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Our longest serving members of the Blenheim House team
Margaret Woodham and Jenny Minshull have been working at Blenheim House for over 35 years, so we decided to mark the occasion by sitting down and having a chat about their lives and careers.

Both Care Assistants, Jenny and Margaret provide care for the residents of Blenheim House, as well as assisting with the running of the home and ensuring the residents and their families are happy when they join us.

Jenny is the longest serving member of staff at Blenheim House, and works as a care assistant along with spending time with her ever growing family:

Q: Can you remember when you first started?
“It was in October. Can’t remember the actual date.”

Q: What made you come here?
“I came for an interview, I thought I’d like to do care but had never done it before, I was about 32. I had an appointment with the manager, said she’d start me off on a three-month trial. Still never heard whether I passed that trial but I’m still here!”

Q: What does your husband do, what does he think about you working here?
“He is a carpenter/joiner. He has never complained about me being here. When I started here I had 3 young children and he was in the building trade and it wasn’t going well so I had to come back to work when my youngest was 5 months old. All my children are married now, and I have 11 grandchildren, 1 great grandchild and another grandchild on the way. I help look after them all and life is very hectic!” 

Q: How do you have the time to come to work?
“Well I always said I would go onto days. I’ve done nights for the whole 36 years because it fits in with my childcare and now my grandchild care, and I look after my mother as well. She’s 89 this year. I share this care with my 2 sisters and my brother.”

Q: Why have you stayed all this time?
“I have occasionally considered working somewhere else, but I don’t drive and I live locally, and I really enjoy working with people and caring for people. I feel I have empathy and skill caring for people who are at the end of their journey, and I feel I do this well. I enjoy working here. Sometimes it’s hard, but then any care setting can be hard, so I don’t see the need to move.”

Q: You will have noticed some big changes over the years?
“Yes. It’s a big place and there are a lot of us. I’ve seen different managers and staff come and go, and then the big change with coming over here from our little home over the other side which was really difficult as it was small and homely, and then this is big so it’s been difficult keeping up with everything.”

Q: Would you recommend working at Blenheim House to people?
“Yes. I would say come and give it a go. Caring isn’t for everyone, but it’s a good job if you are a “people person”. There are more opportunities now than there were when I started, like the senior positions and the med techs.”

Q: What is the best thing about working here?
“I suppose really the people I work with. People are so friendly and sociable. There are good training opportunities for people who want to go that far.”

Q: Do you like Majesticare as a Company? 
“Yes. Since they took over Sampford we were always being sold. Majesticare were the only company who did what they said they were going to do.” 

Just six month’s short of Jenny’s longevity, Margaret joined the team in July 1983 when he son was just three-years-old: 

Q: Can you remember when you first started?
“It was July 83, I can’t remember the day!”

Q: what made you come here?
“There was a lady who lived by me who worked here, she asked if I wanted to join the team to work weekends, but after only one weekend I ended up working full time and have been full time ever since! My very first day there was a lady who was dying. It didn’t frighten me but I had never seen it before. When she passed, her son who was a doctor gave us all a thank you voucher and I thought it was really sweet of him.”

Q: How many children have you got?
“Three – 2 girls and a boy. My youngest boy was 3 when I started here and he’s 39 now!”

Q: Why have you stayed all this time?
“I enjoy working here. When I came it was the old Sampford home and I think there were only about 30 beds on the nursing side.”

Q: It’s changed a lot, are you still enjoying it?
“I love it because I love looking after people and it’s so rewarding.”

Q: You will have noticed some big changes over the years? “Yes. There used to be 2 sites, one was residential and dementia and the other nursing, it was awful when the residential side closed down and all the residents had to leave and the staff were moved over to the nursing side. This was long before it was owned by Majesticare though. The residential side was in the old school building. That was where the office is now. We call it the “old” side. It was a boarding school for boys. I only ever knew it as the residential part of Sampford. The boys were long gone when I started here of course. The phased building took a few years and we were moved to this side once the school had been demolished and rebuilt, after which they did the other side.”

Q: What is the best thing about working here?
“The residents and staff, and I like the new manager as well. I love the whole thing. The only way I will be ever leaving is when I retire, and I don’t think that will happen in the near future.”

Q: Do you like Majesticare as a company?
“Yes, they have made things a lot better for all of us.”

Q: If we look at the Company values of Trust, Family, Happiness, Creativity and Heart, would you say these exist at Blenheim House?
“Yes, I can feel all those values, I see them in action all the time and I love working at Blenheim House.”

Four ways to encourage positive mental wellbeing in older people
It’s never too late to start looking after your mental health. It is just as important as being physically healthy, but is very commonly forgotten about and is often pushed to one side because of embarrassment or fear of being judged.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, depression affects around 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 years and over. For an older person, they can experience many different changes in their life that could trigger a decline in their mental state, for example, bereavement, loneliness, health problems or money worries. These changes could lead to mental health problems such as depression or anxiety, so it’s important that you show your loved one support if they are going through any major life changes.

There are many ways that you can help your loved one and encourage them to lead a pro-active life. Finding new ways to fill their time and giving them the opportunity to meet like-minded people will help them gain confidence and a more positive look on life, although if you think your loved one is severely struggling with their mental health, it’s important to seek medical help.

Reviving a love for an old hobby or trying something they have never done before, hobbies are the perfect way to help refocus the mind on something more productive. Whether it’s a love for gardening or wanting to learn a new language, take a look at some clubs and classes that they can join and give them a chance to learn something new.

Make sure your loved one is keeping in touch with friends and other members of your family. If they are isolated and don’t have any friends or family nearby, why not suggest they join a social group? It’s the perfect chance for them to meet new people outside of their immediate circle.

Staying active and exercising is important whatever your age. Physical activity can assist in the production of mood enhancing chemicals in the brain, so while your muscles and joints are reaping the rewards of an aerobics class or a brisk walk around town, your mental state will benefit too.

Staying healthy
It may seem obvious, but eating and drinking well can drastically improve a person’s mental wellbeing. Foods that are high in Vitamins B and D, such as fish and dairy, are ideal as they control the chemicals in the brain that influence mood. Also, it’s easy to forget that alcohol is a depressant (many people convince themselves that it’s a way to unwind after a stressful day), so limit your alcohol intake and try to keep the majority of the week alcohol free.

At Blenheim House, our team are on hand 24/7 to offer support and companionship to all of our residents. We ensure that there is always someone to talk to and we make sure your loved ones feel comfortable enough that they can tell us about any problem they may be experiencing.

Pet therapy in care homes
When your loved one makes the move into a care home, they will face a lot of changes. While the positive changes outweigh the negative when moving into care, there are still things that a person will naturally miss about their old home, a pet often being one of them.

Pet therapy is something that has been introduced in many care homes. From household pets such as cats and dogs, to farm animals like alpacas and goats, animals are being brought into the care home environment as a way of helping residents stay positive and happy, especially those with a love for animals.

According to the Royal College of Nursing, research has found that stroking a pet can be relaxing and can result in a reduction in blood pressure. The presence of pets can also promote social interaction and reduce psychological responses to anxiety. Pet therapy has also been linked to an increase in physical activity, with residents getting up and walking around the grounds with the pets that visit them, something that they may not be motivated to do on their own.  

The use of pet therapy can also aid those living with dementia, as the introduction of a pet can often eliminate the isolation, irritability and agitation that those with the condition can often experience. Petting, cuddling and even simply sitting with an animal can have a positive effect on a person’s overall health, while triggering happy memories of their own pets.

Pets can often be brought into care homes by the team working the home, but there are also organisations such as Pets As Therapy, who provide a therapeutic visiting service by registered volunteers in hospitals, hospices, nursing and care homes, all across the UK.

Pet therapy is not for everyone and knowing our residents is key to making it a success, but with the right person matched with the right animal, the benefits can be amazing. We have used pet therapy in our home and have seen that our residents are more focused, happier and less stressed. Pet therapy in care homes

What you need to know about driving in later life
Driving is something that most of us take for granted when we’re young, but as we get older, it can be an important way of keeping your independence.

The subject of a loved one needing to stop driving can be a difficult conversation to bring up, you don’t want to embarrass them or hurt their feelings; but at the same time there is nothing more important than your relative’s safety and the safety of those around them. 

What are the legal requirements for an older person to carry on driving?
Once a person is over 70, they will need to renew their driving licence every three years. There are legal health requirements that your loved one must meet and the DVLA have strict rules about driving with certain medical conditions, such as eye problems, dementia, diabetes, epilepsy and Parkinson’s, to name a few.

What if I’m worried about my loved one driving?
Our bodies change when we get older, and those changes may affect your loved one’s ability to drive, for example eyesight may be weaker and reaction times can be slower. It’s important to remember if someone has been driving for a number of years, they will pick up a variety of driving habits, which could put the driver and others at risk.

There is currently no legal requirement to stop driving, so the decision to carry on behind the wheel is down to the driver. If your loved one is still driving in their golden years, keep an eye out for warning signs that may lead to unsafe driving, such as problems with memory or problems with reflexes. If you are worried about their driving, you can get in touch with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, who can offer independent advice and guidance about driving and staying safe. 

How can I help my loved one adjust to life after driving?
In some circumstances, the DVLA may revoke a person’s driving licence. This can be an upsetting time for the driver as they may feel like they are losing their freedom, but there are still ways to ensure that they can lead an independent life. It’s important to do your research and fins a solution that they will be comfortable with. Many public transport companies offer discounted, or even free travel for senior citizens, so your loved one can still go out and about on their own.

At Blenheim House we know how important it is to still be able to get out and about, which is why we have a chauffeur driven car as well as a minibus for our residents to use, giving them a chance to explore our local area.

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