MHA Ipswich

“It’s a grand Home,” says Home Manager Nikki Cantwell, who first worked here as a Relief Care Assistant 14 years ago, “but very homely.”

(Though the chapel is always rather cold, she admits!) Nikki has no doubt that many residents are attracted to Norwood because of the building’s appearance and layout – “it has charisma”, she says. But if Norwood’s character springs in part from its building, it’s the people who live and work there that bring it alive. Norwood has 45 residents, and since 2007 this number has included a small number of individuals living with dementia.

The changes that have made this development possible required a good deal of upheaval. Six new rooms were built and every communal room improved. Additional dementia care training was provided for the staff by Norwood’s own trainer. Project Profile Always active in IpswichMany members of the Norwood staff have a long association with the Home.

Nikki herself became manager five years ago, after working in other MHA Homes. She says she was first attracted to MHA because, as a not-for-profit organisation, all its funds and energies are concentrated on the care and support of older people. “And they are especially good at listening to the staff they employ,” she adds. “I don’t feel like a commodity but part of a team.” Nikki and her colleagues have worked hard to retain Norwood’s ‘homely’ feel. Every room is accessible to all residents; everyone eats together in the two communal dining rooms. It’s a policy that demands a lot of people on duty at any one time but it means that activities and care can all be available to any resident whatever their needs. And Norwood’s approach to activities is clearly one of the keys to its success.

A good deal of thought is given to encouraging residents to lead fulfilled lives. Even so, it may come as a surprise to learn that several residents enjoy boxing as well as bowls – though it turns out that the boxing is played using a Wii video game consol and the Home’s 52” television. The majority of Norwood’s residents have led full and independent lives; often they have travelled all over the world; have had demanding jobs and developed a wide range of interests. The task of ensuring that everyone has access to the kind of activity that suits them is led by Norwood’s full-time activities co-ordinator, Peggy Moore. Peggy has been with the Home for 24 years and is, “absolutely fantastic”, says Nikki. She organises play-readings by the residents themselves, daily exercise sessions and, for those who feel less comfortable in groups, one-to-one activities such as a trip to the theatre. For those living with dementia, Peggy has also introduced “Sonas” sessions, an innovative form of activity that uses all the senses to stimulate older people, particularly those with memory loss.

The sessions balance routine (they are always at the same time and always begin and end with familiar music) with a mix of movement, nice snacks to taste and interesting smells, such as essential oils. One result of having so many opportunities, together with members of staff members who have been at Norwood for some time, is a strong sense of variety balanced with continuity. This balance helped Amy* settle in the Home. She arrived at Norwood anxious and confused. Her medications were no longer suitable for her and she had been targeted as a single woman living alone. Con men had preyed upon her, causing Amy and her family real concern. At Norwood, she has established good relationships with those caring for her and they have organised appropriate support from the local Primary Care Trust.

It is this ability to provide a sense of security as well as comfort – of ‘home’ in the broadest sense of the word – that makes the Norwood the special place that it is. The building is grand, yes, but it’s the people, staff and residents alike, who make it home. Heart & Soul 09 *Name changed to protect individual’s identity

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