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ellenor: Team work in care homes in the local community

Like most important things in life, care doesn’t exist in isolation.

We are a charity that supports patients with life-limiting illnesses, both from within their homes, and from our Northfleet-based inpatient and outpatient wards – and are very much a product of our community.

Not only do we rely on the generosity of the local Kent and Bexley communities to continue the vital care we provide, but we also support and collaborate with other care homes and hospices in the surrounding areas.

One such local service is Mayflower Care Home. Located on Hartshill Road, just a ten-minute walk from our hospice, the nursing home – which currently houses 76 residents, with 122 members of staff – has been receiving training from ellenor for as long as its Home Manager, Nicola Bundock, can remember. 

ellenor has always been there to support us so our residents can benefit from our collective knowledge and expertise.”

Mayflower, as Nicola explains, is predominantly for patients with dementia. However, this often co-exists with cancer or other life-limiting conditions. Patients can become frail and reach the end of their life, and will require a different type of care.

Here’s where our range of dedicated palliative nurses and clinicians are able to share their knowledge. “The minute someone becomes poorly,” Nicola says, “we give ellenor a call. Nine times out of ten, they’ll be here within half an hour.”

Our regular training sessions for Mayflower’s staff have become an important mainstay at the care home.

“It keeps the nurses upskilled and, ultimately, helps support their continued PIN registration and the revalidation process,” says Nicola. “We have a mixture of Registered Nurses (RNs), and Registered Mental Health Nurses (RMNs). Often, the RMNs have not been as exposed as the RNs to the end-of-life process.

Being able to participate in the ellenor courses means that they have more of a well-rounded approach to looking after our residents when they do approach the end of their life.”

These training sessions include information around implementing Treatment Escalation Plans (TEPs) and Advance Care Plans (ACPs). These documents – which allow a patient to specify their future treatment preferences and wishes for the end of their life, alongside their family and GP – are crucial in helping ensure that Mayflower’s residents’ needs are being met, while empowering them to make autonomous choices about their care.

“As an expert in its field, ellenor helped us look in a more focused way at what our residents’ individual needs might be at the end of their life so that we could provide the best possible individualised care during their last weeks and days.”

“It’s a two-way process and we support and help each other. Mayflower has the knowledge of dementia and we work hard to ensure that we have people’s wishes fully documented up front, while ellenor provides the expertise and extra reassurance around the end-of-life care.”

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic – which highlighted the need for the increased use of TEPs and ACPs in care homes – brought about seismic changes to Mayflower’s processes. As Nicola puts it, “we had to literally break down everything we knew about care and do it again!” This meant looking again at certain processes and adapting these to ensure that the home continued to meet residents’ needs during the pandemic.

Yet our training sessions didn’t stop because of the pandemic, and most were able to continue in person. In fact, the local CCG asked us to go into care homes and support with training with, for example, infection control and PPE.

“Just having ellenor come in and assist us, and do face-to-face training with the staff was amazing, especially when other training stopped temporarily because of the situation The families of our residents were reassured to know that we were receiving this support and it was also helpful for our staff to be able to share with our ellenor colleagues what they were thinking and feeling at the time.

“With ellenor, we’ve always been able to either go to them, or have them come to us. Having ellenor there to continue with that support and training – having that individual person that understands everything – really goes a long way.”

Yet it’s more than the knowledge shared – it’s the compassion, understanding, and familiarity of the collaboration between ellenor and Mayflower that goes such a long way.

“The information that ellenor provides is at the level the nurses will need. But the people are friendly. We’ve always had the same nurses come in; we have a really close relationship with them, and them with us, so we feel comfortable – we know we can ask them questions.

“We don’t feel silly, or like we’re being ‘put in our place’. They just reassure us that we’re doing everything we can to make someone’s last days and hours the best they can be.”

For some of Mayflower’s nurses and staff, Nicola explains, the connection with ellenor is more than a local one – it’s a distinctly personal one. Several of her colleagues have friends and family who have been supported by ellenor’s service.

“What we see from ellenor’s staff in the care home is also what we see on a personal level. They are a fantastic bunch – they’re worth their weight in gold.”

Donating to ellenor not only allows the hospice to provide care to life-limited individuals of all ages within the Kent and Bexley localities, but enables it to continue to offer training, guidance, and support to other organisations within the local community, too.