A beautiful July day: heat and sun. The best time to spend with your family, your children, to relax, to go to the seaside, especially when you have a day off work as a carer at Antokol. Today, however, something happened that motivated me to write this letter...
Every Antokol resident who has a hospital visit goes with a carer. Knowing the NHS the way we do - the long waits, the confusion of our residents in a strange place and the occasional language barrier – of course we’d never send anyone alone.
At 5.30 this morning Mrs M had to go to Kings College Hospital in London. Her procedure was at 7am. Gosia one of our carers, volunteered to drive her to the hospital even though it was her day off. When they arrived, Gosia decided to wait for Mrs M until the procedure was over. Unfortunately, after procedure took place Mrs. M could not be discharged as her blood pressure was too high; successive medications were administered to lower it and, all the while, Gosia waited so they could return to Antokol together. She kept up Mrs M’s spirits by reassuring her that everything would be fine, giving her sandwiches and something to drink, and basically being a good friend.
But Gosia had children who needed to be collected from school and looked after until she or her husband returned from work. She asked another carer, Julia, to help her, which she did. And all of this happened without my knowledge and without any fuss. These ladies made the arrangements themselves. It’s now 7pm and Gosia is still with Mrs M at the hospital and Julia is still looking after the children.
I am writing about this because it is not an isolated case. It is the way in which all our staff instinctively behave every single day. Their care is unconditional. This is what life looks like at Antokol.
Antokol is beautiful and clean of course, but it is GREAT because it has employees with GREAT hearts. To us a resident is not a service user, a customer, or a client; they are family, someone like my grandmother, my grandfather!
I have worked here for 13 years and I have never had to call the Agency to ask for a carer because someone failed to come into work today. The staff here always find a solution. They will take residents to the hospital, out for a coffee or a walk... on their day off. Sometimes, they get an Employee of the Month award and £50, but in reality they are invaluable. They’re not counting the minutes until they go on a break nor do they spend their on-call time browsing Facebook on their mobile phones; they prefer to make sure every woman has her earrings on and her nails painted, if that's what she wants. And there’s our beautiful garden. We don’t have to hire a gardener, because Jola waters, replants, and prunes, and Mietek cuts and mows.
For me, the staff here are the best, most dedicated workers. Sometimes it breaks my heart when I watch a young carer, pushing a very heavy person in a wheelchair to hospital, but it’s always done with a smile (and sandwiches, a drink and the reassurance that everything will be fine). And they do it because they want to. What I like most is their liveliness, their laughter, their joy, their enthusiasm and their creativity.
At present, there are 35 residents in our home: 23 Polish, 10 English, one Czech and one Irish. Five came to us from other nursing homes and the language is no barrier to enjoying life here. They want to be here because the care is warm and homely. And they like our food! Ania, the chef, and her team ask everyone what they like to eat, what they would like to have cooked to celebrate their birthday and they bake a different birthday cake every time!
Our nurses Ola and Sister Eliana, with the dedicated cooperation of Dr Rakowicz, react immediately if we see that someone is uncomfortable, feels unwell or has something wrong with them. There is no waiting for GP appointments or video calls. Dr Rakowicz is our great support and shares our Antokol standards and sentiments.
I am writing this because I already know that Gosia still has an hour of travel ahead of her tonight to bring Mrs. M to Antokol and it is already 8pm. And she wouldn't do otherwise because she would never leave Mrs M by herself. This is one example, one person but I could write about many more cases of outstanding care by just changing the names to Ewa, Kasia, Aldona, Asia, Milena, Nina, Renia, Agnieszka, Ela, Ilona, Beata, Teresa, Dominika, Agnieszka, Zosia, Arek, Jagoda, Marysia, Dorota...
I am proud of every single member of my staff and want everyone to know that these people are HEROES. We don’t take part in any competitions or apply for any awards because that’s not what we do. No one boasts, no one complains, because this is how they are. The home is in their hearts.
A gift of fate? Yes, each of these people is a gift of destiny to me and to the residents of Antokol.