Manager, Andrea, makes it all happen at residential service Pool Cottage
Andrea Nash is Manager of Pool Cottage, an 8-bedroom Consensus service for adults with learning disabilities and profound or multiple needs. She has led the service, in Wilcrick near Newport, for ten years, and has been with Consensus for over 20. However, Andrea is just one of a number of long-standing team members at Pool Cottage.
Most of the individuals supported by the team have lived at the service for a long time too. Alongside learning disabilities, they are living with complex challenges, ranging from dementia to physical disabilities. Some individuals are verbal, some non-verbal.
Andrea explains, “The supported individual who has been living here the longest joined us in 2002. The most recent joined us a couple of years ago. I think the fact that so many of us have been here a long time means that we know each other extremely well and we work together brilliantly.”
Celebrating excellent teamwork
Andrea continues, “I nominated our team in the Consensus internal recognition awards in the last quarter of 2020 for the way they worked together and went over and above to support an individual when she first joined us. The lady has learning disabilities and a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and when she came for an overnight stay, the team did such a good job of making her feel at home that she didn’t want to leave. She’s been living here ever since! I’m happy to say the team won in the awards.”
From the start of her tenure as Manager of the service, Andrea has worked hard to create an open and supportive culture. She has upskilled and empowered colleagues to develop their skills and use their creativity to find different ways to support individuals. Andrea herself regularly provides hands-on support (she herself started her career as a support worker). Her open door policy means she’s always available for anyone who wants to talk, and this ties in to Consensus’ ethos of honesty, transparency and ensuring the best possible support we can for the people who live at Pool Cottage.
Recently the wellbeing of the lady living with Alzheimer’s started to decline. Her medication was changed, and her mood and outlook suffered. The team supported the lady extremely closely, trying different ways to enhance her wellbeing. “We persevered and managed to get the medication and dosage altered, and we’ve now got her back to her old self,” says Andrea. “She’s washing up again, goes out in the garden and we’ve taken her to McDonald’s in the minibus – all things she used to enjoy.”
All about family
It’s this close attention to the individual, their needs and a commitment to their quality of life that makes Pool Cottage shine. However, the team couldn’t do what they do without the support of the families of the people they support. “We get to know each new individual really well, with their family’s help,” Andrea explains. “If a person is non-verbal, we’ll work with their family to learn what their facial or verbal expressions or gestures mean. We meet regularly with families and do regular support reviews.”
Andrea is a passionate advocate for the people in her care, working tirelessly with local authorities to ensure a person is allocated the right number of hours so they receive the care and support they need.
Three supported individuals attend the New Horizons day service a couple of times each week which is next door to Pool Cottage. They enjoy arts and crafts, karaoke, cooking and socialising. It gives them a valuable change of scene and the opportunity to meet different people, which has helped to boost their self-esteem and reduce anxiety. The team supports individuals to do whatever they would like to: one lady loves shopping, while others enjoy day trips to the seaside.
The team and supported individuals also enjoy socialising together. To celebrate Andrea’s 20 years with Consensus she used her long service financial reward to throw a big tea party for everyone; and there are regular socials, activities and outings. Supported individuals enjoy baking and helping to make dinner, and each person chooses how they want their room to be decorated.
Opportunities to enhance care
New individuals joining the service sometimes bring fresh challenges – and opportunities for Pool Cottage to develop. Supporting individuals with learning disabilities as well as dementia was one such challenge for the team, but, in true Pool Cottage style, they seized the opportunity to learn: undertaking specialist dementia training and working with mental health professionals to best support individuals
And despite her long tenure at the service, Andrea still has plans to enhance daily life at Pool Cottage. “We’ve just built a pergola on a level part of our outside area to create a nice sitting area. But one of my goals is to adapt our huge sloping lawn so it’s more accessible for the people we support,” she says. With such a capable, experienced and successful manager at the helm, everything suggests that Andrea will make that happen too.