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Training given to repairs staff working in care homes is vital

Sponsored by Ian Williams

Maintenance contractors need guidance to work with older people, particularly those with limited mobility, dementia and memory problems

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Erosh has prepared guides for contractors when working in care homes to help them be aware of residents’ needs (sponsored) #ukhousing

Dementia problems and mobility issues mean that repair work in care homes needs to be well considered so as to not be a danger to residents (sponsored) #ukhousing

For some sheltered living residents, maintenance staff might be the only people they regularly see, so it is vital contractors are trained to notice any concerns (sponsored) #ukhousing

Article written in association with:

EROSH

Supporting older people

Key facts: The consortium has existed for 20 years; it created the Sensitive Contractors guide; it acts as a hub of good practice.

Erosh has existed for 20 years, but chief executive Rebecca Mollart says interest in this national network for older people’s housing and support services continues to grow.

“With increasing demand and decreasing resources, the need for us has increased,” suggests Ms Mollart, who has headed the body since 2013. “We have seen an increase in the need for a central place for good practice resources and information and advice.”

She says the consortium’s membership consists of representatives from a range of organisations.

“People are drawn from large providers, councils, small housing associations, even down to charitable trusts and almshouses.”

The support now offered to such organisations includes a guide to help contractors who are working in older people’s homes – an increasingly common state of affairs given the ageing population.

“The idea was that housing organisations could hand the Sensitive Contractors guide to their repairs and maintenance staff,” explains Ms Mollart.

“The purpose really is to prepare contractors for working sensitively in older people’s homes, particularly the age-related considerations to be mindful of: how to engage with older people appropriately and sensitively, and make it all a positive experience for everybody – not just for the older person, but also for the contractor, so that they can get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

That means the guide includes advice on how best to communicate with someone who has dementia, reviews mobility and sensory issues, and considers cultural issues, too. Creating it involved a range of contributors.

“We had somebody from the Sector Skills Council for housing, we had a couple of providers, somebody from the care Sector Skills Council – so a few people involved.”

Erosh has also started to provide training based on the guide, with sessions covering additional issues such as social isolation.

“In recent years, [there has been] the recognition that repairs and maintenance staff are maybe some of the few people that an older person comes into contact with,” explains Ms Mollart.

“There is an understanding of the role everyone has to play in relation to coming into contact with any vulnerable person. You can’t just go in and fix the tap, and then say, ‘That’s my job done.’

“So that’s part of the contractors’ training we run as well – acknowledging the role that repairs and maintenance staff have in identifying issues and reporting their concerns to the organisation.”

Ms Mollart says she and Erosh colleagues are encouraged by the number of those in the sector who are now taking such issues seriously.

She is particularly encouraged by the companies that have offered support regarding creating guides to best practice.

“From our perspective, it’s fantastic that organisations are being sensitive to working in older people’s homes and recognising that there are special considerations in addition to the normal good behaviour that you’d expect.”

Erosh has also started to provide training based on the guide, with sessions covering additional issues such as social isolation.

“In recent years, [there has been] the recognition that repairs and maintenance staff are maybe some of the few people that an older person comes into contact with,” explains Ms Mollart.

“There is an understanding of the role everyone has to play in relation to coming into contact with any vulnerable person. You can’t just go in and fix the tap, and then say, ‘That’s my job done.’

“So that’s part of the contractors’ training we run as well – acknowledging the role that repairs and maintenance staff have in identifying issues and reporting their concerns to the organisation.”

Ms Mollart says she and Erosh colleagues are encouraged by the number of those in the sector who are now taking such issues seriously.

She is particularly encouraged by the companies that have offered support regarding creating guides to best practice.

“From our perspective, it’s fantastic that organisations are being sensitive to working in older people’s homes and recognising that there are special considerations in addition to the normal good behaviour that you’d expect.”

Inside Whittington House, which offers nursing and dementia support

IAN WILLIAMS

Whittington House

Key facts: The contractors received training in dementia; they liaised with staff to adapt work for residents; the job won a PDA award

When a woman approached 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,’” says Mr Reynolds, a contract supervisor at Ian Williams. “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 he was working was Whittington House in Cheltenham, a care home that offers nursing, residential and dementia care support. Before Mr Reynolds began work on a project to redecorate the corridors of the home, he received training in dementia.

It offered an understanding of how the condition affects people, as well as advice on how to best communicate with those affected and respect their needs. The overall aim: to ensure that it would be possible to do an excellent job while also being sensitive to the needs of those in the property.

With one in six people older than 80 having dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Society – and 70% of people in care homes experiencing either dementia or severe memory problems – it is clear that more specialist property will be required to meet their needs.

It is also clear that those working on repairs or maintenance of properties for older people will have to be familiar with the ways in which their work might be adapted.

Certainly, members of the Ian Williams team at Whittington House found they had to take a different approach to some aspects of their tasks.

“We had to replace a handrail around the building, taking off the old one and putting on a brand new oak one,” remembers Mr Reynolds.

Typically, that would probably 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 4-5m [at a time]. Then we put the new one on, working our way along.”

Conversations with the home manager proved helpful in understanding exactly how best to carry out the work.

“We’d go in each morning and go to Lyndsey [Dixon – the home’s manager] and say, ‘Right, Lyndsey. We’re going to go up to level two today and work our way through – is that all right?’ And she might have said, ‘So and so was taken ill in the night, so you’ll need to work somewhere else.’”

Mr Reynolds then adds: “Normally, on a building site, every door is open. In you go, rip off the handrails, do the job and then away you go. But in this case we had to liaise with the staff daily.”

Such efforts paid off handsomely, with the work winning a Painting and Decorating Association (PDA) award in 2018. “A sensitive job carried out to a well satisfied client,” the judges concluded.

The team who worked on it were also satisfied. “It was a good project, that one,” says Mr Reynolds fondly. “I’d love another one like it.”

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