My grandmother Janet – ‘Nan’ – was active and independent right up until October 2022 when she had a fall and was admitted to hospital and then went to a care home in the surrounding area. She was then unwell and admitted to hospital a second time. The doctors had signed her off as medically fit but she couldn’t leave the hospital because they said the care home wasn’t suitable anymore.
Nan ended up staying in hospital for weeks and during this time she lost her ability to walk. Her dementia seemed to be progressing and I was very concerned. It was getting close to Christmas and I pushed for her to be discharged. Eventually a place for her was found at a care home in Colchester. Sadly, Nan didn’t settle. Her long hospital stay had left her feeling very anxious. Every time I went to see her she said, “I want to go home.” It was heart-breaking.
Nan moved to Luff House in January 2023. From the outset, things felt different. Timothy, the manager, and Sonya [then a Hummingbird now The Way We Care Lead] took the time to find out about Nan. She was very agitated when she arrived. I explained to Timothy and Sonya that she wasn’t really like this and they listened and took steps to work out what they could do best to support her.
"Sonya not only asked me for a photobook but also asked if I could write the names of the people on the backs of the photos so she could talk to Nan about them."
I’d made a photobook to give to the previous care homes but sadly I don‘t think anyone ever looked at it with her. Soon after Nan arrived at Luff House, Sonya not only asked me for a photobook but also asked if I could write the names of the people on the backs of the photos so she could talk to Nan about them. It was small details like this that showed Nan really mattered to them and that they wanted to get to know her as a person.
I was really keen that Nan wasn’t just left in bed all day as had happened in hospital and Sonya understood this completely. Nan had a tendency to wave her arms and legs around when being moved to a wheelchair, which presented a challenge. Nonetheless, Sonya and the staff team persevered with helping her into a wheelchair and taking her down to the lounge to join in with the activities. Once she was among people, she was so much better in herself. She loved joining in with all the music and singing. There’s a video of her singing her favourite hymn ‘All things bright and beautiful’ and tapping her feet to the music. Seeing her being able to find enjoyment in something was so wonderful to see.
Nan has been a football fan all her life, playing as a child and avidly supporting Liverpool FC. Sonya and the team took the time to move her room around to ensure she had the ideal spot to watch the football on TV. When Liverpool defeated Manchester United 7-0 she took great delight in celebrating the victory, especially as my dad and husband are Man U fans. When she shouted, “Liverpool!” down the phone to me, I knew she was still the same old Nan.
Another thing that was really important for Nan was having her hair done – I'm a hairdresser and I’d do Nan’s hair myself. It was a special time for both of us. Although Nan’s reaction of being quite physical when being moved was a concern, Sonya and the team were committed to making sure she was brought to the salon. I told them that I knew she’d be absolutely fine with me and she was. Nan loved to look her best and I’d come in once a week to blow dry her hair for her. I’d also put on some blusher for her and spray some perfume and we'd listen to music. These things made such a difference to Nan. She felt like herself.
Throughout Nan’s time at Luff House, the communication with Sonya was excellent. She’d email me to let me know how Nan was getting on, and I knew that I could talk through any concerns. I was also struck by the way Sonya and other staff at the home called the residents 'family members'. I thought that was lovely.
I’ve always said, “They don’t make nans like my Nan any more.” You couldn’t meet anyone more kind-hearted. She would do anything for anyone. She loved playing the host, opening her home to friends and family. She’d look out for her neighbours, for example, inviting an older neighbour to join her for her regular bingo. I think her helpful and proactive nature was one reason she found it so hard to be a situation she couldn’t be ‘a doer’ in the same way anymore.
She also loved children and used to take in foster children. When my stepson came into our lives, she was so kind to him, taking him on trips down to the pier. To her, it was no trouble at all.
"I’ve always said, 'They don’t make nans like my Nan any more.” You couldn’t meet anyone more kind-hearted. She would do anything for anyone."
While Nan was at Luff, a group of children came to visit the home. Sonya knew Nan loved children and made sure she was brought down to the lounge to be part of it. In the event, she slept through the entire visit, but it made such a difference knowing that staff at the home were willing to try and involve her in something they thought she would enjoy.
The last time I saw Nan was on Good Friday. I did her hair in the salon and then we had a lovely afternoon Easter celebration with cakes and music. It was a precious afternoon. Then, on the morning of Easter Sunday, the home called me to tell me she was unwell, I came straight away and unfortunately she passed away 15 minutes later. She was 81.
I’m still processing the fact that Nan isn’t with us anymore. She was such a special lady and I miss her very much. My one wish is that she could have come into Luff House sooner. It would have saved her so much upheaval. Who knows, we might have had more time with her.
What I do know is that at Luff House she was treated with dignity and honour. She spent her life looking out for other people and it means the world to me knowing that in her final months she received the same kind of love and attention she so readily gave to others.
Find out more about The Way We Care and life at Luff House
Our unique approach to ensuring that older people have all that they need to flourish in their later years
Friederike Hamilton explains what makes this approach to care so special, including the vital role of The Way We Care Leads in each of our homes
Luff House is a 28-bed residential care home in Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex.