Working sensitively in older people’s homes

Ian Williams has been working in the retirement living market for many years and has significant experience of public and private sector housing. Working sensitively in older people’s homes is just as important to us as making residential care homes, assisted living and managed facilities and individual properties fit for purpose by providing physical adaptations. Our strategy of direct delivery means all our operatives are trained to provide high levels of customer service in sensitive environments. By working with Erosh, the national network for older people’s housing and support services, we’ve developed the guide: Sensitive Contractors, which we hope will soon become a sector-wide best practice guide in preparing contractors for sensitive working in a market which is only set to get significantly more important.

Whittington House, Caring Homes, Cheltenham

When a woman approached our Contracts Supervisor, Mark Reynolds and his colleagues, saying she had to urgently leave the building in which they were working because her aeroplane was due, they knew exactly what to do. “Normally you’d think ‘Quick, let her past,’ comments Mark. “But we’d been told what the people in this building might say to us and how to act. We were told this job was going to be a bit different.”

That is because the building in which Mark and his team were working was Whittington House in Cheltenham, a care home that offers nursing, residential and dementia care support. When the Ian Williams team began work on a project to redecorate the corridors of the home, they received training in dementia.
The specialist training offered an understanding of how the condition affects people, as well as advice on how best to communicate with those affected and respect their needs. The overall aim was to ensure that it would be possible for us to do an excellent job while also being sensitive to the needs of those living in the property. We understand that not only specialist properties required to meet the needs of those living with dementia, but we also know that when we’re working on repairs or maintenance of properties for older people, we have to be familiar with the ways in which our work might be adapted.

Mark continues: “We have to take a different approach to many aspects of the tasks, some bigger than others. For example: We had to replace a handrail around the building, taking off the old one and putting on a brand new oak one. Typically, that would involve ripping off the whole handrail from both sides and only replacing it after that. But that would mean people couldn’t walk along the wall, so we only took it off on one side and did about 4-5 metres at a time. Then we put a new one on, working our way along.”

Conversations with the home manager also proved vital in understanding exactly how to carry out the work. “We’d go in each morning and say to the Home Manager, ‘Right. We’re going to go up to level two today and work our way through – is that alright?’ And she might reply, ‘Mr B was taken ill in the night, so you’ll need to work somewhere else today.’

Our efforts paid off and we were delighted to win a Painting & Decorating Association (PDA) award for this project in 2018. ‘A sensitive job carried out to a high standard and a well satisfied client’ the judges concluded. The Ian Williams team who worked on the project were proud. “It was a great project” Mark remembers fondly. “I’d love another one like it.”

For more information on the services we offer within the retirement living sector, https://www.ianwilliams.co.uk/our-markets/retirement-living