Why We Started - Heritage Healthcare Trafford

Why We Started

Mark Collier, Managing Director of Heritage Healthcare Trafford, talks openly about his personal experience with Alzheimer’s, the effect the disease had on his mum and how it drove him into the Home Care industry.

Managing Director, Mark Collier

“I used to laugh with my mum because on the odd occasion she used to get her words and sentences mixed up in the months prior to my Dad’s passing. I did not think that there was a problem, she had always been bubbly and a little dizzy at times.

My dad passed away in 2004 and with hindsight, I think he covered up for her a little beforehand. Upon reflection, she had obviously started with the early onset of dementia. I have first-hand experience of being an only child dealing with a loved one in her own home for 6 years. I know what it is like for family and friends supporting the person with Dementia. It is a stressful and thankless experience.

A couple of months passed by and mum was doing uncharacteristic things such as wearing odd shoes. I decided that it was appropriate that she should visit her GP. This proved extremely difficult, she was reluctant to visit the Doctor. Finally after a couple of months of influencing and cajoling she relented. I took her to see her GP and he referred her to the Memory Clinic.

A month passed by before we visited the Memory Clinic. Again my mum was apprehensive and confused as to what was going on. The Consultant asked her basic questions such as who was the Prime Minister, what was the Queen called. He gave her simple things to remember showing her a sheet with various drawings on it and asking what she remembered. He also asked her to carry out a few basic tasks I must say it was quite humiliating and I felt for her. It was very upsetting as you can imagine.

A couple of weeks later a Consultant called to see her at her home. I was present. He confirmed to me that she had Alzheimer’s disease. It was frightening as I had heard of the Disease but I knew little about it until I undertook research and the health professionals could not give any specifics as to how the Disease could develop, how it could affect her and her behaviours. I visited her day and night whilst holding down a stressful job. It took over my life.

At first, she was forgetful and sometimes found it hard to hold a conversation as she tried to recall words and situations. She would struggle with paying household bills. She was allocated a Social Worker, Lorna, who was very helpful and kind. The support network wasn’t that good at the time. If it were today then I would ring Age UK who are a remarkable and supportive Charity. They can point you in the right direction. Things were a little different back then. Awareness was not as good as it is today, though personally, I think we still have some way to go to heighten awareness amongst the public, shop keepers and service businesses. It is awful for somebody with Alzheimer’s to interact with a service. My mum often struggled to articulate what it was she wanted. She would go into a shop knowing what she wanted but unable to get the correct words out.

I was struggling to meet her everyday needs of shopping and making her meals. She was still very active and would go out for hours around the shops in the Trafford Centre to keep herself occupied. This was a struggle as she wanted to keep her independence, however, at the same time, I worried about her safety and the possibility of people taking advantage of her. Physically she was very fit but mentally she was in a slow but sure decline.

I spoke to her Social Worker who suggested obtaining support by way of home care services. This was something which I wasn’t really au fait with. So again I did my research and spoke with my mum. She was reluctant to let anybody into her home to make her meals and provide support to her. At first, the home care agency took the pressure off me. However a couple of months into the arrangement they would turn up late, forget the key safe code and have to constantly ring me for the number. Sometimes she would not take her medication, they would leave her without milk in the fridge. The number of different carers who came to see her was a concern also. She needed familiarity and routine.

I changed the Care Company and again the same things were happening. I remember thinking to myself at the time that I could look after people better myself with my own Care Company. I did not realise at the time that 5 years later, I would set up my own Home Care Company. I still vividly recall my own experiences and this drives me to be different and better than the rest.

During my time looking after my mum, I felt isolated, it is only when it happens, that you realise there is not much support out there. People just did not understand the nature and consequences of her illness. She looked normal, so, therefore, she must be well was the assumption. Sadly my mum passed away in 2011. I learnt a lot about Dementia and the effects it can have on people. She deteriorated over the 7 years she was afflicted by the disease. I still take comfort however that she always recognised me until the day she passed away. Towards the end of her life, she went into a Trafford Dementia Assessment Unit, which culminated in her going into a residential nursing home. Many a local residential home would not take her in as they felt unable to meet her needs. I think if I had the time again I would have looked at a 24/7 home care package. This is where care and support is provided around the clock in the person’s own home. It wasn’t popular back then though. It is popular in The USA and is being seen as an alternative solution to placing the person into a residential home. The sector still has too many poor players in it trying to deliver care on a business model which is not viable or sustainable.

When we appoint carers we apply “the mum’s test” i.e. would we let this carer support and care for our loved one. We provide support and training for that carer. We want the carer to be part of our team and not to be just treated as a commodity. The industry statistics show that in the home care market there is a 26% turnover of care staff annually in the sector. Our aim is to keep this at 10% and below.

I recognised that good home care can support a service user and their family in a very positive way. We are not selling home care, at Heritage Healthcare Trafford we are selling trust. Clients and families have to take a leap of faith with us. They have to trust in us to do what we say we will do, and when we say we will do it. We have a huge responsibility to safeguard our client and care for them in a way which is dignified and respectful, whilst doing all we can to support their independence.

We at Heritage  Healthcare see it as a privilege to support and care for somebody in their own home. We always have to remember that it is the clients’ home. As Managing Director I am adopting a very “hands-on” approach. I want to know every client we have and where appropriate every family. I encourage families to feedback to me personally on the services we are providing. We are all about providing true Person Centred Care. This is a fabulous journey that we have embarked upon, we aim to enhance/improve peoples’ lives for the better”

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