Jenny Howe is a carer in Milward House, our home in Tunbridge Wells. She told us what led her there and why she loves being part of the Milward family
I used to ride showjumpers for my father. The job took me all around the country competing. It was a very physically demanding role and when, at the age of 32, I experienced poor health, I decided to look for something else.
At a reflexology class, I got chatting to a lady. She was a carer and absolutely loved her job. She worked with people with learning disabilities and was so passionate about making a difference to those she worked with, watching them make progress and find new ways to express themselves. It seemed like a really rewarding job so I decided to give it a go.
I got into caring through a scheme at the Job Centre. Since then, I’ve spent 14 years working in the social care sector. I’ve done all sorts, from working in a day centre with people with severe learning disabilities, to dementia rehabilitation for older people. I’ve always looked for roles where I get to spend lots of time with people and learn about their lives.
I discovered the wonderful loveliness of Milward House when I moved back to Tonbridge. I was previously living in Eastbourne, but I have family in the Tonbridge area. I first came to Milward through an agency, and then stayed!
Beyond nice. That’s how I’d describe the atmosphere at Milward. Everyone is cared for in a way that I’d want to see my own relatives looked after. It’s a real family community where everyone is so kind, patient and tolerant towards each other. Everybody has a choice, and that choice is valued and respected.
Caring itself is a very skilled job. I have to wear many different hats throughout the day. Good communication skills are essential. During handovers, you need to make sure all the information is passed on. And if you are just coming on shift, you have to be clear on all the details and act accordingly. For example, if someone has had a fall during the previous shift, you’ll keep on checking that they are okay. Organising medication requires high attention to detail, and you often have to work under pressure and solve problems, for example in managing staff absences. As well as having practical skills in moving and handling, you need to be able to empathise with family members, including being sensitive to those living with dementia.
As a staff team, we all pull together. You feel very valued and supported. If someone is having an off day, everyone will be understanding and help them out.
One of my favourite parts of the job is getting to know the preferences of our different residents. There’s one lady who always has a big smile on her face whenever you do anything for her. Her middle name is Fleur and I call her ‘my flower’. There’s another lady called Gwendoline who likes to be called Aunty Gwen – she treats us all as family.
I’ll always remember the first gentleman I got to know at Milward. His name was Francis and he had a pillow with a Spitfire on it, and a model Spitfire on his shelf. I grew up close to the RAF station at Biggin Hill, so I know quite a bit about planes. He was thrilled that I knew it was a Spitfire! He’d been in the RAF, so we formed a real connection.
The lounge is the heart of our home. It’s a lovely place to sit and chat or read the newspaper. It’s here that devotional times take place. We also have a lovely garden with a patio where residents can sit.
The food at Milward is amazing. It’s all home-cooked by our Catering Manager Adam. We have comforting foods like casseroles and chicken pie, and we always have a roast on a Sunday.
I had to shield during the lockdown period and I wasn’t been able to go into work. Being away was hard – I really missed the Milward family. Our manager Annabelle called me regularly to let me know how everyone was getting on, so I always felt like I was in touch.
I've recently returned to Milward and it's been brilliant. I had such a warm welcome and a well-planned return that I felt right at home.
Milward House has options for both care and independent living. Find out more here
Plus, to find out how one artistic member of the Milward community has been encouraging those he lives with see here