Our growth news coincides with CQC Inspection update


Good management of a domiciliary care agency takes more than just ticking boxes

The CQC inspectors have just returned our annual inspection report and we are delighted to announce that a great CQC report coincides with the news that we have just exceeded 400 care hours per week, and now employ 25 people  — a significant milestone we set out to achieve and are now surpassing.

We’d like to share some of the CQC findings with you. It just goes to show once again that boxes can be ticked, but to really come up to scratch you have to see the evidence in the comments behind the boxes. So we are happy to report that not only are we meeting all the standards, but have surpassed expectations in certain areas.

We were found to have met the standard for Respecting and Involving people, Care and Welfare of people, Safeguarding people from abuse, Supporting workers, Assessing and monitoring the quality of service provision — and we would expect nothing less. What really matters is what both our customers and their relatives, and our carers and their managers, told the CQC about us.

Here’s a summary of what they found:

From our customers:

“People were wholly complimentary about the quality of the service they received with one person describing staff as ‘really lovely’ and said staff went ‘beyond the scope of what they need to do.’

Other people described staff as ‘respectful’ and ‘very well trained.’

One person said the manager was ‘very particular about the staff they employed.’”

This is exactly one of our top priorities and it’s good to know it’s being noticed.

From our staff:

“Staff felt supported and one, who was new in the post, found the support helpful in making them feel comfortable in their role. Staff were also motivated and said they enjoyed their work.”

And here are some first-hand remarks that support our top priorities — the report highlights that we keep our promises.

Involving people in their care plan, giving them control and respect:  “We saw there was a clear schedule of support the person had planned with staff and the times this was to be delivered. The schedule was supported by detailed individualised care plans. People we spoke with said they had been involved in their care planning and were able to request changes and we saw these requests were acted upon.”

Treating people with dignity:  “Staff spoke with confidence about how they ensured people were treated with respect and dignity and gave examples of how they did this when supporting people with their personal care needs. People using the service, and relatives, said staff were always respectful and showed regard for people’s dignity and independence.”

Keeping people safe from abuse:  People who used the service told us they felt safe with the care staff allocated to provide their support. Staff told us they were up to date with their safeguarding training and we saw records of certificates, in staff files, to confirm this. The information provided, together with our observations demonstrated that people were protected against the risk of abuse.”

Regular vetting and training of staff:  “We saw that staff were regularly assessed. Managers carried out regular checks to assess staff performance and also to offer support and guidance to staff. Staff said they had enough time to carry out their duties effectively and we saw that staff always stayed at a person’s home for the allocated time to ensure they were providing the most effective care they could.”

It’s great when a homecare agency can be upfront about its operations; none should have anything to hide.



Am I at risk with a home carer?


There is always the fear that strangers coming into the home bring risk. An elderly person may be concerned that they don’t know them; that the carer doesn’t know what they like or don’t like; that they might even abuse the situation and steal from them or invade their privacy without consent.

Our care assessment is focused on identifying what someone wants and if possible providing an introduction to them as a person. As our CQC Inspection noted, our care plans are very detailed even down to telling the carer where to find the hoover or where the tea bags are kept.

A good, reputable carer agency, like ours, recruits staff that are good at getting to know our customers really well in terms of their personal tastes and expectations. This is their top priority. And we check, vet and train our carers very carefully. When interviewing we are looking at the values the candidate has in answer to the question: can you show complete respect for the person you are caring for and build lasting , trusting relationships?

This is the most important question to us because we are confident we can train them to effectively perform all the care tasks.

5 resolutions for Halcyon Home Care in 2014

The end of one year and start of another are frantically busy times in home care. Not only do many families ask us to keep a caring eye on relatives while they are away or distracted by the mountain of tasks that this time of year always entails, but the needs for provision of social care are continuous. As we settle back into some semblance of normality, we now have time to reflect on what we want, and what we intend, for 2014.

  1. This year we will prove that we are up for the Dementia Challenge launched last year. We have already appointed a Dementia Champion, and will be continually and carefully redesigning and promoting our dementia services. We will look to meet more than simply the basic care needs of those with dementia, but also look to support them holistically and improve their quality of living every day.
  2. We will be watching the progress of the Care Bill as it moves through the legislative process, and are resolved to be vocal – giving credit where credit is due, but not being afraid to challenge areas and aspects of debate which we feel are not hitting the spot.
  3. In a similar vein, we will be proactive in sharing the great stories and examples of care excellence which are the mark of our agency. It isn’t simply to market ourselves but is, much more importantly, to counter the poisonous impact of negative elderly care stories which the media love, but which do such a disservice to our wonderful carers and to other people like us who strive to be different. Shine a light on bad practice by all means – but don’t assume all carers are the same.
  4. Continue to partner positively and proactively with the Local Authority, as we work together to try to meet more of the growing needs for elderly care among the aging populations in Maidenhead, Windsor and Ascot. As a company we’ll be increasing the number of Halcyon-trained care staff and ensuring that they live and breathe our care philosophy of delivering quality care with respect, and continuity.
  5. Lastly, we plan on having fun – with both our team and our customers. A little lightness can go a long way to helping our clients deal with what can sometimes be a tough decision to bring in a helping hand — and to help our carers cope in what is a very demanding job. Plus – it keeps us sane in the office, as we juggle an ever increasing number of care hours!

We’re looking forward to a great 2014.
Happy New Year to all, from the Halcyon Home Care team.


Mrs B Defines Quality Carers

What is a carer? If you are to believe the basic definition of a carer then it is simply “a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person.” What a cold and limiting description that is. It allows for none of the real feeling, empathy or positive motivation that comes from high-quality carers in Halcyon as we deliver elderly home care services in the Windsor, Maidenhead and Ascot areas.

I feel affronted for our carers at the continued media stories of sub-standard care in the residential sector which corrodes the reputation of the entire care community. It also promotes a huge disservice to those individuals who choose to take up a career in care, which the better ones find hugely rewarding despite not being highly paid or glamorous.

In my opinion this is where the current political trend to bring the measurement of care back to tick boxes and standardised tests diverges from sense and experience. Certainly standards are essential – but this approach entirely misses the fact that each individual carer brings a unique personality, emotion and set of skills to the role, and we think that is wonderful. We have our own standard operating procedures but they have been carefully designed so as to allow the personalities of each individual carer to shine through when they’re with a customer. We recognise that what makes one person a good carer and another less so is not something you can define purely through standard tests and measures.

This week, Mrs B, one of our customers in Maidenhead, summed this up beautifully. She told me, “One of my friends said to me ‘I don’t know how you could have strangers in your home helping you with care,’ to which I replied: They’re not strangers. They’re my carers and they’re lovely. In just a little time they become very close to you.”  She went on to speak about different carers and how she loved their differences.

We can’t necessarily give our homecarers a glamorous career, but we pay them above the norm, invest in them and do our very best to show them how much we value them. But at the end of the day, the value placed upon them by their customers is the most telling, and most welcomed, measure. That’s why we always ask for home care customer reviews – because they, and only they, really can define what good quality care looks like, and what a good home carer for the elderly delivers.

Our Carers – Tracy’s Story


I first entered into community care in the year 2001; I had been looking for a part time job that would fit in around my home life as I had two sons. My sister already worked for an agency and kept saying I should have a go at care work — I might like it. At this point I was not so convinced!

Eventually I called the agency and they asked me to go in for a chat. When I arrived I was greeted by the manager; to my relief she was actually the mother of one of the children my sons were at school with. After a lengthy chat and feeling at ease I thought: I can do this, and I think I could be good at it.

I started with formal training and was then taken out to shadow work one of the regular carers. I started just working in the evenings as this suited my family life, gradually with time, I was asked to help with morning and lunch calls whilst my boys were at school. I really enjoyed visiting my regular customers and building a relationship with each of them as individuals; I enjoyed helping with their daily tasks and found it very rewarding. It was good to have someone be so pleased to see me and to feel I had made a difference.

I continued with training and completed my NVQ 2. I was promoted to senior carer and was responsible for spot checks and supervisions for a team of eight carers. I would check the care plans were up to date and advise my manager should changes be required and carry out customer reviews to check they were happy with the service. In 2006 I left domiciliary care to work for Slough Borough Council as part of the Intermediate Care Team. I did this to further my knowledge, as this team dealt with rehabilitation, and I was interested in working to promote independence. I worked for the team for one year and completed my NVQ 3 in rehabilitation, which is now a real advantage for me when I carry out care and risk assessments. I use all this knowledge to structure their individual care plans by assessing their mobility their independence levels and looking at any aids that would be of assistance and then arrange for an occupational therapist or physiotherapist to visit and assess. After finishing my NVQ3 I felt I really wanted to return to domiciliary care.

I returned to an agency which, after interview, offered me a position as a coordinator. I accepted, as again I felt this would further my knowledge and experience. As a coordinator I would plan working rounds, place customers with carers that were trained to suit their needs or to customers I felt they would work well with. I was responsible for making sure all work was allocated and covered in an emergency. My main areas of focus were to assist the customers, prepare a care plan specified to their needs, contact third parties on their behalf, ie, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, care managers, GPs and district nurses. I believe a good coordinator is a good listener and communicator, someone who is fair but firm and will work alongside their staff and not expect them to do something they wouldn’t do themselves.

Today I am the operations manager at Halcyon Homecare. I hold on to all my experiences throughout my career and use them in my current role. I have to balance providing the best quality service to our customers and looking after our staff. I visit all of the customers so at anytime know where they live and understand their personal needs. I spend time with the staff individually and know their capabilities and availability. I use all this knowledge to manage and coordinate a high level of good quality and reliable care for our customers with the continuity of regular carers. In our staff I look for reliability, a caring nature, professionalism, good communication and listening skills and an ability to work well as part of a team or alone.

Even as the manager I still go out and assist with calls in the community, as I believe it is important to be seen by the customers and the staff. It keeps me in a position of still being connected outside of the office and still doing a job I love very much.
For those of you who have not met me, I have bright red hair — as in letterbox red. This came about when I visited a lady that had impaired vision, and she would sit next to her lounge window looking out for when people came to the door. I suggested to her that I would dye my hair as bright as I could so she would know it was me, hence my trademark red hair. This lady was able to still see my very bright hair and would always say “I always know when you’re coming, I can see the red flash come past the window.” It put her mind at rest that she knew who was coming in. One of my other favourite memories of being a carer is of a gentleman I used to visit four times a day. On one occasion, when his son was visiting, his son asked: “Is this your regular lady?” He replied to his son: “She is not just my lady, she is like a friend — I can ask her anything.” Making a difference is what being a carer is about — it’s not just a job.

Winter Dementia Care: 6 Ways to Care for People with Dementia

Homecare250pxWe all respond in different ways to longer dark evenings, colder weather and the changes in family routines that Christmas and the holiday seasons bring.

Dementia care at this time of year is essential. People who suffer with dementia are often more affected and can become more confused during periods of change, necessitating more attention. Careful dementia care is important. As a professional care agency we incorporate all of the following practices into our care management and advice for our customers:

1. Think about inclement weather planning
Berkshire may not be famous for snow-drifts and white-outs but this means our transport systems are sometimes more affected than towns in Siberia when the snow and ice comes! So, we need to manage the risk of difficulties in getting to the shops by keeping a minimum of 3 days’ food in the house. Using even a small freezer compartment for a small loaf and a pint of milk is something to consider. If solid fuel is used for heating, then regular checks on stock levels are essential.

2. Only go out when dressed up for the cold
We now know that the number-one cause of illness and death in winter is down to very cold weather! So, Halcyon discourages customers from going outside and asks whether there is someone else to go to the shops or get things delivered. If they must go outside, we encourage them to dress warmly in layers with hats, gloves, scarves, windproof and waterproof jackets, and wear shoes that are waterproof and have a good grip. That means storing those items so that it is difficult not to “forget” to wear them when they go out. And, where we can’t find those items easily to hand, that we notice it and encourage family members to buy winter-weather clothes.

3. Keep the home warm
Although we all worry about energy costs the home must be kept warm. Some people with dementia can get confused or anxious about heaters and central heating systems. Try to arrange for automatic timer systems that keep the living area in the home at around 18-21°C. We also discourage the practice that is prevalent among many elderly people of sleeping with an open bedroom window – both to save energy and for security reasons.

4. Take action against loneliness and isolation
For reasons that are often linked to sunlight and sunshine, loneliness and depression are more apparent in the winter months. For those suffering with dementia and living on their own, regular and routine visiting is an essential part of their wellbeing. Late afternoon visitors need to take the responsibility to pull the curtains and switch on a light for when it gets darker later. Try to start or bring some activity to get them involved with, doing it together if possible. If it is not possible for the family to sit down with a dementia sufferer, arrange with a care agency to stop by for a regular companionship call during the week.

5. Eat Well
People with dementia are prone to “missing” meals; but our bodies keep warm by burning the food we eat! Hot meals with plenty of carbohydrates (potatoes, bread, pasta and rice), stews and soups help keep illnesses at bay and maintain health and wellbeing. There is also no quicker way to warm the body from inside than with a warm drink of hot chocolate, tea or coffee. Our carers work to care plans, ensuring at least one cooked meal a day in winter, with plenty of hot drinks during the visits and throughout the day.

6. Manage expectations for the holiday period
People with dementia can become anxious with changes in routine and in unfamiliar places. Visiting them at home is often less stressful than taking them out. Family members need to be prepared, and understand that when faced with a new environment a common reaction for those affected is to ask to be taken home after a very short period. This is not a reaction to anything that has been done or said and offense should not be taken. Furthermore, if you are considering bringing in carers to manage in your absence over a holiday period, arrange for plenty of short visits prior to the departure in order to allow enough time for a relationship to be built before departing.

Big family gatherings around Christmas lunches with lots of “unfamiliar” faces can trigger confusion. The need to buy and receive Christmas presents can also increase fretfulness and concern. Families need to manage the Christmas presents issue, preferably by reassuring them that the presents have all been taken care of. But despite these issues, try not to leave someone alone on Christmas Day. Make them feel wanted and involve them appropriately in the preparations and the activities; suffering from dementia does not mean you are incapable of peeling potatoes! We always advise families they will have a more successful gathering when they manage both their own expectations as well as the event.

Ann Smith -Dementia Champion, Halcyon Home Care


Response to The Care Bill

ElderlyCareMagGlassSmallPaul Dunn-Sims, Founder and Executive Partner, Halcyon Home Care issued this response to the Care Bill which was published on 10th May 2013 by the Department of Health:

It’s now recognised that all of us will probably require some form of care or support at some stage in our lives. Unfortunately, at present the reality of the care provided is too often a great disappointment for the recipients and their families; a situation that can only get worse with the changing demographics unless something is done.

We believe the leadership focus on care provided by the Government should be on improving quality standards and to the personalisation of care for the individual. Sadly, while some of the issues have been addressed by the Bill we fear that Local Authorities will work to meet their new obligations without confronting the need to improve quality beyond minimum compliance standards.

No doubt that the headlines will all be about funding and spending cap and the differences between the Bill and the Dilnot recommendations. But we are pleased at the recognition that consideration of care should begin with well-being initiatives long before the current focus of care interventions and we also like the aspects that recognise the public as consumers require a better understanding of what is on offer and where to go for support. We particularly welcome the re-introduction of quality performance rating schemes to assist in appointment of the best carers.

However, in our opinion, the Bill falls short of the need for Local Authorities as the main commissioners of social care in England and the major source of influence for all care providers to put quality at the heart of the social care agenda.

We would have liked to have seen some expectation on Local Authorities to measure and report on quality of care provided and any measure that discouraged rewarding cheap, barely adequate providers over quality providers. We also think it is a pity that no adjudicator for disputes between Local Authorities and care providers over costs has been introduced. We must end the cultural acceptance that managing local council expenditure budget is prioritised over quality of care or we will all face a miserable prospect in old age.