given opportunities to develop and progress in any interests I have shown and I have recently completed a dementia module to help with my practice in a Mental Health setting. Aldingham is my favourite home I have worked in, the building and surroundings are beautiful. I am very proud to work alongside such a fantastic team who work extremely hard to give our residents the best care possible.

Marie – Nurse Manager at St Cuthberts

I started working at St Cuthbert’s Nursing Home when I was 18 (21 years ago!) At this time I lacked confidence and didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life. I worked as a Health Care Assistant and Activity coordinator for 4 years and during this time the nurses helped build my confidence and really encouraged me to progress within nursing.  I went off to St Martin’s College do my nurse training (Risedale didn’t have all the amazing training opportunities in the olden days that they have now!). Whilst doing my nursing placements in the hospital and community, I found that I missed being able to build therapeutic relationships with people in the way you can in a long term care setting and knew at that point that I wanted to return to Risedale when I qualified.   In 2007 I started at Aldingham Nursing Home as a brand new nurse, within a year I was offered the position of Senior Nurse and then progressed to Nurse Manager in 2014, initially managing Aldingham and now St Cuthbert’s. I am extremely privileged to be part of an amazing team at St Cuthbert’s and really enjoy supporting others to progress and develop.

Joanna – Senior Nurse

Joanna started with Risedale in 2013 as a Care Assistant.  Joanna went through our Assistant Practitioner and Nursing programmes and qualified as a Registered Nurse in 2019 and is now a Senior Nurse at Aldingham.

Christan has been working at Risedale for 5 years.  Starting as a Care Assistant, Christan then joined our Nursing programme.  Currently working in a team leading role as a Nurse Support at St Cuthberts, Christan will qualify as a Registered Nurse next year.

Christan – Nurse Support

Olivia – Nurse Support/Student Nurse. Olivia is working as a Nurse Support at St Cuthberts and studying on our nurse programme with the Open University.

Megan – Nurse Support. Megan is based at St Cuthberts and is studying for her Level 3 diploma in Health & Social Care while working as a Nurse Support

Emma – Nurse Support. Emma joined Risedale in 2019 as a Care Assistant, currently working as a Nurse Support while studying to become an Occupational Therapist

In Their Own Words

Similar to an earlier blog, I’ve been chatting to the team about what it’s like to be a care assistant.  Here’s what they had to say.

Claire:   Tell me about a typical day as a care assistant

Joanna: Here at Aldingham we are a great team.  We come to work to make a difference to people’s lives, it’s immensely rewarding.  As a team we help with hygiene, dressing, assisting with activities, meals and we enjoy spending time getting to know our residents.

Emma: Every day is different which is why I love the job so much.  We help the residents with their daily needs like washing and dressing, maintaining hygiene and their safety.  We offer social and emotional support; we work as a team and all support each other.

Christan: Assisting residents and anticipate their needs on a daily basis.  We provide personal care and pressure relief to maintain hygiene needs and to prevent pressure ulcers.  As a care assistant it is important to maintain the resident’s dignity at all times.  As I work with many residents with dementia or mental health conditions it is important to offer emotional support and reassurance where needed.  It is also important to understand that we are working in the resident’s homes and we must respect that.

We come to work to make a difference to people’s lives, it’s immensely rewarding.

Joanna – Senior Nurse, Aldingham

Olivia: Our morning starts with doing handover and finding out what’s been happening previously.  Afterwards medications are allocated and we as carers go to assist our residents to get up and washed.  During the course of the day, we assist our residents with personal hygiene needs, eating, drinking and complete activities with them.  No two days are the same and things change all the time.

Megan:  As a care assistant a typical day for me would be helping and caring for our residents, everyday can be different.  We help with all daily tasks and provide comfort and support for the residents.

Garden and Sea View from Aldingham Nursing Home

Claire:   Can you give me a list of jobs that care assistants do?

Emma: Maintaining hygiene, giving medications, talking to and reassuring residents, helping with meals/feeding.

Christan: Providing personal care, assisting with meals, administering medications, monitoring and documenting fluid and diet intakes, providing emotional support to residents.

Olivia: Washing and dressing, maintaining nutritional and hydration needs, giving out medications.

Megan: Medications, feeding, keeping hydrated, changing, provide comfort, help with activities.

Joanna: Help with meals, help with dressing/washing, provide support, go to appointments with residents, activities, medications.

Claire:   What did you do before you came to work at Risedale?

Christan: I went to Edge Hill University to study criminology and law.  I worked part time as a waitress at Salvanas restaurant before I started working at Risedale.

Olivia: Before Risedale I was a housekeeper at Premier Inn.  My job role was to ensure the cleanliness was up to standard in the rooms and the overall building.  I also interacted with guests at the hotel to ensure that they had enjoyed their stay.

Megan: I worked as a waitress at the Bay Horse Pub in Ulverston but wanted a career change.  I was looking for a more challenging role where I could also help and make a difference, I get to do that as a care assistant. 

Joanna: Prior to Risedale I was a childminder registered with OFSTED, however as my son was getting older, I decided to have a change of career.

Emma: I was a beauty/sports massage therapist, self employed for 20 years.  When the Covid 19 pandemic hit my salon had to close and I got a job straight away with Risedale.  It was the best thing that could have happened.

Claire:   What do you like about being a care assistant?

Olivia: I enjoy interacting and caring for our residents. I also like the opportunities Risedale give like nursing support, AP and nursing courses.

Megan: The residents, they’re what’s important and I like getting to know them.  The staff are lovely too.

I like the family dynamic with staff and residents. Everyone is made to feel so welcome

Christan – Nurse Support/Student Nurse

Joanna: No two days are the same.  I build a good rapport with residents and their families.  I can make such a big difference to someone.  We have a great supportive team.  

Emma: The residents are the best part and the team I work with are fantastic.

Christan: I like that I can make a difference to a resident’s day.  I like the family dynamic with staff and residents. Everyone is made to feel so welcome.

Claire:   Is there anything you dislike about being a care assistant?

Megan: The wage could be slightly better, but generally people come in to care because they want to make a difference not because it’s a high paid profession.

Joanna: Like all jobs it has bits you enjoy more than others but we all support and help each other with all parts.

Emma: I’m afraid so, but the good parts definitely outnumber the bad.

Christan: The worst part of my job is sometimes seeing residents’ physical health decline and deteriorate.

Olivia: I enjoy my job however I believe for what we do the pay could be better but that’s the same in care everywhere. We’re also given so many opportunities like the nurse training which is fully funded by Risedale, not all care companies can offer that.

Claire:   Tell me about your Risedale journey, how you started and where being a care assistant has taken you.

Joanna: I started my journey with Risedale in 2013 as a health care assistant working night shift.  I applied to become an assistant practitioner as I wanted to learn new things and progress.  I was successful and joined Cumbria University, graduating in 2016 was a very proud moment for myself and family.  In 2016 Risedale had started training their own registered nurses, I applied to do this degree and was successful.  In 2019 I became a registered nurse which was a dream come true for me, something I couldn’t have done without the support and sponsorship from Risedale.  After working at Aldingham Nursing Home for over a year I was promoted to a senior nurse.  I love my job, it’s so diverse.  I work alongside the carers and we have such a good supportive team.  I am continuing to develop my knowledge to be the best that I can for the residents at the home.  Currently I am studying a dementia degree module which will help me lots in my area of work.

Emma: I came to Risedale during the Covid 19 pandemic as a care assistant and soon became a nursing support.  Risedale offer many training opportunities, I am now studying with the University of Cumbria training to be am Occupational Therapist through Rosedale.

Christan: I started at Risedale when I was 21 years old, almost 5 years ago as a health care assistant.  Shortly after I became a nurse support assistant in which I lead the shift and became more involved in resident’s care in regards to medication, care plans and working alongside the multidisciplinary teams.  After my first year at Risedale on Abbey Road I applied for my adult nursing degree withing Risedale and started the September after.  I am now getting ready to qualify next year as a general nurse which I could not be any more grateful for the opportunity from Risedale.  I am now working at St Cuthberts and I am enjoying every minute, even on the hard days.

Olivia: When I started at Risedale I was a healthcare assistant.  I was privileged to be given the opportunity to apply to do my general nursing degree.  I applied and got onto the Open University course which I’m now half way through.  While doing this I also became a nurse support which entails being a team leader so gives more responsibility of care plans, extra medications to give and even shifts to run.  I’d always take an opportunity Risedale give as there are benefits to this.

Megan: I started as a healthcare assistant whilst at college, now I’m a nurse support studying my Level 3 in health and social care with Lakes College.  I work full time whilst I study, all of the college work is done online and an assessor come to the home for some parts.   

The view from Aldingham Nursing Home

I am very proud to work alongside such a fantastic team who work extremely hard to give our residents the best care possible.

Adelle – Nurse Manager, Aldingham

I am extremely privileged to be part of an amazing team at St Cuthbert’s and really enjoy supporting others to progress and develop.

Marie – Nurse Manager, St Cuthberts

Is care for me?  I love our home at Aldingham and St Cuthberts and I know it would be a fantastic place to work as a carer if I decide care is for me!

Is care for you?  Let me know.

Being a Care Assistant – In Their Own Words

To help answer the question is care for me, I’ve been talking to people who have experience in being a care assistant.  Who better to ask what the role involves than people who have done or are doing the job now.

Let me introduce you to two people who are working at Risedale Care Homes. 

Ellie – Assistant Practitioner/Student Nurse

Ellie works at our nursing home on Abbey Road on a general nursing unit. She started as a care assistant, studied to become an assistant practitioner and is continuing her studies to become a registered nurse.

Jessica works at our St Lukes home on one of our behaviour that challenges units. She started as a care assistant but is now a nurse support, which is a team leader role.

Jessica – Nurse Support

I asked them some questions about being a care assistant, what they like and dislike, how their career in care started and their Risedale journey.

Claire:   Tell me about a typical day as a care assistant.

Ellie: The day starts by receiving handover.  Care assistants will then attend to resident’s needs, getting them washed, dressed and ready for the day. Shift leaders will administer any medications.  All staff will assist with serving breakfast.  Care assistants will ensure all residents are offered food and drink and that all hygiene and toileting needs are met.  Care Assistants will maintain emotional and phycological wellbeing, spend time with residents when possible and encourage them to attend social activities.  Shift leaders will liaise with families and other health care professionals as needed.

Jessica: A typical day as a care assistant consists of getting residents up and ready for the day.  This will include bathing or showering, getting clothes for them, assisting with all personal care where needed but also promoting independence.  We have activity coordinators that get the residents involved in arts and crafts etc.  You will find yourself finding out some very interesting stories and great facts from our residents.  Our residents have three meal times a day, some need assistance with meals but many don’t.  Each day is different and it’s the most rewarding job.

Claire:   Can you give me a list of jobs that care assistants do?

Ellie:  Personal care, tidying rooms, activities, toileting, putting laundry away, assisting with meals, making and offering drinks, liaising with other professionals, medication administration, family support.

Jessica: Personal care, use of hoists, assist with needs, end of life care, activities, assist with family visits, help at mealtimes, encourage independence, keep residents’ company, care.

Claire:   What did you do before you came to work at Risedale?

Ellie:  I worked in a primary school as an early year’s apprentice.  When I got the job at Risedale I was supposed to apply for university courses to start a teaching degree however I found my passion and never left.

Jessica: Prior to working for Risedale I was a restaurant supervisor at Debenhams in Barrow but was made redundant.  I’d always worked in the hospitality industry; it was my forte.

“I found my passion and never left”

Ellie – Assistant Practitioner/Student Nurse, Risedale Care Homes

Claire:   What do you like about being a care assistant?

Ellie:  Being there when someone needs you has to be the most rewarding thing about our job.  We make sure that the resident is comfortable and happy.  Providing palliative care can be difficult at times however I get comfort from knowing I did everything to keep someone comfortable.

Jessica: You have to want to care to do this job.  It’s rewarding, the most rewarding job I’ve ever done.  Ensuring the wellbeing of the residents, knowing they are comfortable and happy is the best part.

Claire:   Is there anything you dislike about being a care assistant?

Ellie:  Working in care involves working long hours, but you soon get used to it.  I think the most difficult thing is switching off after a shift, especially if you’ve had to deal with difficult circumstances.

Jessica: There isn’t anything to dislike about the job.  My only query would be the pay, care has always been an underpaid profession, what we do as care assistants I believe doesn’t warrant the pay we receive.

“There isn’t anything to dislike about the job”

Jessica – Nurse Support, Risedale Care Homes

Claire:   Tell me about your Risedale journey, how you started and where being a care assistant has taken you.

Ellie:  I previously worked at a local primary school and I was planning to apply for university.  I applied for Risedale as a temporary job over the summer, however I soon realised that this is my passion and therefore changed my plans.  I worked as a healthcare assistant and I was given the opportunity to complete an Assistant Practitioner course.  When nearly qualified I was offered the opportunity of a conversion course to become a Registered Nurse.  I am now in my third and final year of my nursing degree.  I already have many responsibilities as an AP, however I am looking forward to my new role as a nurse.  Risedale have been a great employer and have given me so many opportunities to develop.  I will always be grateful for the support and guidance.

Jessica: I applied to Risedale due to being made redundant at Debenhams.  Ultimately care is something I always wanted to do but always thought I needed a health and social care qualification which I didn’t succeed in getting.  Fast forward three weeks my interview with Claire and Adele was a success and I got the job.  Starting a new job role in something I had never done was scary but all the staff and my manager were so welcoming and helpful. Two and a half weeks into my new job I had a big family bereavement and Risedale couldn’t have been more accommodating to this, it was a massive weight off my shoulders.  I am now 14 months in and I couldn’t love my job any more than I do.  Progression is so big which is something I’m always looking to do and currently taking on the nurse support job role.  I’m also redoing my Maths and English which Risedale are funding.  Becoming a mental health nurse is my goal and it’s achievable with Risedale.

I’d like to thank Ellie and Jessica for taking the time to answer my questions, it has given a great insight into what a care assistant does on a daily basis. It’s also given me an idea of how a care assistant feels and their thoughts on the amazing role they do, not to mention the important part they play in the wellbeing of our residents.

Is care for me? As amazing and rewarding as it sounds, I’m still not sure!

Is care for you? Let me know.

What do you need to be a Care Assistant?

In today’s blog I’m going to look at what you need to be a care assistant.  I’ll then look at how you start a career in care.

We’ve already discovered you don’t need experience or qualifications to be a care assistant but what do you need?  It may sound a little bit obvious to just say you should be caring and kind but it’s a good place to start.  From a personality aspect you do need certain attributes and values to be a care assistant.  In the care role you need to be able to understand the individual needs of each resident you care for.  You need to have empathy and compassion for the resident or person you are looking after.  At Risedale we offer care for a variety of residents through specialist units, we have general and complex care nursing units, behavioural support units and specialist dementia units to name a few.  A resident in a general nursing home may require different types of care or a different approach to the help they require than a resident in a unit that specialises in dementia.  As a care assistant you need to be able to assess the needs of the resident and help them in a way so that they are able to maintain their independence and dignity. 

So far, it sounds like you need to be a lovely kind person! That is true, but you also need to be dedicated, hardworking, caring, passionate, responsible, friendly, fun, compassionate, the list is endless. All types of attributes are valuable in a care home, it depends on the situation. Outgoing, bubbly, energetic people are fabulous for the residents and always put a smile on faces by bursting into song or dancing during lunch. Sometimes a calm, gentle touch is required so if you are more of an easy-going laid-back person, this can help to put residents at ease if they are feeling a little overwhelmed.

We could list a hundred things that carers should be and the attributes and values they should have.  If you believe you have the right values for a career in care you should try to find a company that has similar values to you.  

Our Values

Here are the values of Risedale Care Homes.   

We are a family
We are friendly and kind
We are dependable and reliable
We make connections with people
We care about people feeling comfortable and at home
We care about keeping everyone safe
We are loyal and want to be here
We are together and support each other
We are good listeners and treat each other with respect
We are well led
We continually improve
We are treating people fairly
We behave with integrity
We are transparent
We care about following the rules
We care about our reputation
We are supportive
We are competent
We have high standards
We do things properly
We care about best practice and quality
We deliver the care each person wants in the way they want it
We are going the extra mile
We invest in people
We believe in people
We recognise talent
We provide quality training
We provide opportunities at all levels
We enable people to upskill and progress

These values were discussed and compiled by our employees.  A group was formed with employees from all departments, we didn’t just use our nurses and carers to discuss what values our company has.  The group included cooks, kitchen assistants, cleaners, maintenance and receptionists.  We all have a responsibility to make sure our residents get the best possible care and that takes a team of people working in all areas.

As our work is guided and informed by our beliefs and commitment to our values, our recruitment process is committed to employing people that share the same values as us.   Which brings us to the recruitment process and how you go about starting your career in care!

How do you start a career in care?

It’s quite simple really, you just apply!   I’m sure all companies that offer careers in care have a similar recruitment process, but here’s how we do it at Risedale.

Step 1 – Interview successful applicants

Our interviews are a chance for us to tell you all about Risedale, what we do, what we can offer and why you should come and work for us.  I know the word interview terrifies some people so I treat our interviews as more of a friendly, informal chat, a chance to get to know each other.  Of course, there are some questions we need to ask but nothing like the usual interview questions, we won’t be asking where you want to be in five years or why do you think we should employ you.   All our questions are tailored around care and what people think is involved, the answers are just what you think and feel.

An interview is not just about the applicant impressing the employer the applicant needs to like what an employer is offering so they want to come and work with you.

Step 2 – A voluntary shift

If successful at the interview stage Risedale invites applicants back to do a voluntary shift.  This is a great thing for both the applicant and the employer.  The applicant gets the chance to experience the job and see what it is like in the care homes.  If you are unsure if care is for you a voluntary shift offers a look at the role without any pressure.  The voluntary shift also helps an employer to see how the applicant gets on and to see if they think the applicant will enjoy the role.

Step 3 – Disclosure & Barring application and references

After an applicant has completed the voluntary shift and both we and the applicant want to go ahead with a position, we make an appointment for a Disclosure & Barring (DBS) Application.  We apply for an enhanced certificate which checks criminal records and the barred list for working with vulnerable adults.  Risedale pay for all disclosure and barring checks that are needed so they come at no cost to the applicant. 

At this stage we would also discuss information for references.  Two references are required to commence employment, one ideally would be a current or last employer and a second can be a character reference.  We never request a reference until the applicant tells us we can, we don’t like to ruin surprises!  As an applicant it’s also courteous to ask someone if they will give you a reference and tell them a reference request will be coming. 

Step 4 – Induction and start date

All positions at Risedale are subject to satisfactory DBS and references.  Once we have the DBS certificate and references back, we can arrange a start date and induction for the applicant.  A start date will be discussed that is suitable for both the applicant and us.  If you have a notice to give, we will arrange a start date for when your notice period is over. 

We run inductions at our training centre every two weeks.  It is a full afternoon training session to give you all the information you need to start your career as a carer, including training on moving and handling, infection control, basic fire and much more.  At the induction stage we also fill in all of the paperwork to get you on our payroll.

Step 5 – You start your new career as a carer

When you start with us you are given a mentor and some shifts on a supernumerary basis.  Basically, you have someone to look after you and support you through your first shifts, you are classed as an extra pair of hands and not initially counted in the care assistant numbers.  Risedale is a welcoming, friendly and supportive place to work, they look after their employees with the same passion and dedication that they use to look after the residents.

Hopefully this gives an idea of what you need to get started in one of the most rewarding jobs you could ever have.  If you are still unsure, in the next couple of blogs I’ll be detailing the experiences and thoughts of some of our carers.  Who best to hear what the role of a carer is about than from the people who actually do it!

The care sector is currently experiencing a shortage of carers, so if you are considering if a career in care is for you; even if it’s just a fleeting thought or a whim, do not hesitate to at least apply and see what happens. 

Risedale Care Homes – Recruitment Video

Is care for me?  I’m still figuring that out!  

Is care for you?  Let me know.

Is Care For Me?

Welcome to the first blog from – Is care for me?   I know; I’m a little late to the blogging party…I still send letters in the post too!!  My name is Claire and the reason for the blog is to explore the question, is care for me?  An odd question really as I already work in a care home. 

The real question I’m asking is could I be a Care Assistant?   Could you be a Care Assistant?  What does the role require?   If anyone asked me is care a job I could do; at any point in my life, now included, I’d probably quite confidently say no it’s not for me.  So, here’s where I tell you what my current job is…I’m a Recruitment Coordinator for Risedale Care Homes.  That’s right; I convince people they should be care assistants for a living!!  Hopefully with this blog I can show people it’s a role everyone can do.

I’ve heard all the negatives for being a carer, but I’ve heard all the positives too!  Like all jobs being a carer has good points and bad points, good days and bad days.  It’s not an easy job, It’s not all chit chats and cups of tea.  It’s hard work, it’s physically and emotionally draining.  But it is also the most rewarding job there is.  A carer helps to make life a little brighter for the person they look after.  Making a resident smile and be happy, makes a carer feel fulfilled and happy themselves.  Sounds clichéd but it’s what nearly every person I’ve interviewed for a care role tells me, and I believe them!

Risedale at Aldingham
Risedale at Abbey Meadow

What should you know about being a Care Assistant?

The first thing to know about being a care assistant is you don’t need experience or qualifications! There’s not a lot of jobs that can say that. Full training is given and many care companies offer qualifications if you want them. Risedale Care Homes have always invested heavily in the training of our employees. Like every care provider we put all care assistants through the Care Certificate training, which is like a mini qualification to get you started in the role. We offer apprenticeships in Health & Social Care at Level 2 & 3; we even have our own functional skills tutor for Maths and English in case you need those. If you have long term career ambitions, we also have apprenticeships in Nursing. Gone are the days where university is the only way to become a registered nurse! We’ll talk in more detail about the training on offer in a later blog so don’t worry if this interests you and you think I’ve cut it short!

The second thing you should know is, the basics to the role.   The easiest way to put it is the role of a care assistant is to look after people.  Sounds simple enough!   But like most things, it’s not as easy as you think.   Care assistants help people with all aspects of daily life.  There are the little things we take for granted because we do them for ourselves without a second thought.  I don’t know about you but I don’t worry in the morning about getting myself dressed, brushing my hair, eating my breakfast or anything else I might do during the day.  So, the basics of the role are assisting people with their daily tasks like getting out of bed, getting a shower, getting dressed, feeding at mealtimes and of course toilet breaks!!  Now I know if you’ve never experienced care before that might be enough to put you off straight away but it’s part of the job, so I have to include it!  Some of our residents are unable to do these basic tasks for themselves which is where a care assistant steps in. They enable residents to keep their independence and dignity by assisting in these tasks with kindness and compassion.

The third thing you need to know is it’s all about person centred care, Risedale Care Homes prides itself on this.  All residents are different, their needs are different, their personalities are different, so they need care that is personalised to them.  Each resident is treated as the wonderful individual person that they are.  The amazing parts of the role are the parts where you get to know the residents, where you get to make a connection on a personal level.  You get to know what they like or don’t like; you get to know what it was like for them growing up.  You get to hear about where they went on holiday when they were a child and how they took their grandkids to the same place years later.  You get to hear about all the amazing jobs they’ve done, all the fabulous adventures and experiences they’ve had.   How many jobs have that?  There are lots of cogs in the role of a care assistant all working together to make a difference to someone’s day.  There are some things we haven’t even touched on yet like how we keep residents entertained in the homes.  I intend to explore that one in a future blog as I know it’s not all bingo and jigsaws!! 

There are plenty of topics to discuss when it comes to the question “is care for me”.  I’ve touched on some basic information that I know from my experience in a care home but there are different types of care to look into.  There are different needs and levels of care to discuss.  I’m also very interested to find out reasons why people go into care and discuss them further.  Do people just like to help others or was there one specific thing that made someone say, “care is for me”.  There is the money side of things of course, we all have bills to pay.  Care is commonly known as an underpaid role but I’m yet to meet anyone who went into care for the money!  There’s the dreaded Covid 19, has that changed the care assistant role?  It hasn’t changed the way we look after our residents that’s for sure but has in the way of extra precautions we have and the guidelines we follow. 

In summary, I’ve talked a little about care and the basics of the role, but I feel like I’ve not really scratched the surface.  I certainly haven’t answered any questions from the beginning of the blog, and I know there is so much more to explore. 

Is care for me?  I’m not sure yet! 

Is care for you?  Let me know.