Former RAF Stenographer celebrated 100th birthday

Former RAF Stenographer celebrated 100th birthday

A Dorset woman who met the love of her life while serving in the RAF during the Second World War has celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by her friends and family.

Maiden Castle House care home, in Dorchester, celebrated centenarian Audrey Rockingham’s milestone with a tea party where she was spoilt with flowers and presents, and even a card from the Queen.
Audrey spent the day with other residents, as well as her son and daughter-in-law at the Care South home, who arranged party games, music and a buffet. Staff and residents then gathered to sing happy birthday and watch Audrey make a wish while blowing out the candles on her 100th birthday cake.

Audrey is the youngest of three daughters who grew up in Southampton. Her father was in the Royal Navy and survived the battle of Jutland, before being awarded a number of medals for his bravery.
Audrey had hoped to become a teacher, but had to look after her parents during her teenage years due to them both being profoundly deaf and also cared for one of her sister’s children.

Despite that, Audrey earned a scholarship to secretarial college that led to a job in the Royal Air Force (RAF) as a Stenographer. While serving in the RAF, Audrey met the love of her life and future husband Flight Lieutenant David William Rockingham. The couple married in 1944 before moving to Portsmouth.

Audrey and David had two children: Anna, who became a Nursing Trainer, and David who became a Ships Pilot.

After leaving the RAF, Audrey became a bookkeeper and secretary, while her husband moved into insurance.

Care South home manager to take on 70.3-mile ‘Ironman’ challenge for Dementia UK

Care South Home Manager Debbie Preston will taking on a 70.3-mile triathlon to support the fight against dementia.

Debbie, who is home manager of Care South’s Dorset House in Hamworthy, Poole, will swim 1.2 miles in open water, cycle 56 miles, and then finish by running 13.1 miles during the Weymouth ‘Ironman’ challenge.

The gruelling challenge is in aid of Dementia UK, which supports families with loved one who are suffering from Dementia. This is a cause close to Debbie’s heart in both her professional life with Care South and her personal life too.

It will take place on Sunday 22 September, the day after World Alzheimer’s Day.

Debbie Preston, Home Manager at Care South’s Dorset House in Poole, at a previous event.

Debbie, 48, from Weymouth, said: “I have been training hard since January for the Ironman, getting up at around 5.30pm ¬– when most people would still be asleep ¬– to pound the pavements or take a swim. Then after a day’s work at Dorset House, I would do it all again.

“Dementia is an illness close to my heart, both as the manager of a home that care for people with the disease, and personally after my dad was diagnosed with dementia in 2013. He eventually had to go into care as he was unable to be looked after at home.”

She is hoping to raise £200 for Dementia UK through the Iron Man challenge, although she has already nearly hit that target. To help Debbie raise even more, visit her JustGiving page at:

Healthwatch volunteers praise St Helens residential home

A Merseyside residential home has received a glowing report from the local health and social care watchdog.

When a group of volunteers from Healthwatch St Helens visited Greengate House, which provides residential care and support for people living with mental health conditions, they praised the ‘culture of empowerment and inclusivity.’
The Healthwatch representatives said it was ‘very apparent that the home was not run as a business’ and that there was ‘lots of TLC and extra touches’.
They commented that residents were genuinely cared for and cared about and that they were encouraged and supported to be independent and have control of their own lives.
The report also highlighted that Greengate House was ‘welcoming, clean, bright and airy with modern décor and an atmosphere of calm.’
The contribution made by the staff was noted, with support workers described as ‘very dedicated’.
‘Most have worked there for many years and staff turnover is low,’ the report documented.
A Healthwatch ‘Enter &View’ visit is not an inspection, but an opportunity for the scheme’s representatives – ordinary local people – to assess what works well and what could be improved. The volunteer team talks to people using a service and their friends and family and suggests positive changes that could strengthen health and social care services. Healthwatch visits services including hospitals, GP practices and care homes.
Greengate House, on Samuel Street, is operated by Warrington-headquartered adult health and social care charity Making Space. There are currently 13 adults living there, who have a range of moderate mental health needs. The home’s expertise includes rehabilitation and many residents move on to live more independently in supported accommodation.
Kim Smith, head of operations on Merseyside for Making Space, said: “Greengate House staff, residents and management were delighted to show the Healthwatch volunteers around the home.
We are all very proud of how the visit went and it is heart-warming to read the many positive things that were said about our service.
“We pride ourselves on continual improvement and will never rest on our laurels. All of our staff are engaged in an ongoing learning & development programme and we undertake regular peer reviews with other local care homes.
“We would welcome Healthwatch back at any time as part of our commitment to sharing best practice in care.”
Greengate House was rated ‘good’ last February by the CQC.

The benefits of practising mindfulness in care

The benefits of practising mindfulness in care


Depression and anxiety affects 1 in 5 people, with mental health being even more common in later life. Depression is the most common mental health problem in the over-75s and it’s important that the invisible disease is recognised and treated as if it was a physical one.

Since 2017, Karolina Nowadczy has been helping residents, their families and colleagues practice mindful techniques to help boost their mental health and promote well-being at Brunelcare, a Bristol based charity providing housing, care and support for older people in the South West for over 75 years.

There are multiple mindfulness techniques which can be practised relatively easily. One is a simple breathing technique, focusing on the breath going into the body, holding for a second and then leaving the body, this relieves stress and allows residents to feel relaxed and calm.

Socialising and sensory activities such as animal meets prove to be extremely beneficial, It’s been scientifically proven that animals can help with depression, anxiety, and stress alongside providing great companionship.

Touch is also very important for residents who are living with dementia yet are cognitively impaired. I would offer soothing hand and foot massages to relax and ease the residents.

Karolina said: “Helping residents learn mindful techniques can be very rewarding. The tenants are in such great spirits, it’s helped them minimise the use of anti-psychotic medication and helped the residents who are living with dementia remain calm and relaxed.”

Ashley Heath care home raises over £950 at summer event

Ashley Heath care home raises over £950 at summer event

Care South’s St Ives House in Ashley Heath was delighted to open its doors to residents, families and the local community for its annual Summer Fayre. Held in the home’s beautiful landscaped gardens, the country and western themed event was officially opened by Care South’s Chief Executive, Simon Bird.

The sun was shining and all the guests enjoyed the afternoon’s games which included welly wanging, AFC Bournemouth power strike games and a name the cowboy teddy competition. There was a whole host of entertainment including singing and country dancing, as well as a wide array of stalls with a tombola, arts and crafts, nail pampering, face painting and a grand raffle.

St Ives House was delighted to raise £950 at the event which will go towards the Residents’ Amenities Fund which funds trips and treats for everyone.

Neil Dominy, Manager at Care South’s St Ives House, said: “Thank you to everyone who came along to our Summer Fayre event. It was a great day and our residents thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Everyone was so impressed with the games and live entertainment! It really is fantastic that in addition to all the fun we were able to raise over £950 at the event for the Residents’ Amenities Fund which they will all appreciate.”

Long-serving HR Director retires

Long-serving HR Director retires

Siobhan Creighton, Director of HR at The Royal Star & Garter Homes, is retiring after 17 years with the Charity.

She helped bring about some of the most significant changes in the Charity’s 103-year history, which is now recognised for the excellent care it provides to ex-Servicemen and women and their partners living with disability or dementia. Her last day is on 29 August.

She said: “The Royal Star & Garter Homes is so part of me that it’s going to be hard to walk away, but I know it’s the right time. I’ve had many opportunities and my journey needs to end here and for someone else to take it on forward.”

Prior to joining The Royal Star & Garter Homes, Siobhan served nine years in the Women’s Royal Army Corps (WRAC) as a data telegraphist, before living and working in Ascension Island and Australia.

She joined the Charity in 2002, when it was still based at its iconic home on Richmond Hill. Since then, The Royal Star & Garter Homes has moved and invested money to open new state-of-the-art Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe. It is recognised as one of the best providers of dementia care in the country, and is committed to at least doubling the number of veterans it supports.

Siobhan said: “There has been a transformation from institutional-style care delivery to a more modern person-centred approach. It’s been a huge journey.”

Praising staff, she said: “They have changed from being task-focussed to being person-centred. They have been amazing, and we have always supported and invested in them. They buy into the culture, which is fantastic, and they give back. I’m very proud of them. They make the home really. If the staff do their job you get these amazing results and the residents are looked after.”

Looking back on her 17 years, she added: “I’m so proud of the journey the Charity has taken to modernise. Its been so brave and forward-thinking and it’s been great to be on the journey with it. I would like to thank the Executive and Governors for their valuable support over the years.”

Paying tribute to Siobhan, Chief Executive Andy Cole said: “We cannot thank Siobhan enough for all she has given to a generation of our residents and staff. Siobhan will be hugely missed and the whole Charity wishes her a very happy retirement.”

Kate Silver has been appointed as the Charity’s new Director of People, joining from the Ministry of Defence.

Second Outstanding for Greensleeves Care’s home

Second Outstanding for Greensleeves Care’s home

Greensleeves Care are delighted that Broadlands, their care home in Oulton Broad, was yet again rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, following an unannounced inspection on 25 June 2019. Broadlands is one of very few homes in the entire country to enjoy a triple Outstanding rating. The home specialises in residential and end of life care.

Broadlands was praised by the CQC for delivering “exceptional high-quality care” that not just met but exceeded the residents’ needs, expectations and enriched the residents’ lives.

The feedback from residents, relatives, visitors and professionals was overwhelmingly positive about the “extremely compassionate and caring approach of dedicated and enthusiastic staff, who repeatedly went above and beyond to ensure people’s lives were filled with enjoyment, meaningful occupation, engagement and involvement in the place they called home.”

The inspectors praised Broadlands for an active presence within the local community with strong community links which have been established with different community groups that regularly visit the care home.

Paul Newman, Chief Executive of Greensleeves Care, said: “Broadlands is an excellent home delivering exceptional care. I’m delighted the CQC has publicly recognised the outstanding quality of life enjoyed by the residents. Congratulations to the residents, management and staff for creating such a vibrant home with strong community links.”

Greensleeves Care is a not-for-profit organisation which manages 25 care homes across England, three of which are rated Outstanding by the CQC.

Tackling loneliness in a retirement living community

Tackling loneliness in a retirement living community

According to the latest stats from Age UK, 1.9 million older people often feel ignored or invisible. Research indicates that loneliness can lead to depression, sleep problems, psychological stress and mental health problems. It has even been described as being as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Sanctuary’s retirement living communities give older people access to shared facilities and organised activities. Staff work hard to identify those who feel lonely, knowing that some residents thrive on activity and others prefer to stay in their flats.

Sanctuary Retirement Living’s approach recognises that everyone is different and uses creative ways to promote wellbeing and inclusion among its 30 services nationwide. A new campaign called Your Home Your Life has been launched to implement the organisation’s vision to provide accommodation and services that support more than 1,500 older people to maintain independence for longer and live healthy and fulfilling lives.

St Bartholomew’s Court – a Sanctuary Retirement Living community for over 60s in Rye – is leading by example with the new campaign. Introducing an experimental on-site health hub, a therapy dog in training, lively visits from local schoolchildren and a door sign system to combat loneliness, they are setting out to prove that increasing connections can boost health.

It’s not just the usual activities such as gardening, film club, knit and natter, armchair exercise class and a walking group that are on offer. Loneliness Champions and Wellbeing and Inclusion Assistants work hard to check on residents in appropriate and subtle ways, without invading privacy or encouraging anyone to take part in an activity that they don’t want to do.

Residents have received ‘Please Disturb’ door signs, designed to be displayed on their door when they would like company. Sometimes, just a quick chat with a neighbour can brighten up a resident’s day – even if it’s just to sit quietly and watch television together.

Namesake dog, Barty, was introduced to the animal lovers of St Bartholomew’s Court at just eight-weeks-old. He will be registered as a Pets As Therapy dog when he is two-years-old, but the pup is already a hit with residents, including those with dementia and those who have had pets in the past but are no longer able to manage one.

Barty spends each day between communal lounges, on walks with residents or visiting people in their flats for one-to-one quiet time.

Resident Richard Carey said: “It’s good to spend time with a well-behaved dog. My family have suggested that I get a dog but I don’t feel I need one with Barty around.”

Resident Brenda Brown added: “Seeing Barty reminds me of when I had dogs of my own and that makes me happy.”

There’s a buzz when the children visit from St Michael’s CE Primary School in Playden. Together, the two generations enjoy the gardens, music and craft together, or simply chat and form friendships.

Katalina Ross, Retirement Living Manager, said: “Just a short, simple interaction can make the world of difference to those who do not have visits from grandchildren or great-grandchildren.”

Resident Maureen Wearing added: “Seeing their smiling faces makes me feel young again.”

And for the children, including those who don’t have older relatives, the visits are so popular they are selected based on good behaviour at school. Some of the more reserved children have reportedly gained confidence from the insight into older people’s lives.

Senior teacher Claire Harwood commented: “It’s a perfect way for our school to be part of the community. Our visits are another way of upholding our values and showing the children what they mean in real life, rather than the abstract.”

Sometimes, residents who struggle to get out in the community can miss visits to the GP. Therefore, as well as holding dementia awareness events throughout the year, St Bartholomew’s Court has launched a monthly on-site clinic called the ‘Health Hub’.

With an aim to identify health issues before they develop into more serious problems or chronic conditions, trained staff offer residents health checks from the comfort of their communal lounge.

Resident Jane Brown said: “I like the Health Hub, it gives me a chance to get checked over and if my blood pressure is high I am advised to seek my doctor’s advice.”

Resident Faith Burgess added: “I really appreciate the Health Hub service the team provide. We are so privileged to have such a good opportunity here.”

Through reconnecting with animals, singing with children, building relationships with neighbours and getting regular health checks, both mental and physical health are improving among residents at St Bartholomew’s Court.

Sara Keetley, Operations Director, said: “Sanctuary Retirement Living focuses on the long-term approach when promoting social inclusion and wellbeing.

“We are embedding a culture where residents are comfortable with staff and each other, feel part of the community and connected with society, while continuing to live happy and fulfilling lives.”

Veterans remember day war broke out and how ‘life would never be the same again’

Veterans remember day war broke out and how ‘life would never be the same again’

Veterans remember day war broke out and how ‘life would never be the same again’

Residents from The Royal Star & Garter Homes in Solihull, High Wycombe and Surbiton remember outbreak of Second World War, they were speaking ahead of the 80th anniversary of start of the war. Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, two days after Hitler’s forces had invaded Poland.

Now, as the 80th anniversary of that declaration approaches, veterans at The Royal Star & Garter Homes in Solihull, Surbiton and High Wycombe, have spoken about their memories of that fateful day.

The Royal Star & Garter Homes is a Charity which cares for ex-Servicemen and women living with disability or dementia. It was formed in 1916 to care for severely injured men returning from the First World War battlefields and went on to care for Second World War veterans.

Solihull resident Joan Sprigg
Joan was a 15-year-old at the time and remembers hearing of the outbreak while with her parents. She said: “We learned the very grave news on the radio, that Hitler had given no undertaking that he would withdraw his troops from Poland and Czechoslovakia, so consequently the Prime Minister said this country is now at war with Germany. My mother cried and said, ‘life would never be the same again’. My father looked very grave and serious. He served in the First World War and all those memories were very fresh in their minds.”
In 1942 Joan joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) and served in the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Group Command at RAF Uxbridge.

Solihull resident Margaret Roberts
Margaret’s mother was running her a bath when they learned of the war. She was only six at the time, but remembers: “Someone came to the door – I don’t know who it was or what was said but I know my mother came back and she was crying and she called across the next door’s garden to the women next door about the news, and for a little while, while my bath water went cold they were very distressed. The actual day itself was a trauma. I can’t even remember finishing the bath. There was an atmosphere that things were different and going to be different.”
Margaret’s husband Charlie served in the Army.

High Wycombe resident Peter Chapman
Peter served in the RAF for his National Service and is now a resident at the Home in High Wycombe. He was born in the City of London in 1930 and was nine when Britain went to war. He recalls hearing about the outbreak: “I was at school, I came back and then we talked about it, but I was only nine.”
Peter soon found himself evacuated and remembers: “I lived on and off in London because I wasn’t very far out of there, and consequently I was able to go backwards and forwards. When the raids were severe, I seemed to pick those days to go back home again! I went through two or three quite severe raids. It was very terrifying, very very terrifying indeed.”

Surbiton resident Betty Dawson
Betty was 17 years old on 3 September 1939 and recalls hiding in an unusual place when the air raid sirens sounded that day. She said: “I was at home in Leeds with my mother and the siren went. We had a big grandfather clock in one of the recesses. She made me stand on one side. I don’t know why, she thought we were safe. War had been declared and in no time the siren went.”
Betty joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1942, aged 20, serving until 1946.

Surbiton resident Phyllis Hales
Phyllis was 17, and heard of the war on the radio with her parents and two brothers. She said: “I remember sirens going and we were all a bit concerned. We thought there was going to be an air raid. It was something new and we thought that could happen, but it didn’t. I was at Home in Acton. We heard it on the radio. I was 17 and I did feel scared. My parents were there.”
At 19, Phyllis decided to take an active part in the war effort, joining the WAAF in 1942. She served until 1946.

Exceptional dementia care recognised at The Royal Star & Garter Home, Solihull

Exceptional dementia care recognised at The Royal Star & Garter Home, Solihull

The Royal Star & Garter Home in Solihull has retained its status as one of the leading providers of dementia care in the country.

The Home in Tudor Coppice received its Level 1 Accreditation from Dementia Care Matters (DCM) following an unannounced audit in August.

Level 1 is the highest accolade achievable through Dementia Care Matters’ National ‘Butterfly Household Model of Care Accreditation Award’. Level 1 is awarded to homes that demonstrate ‘exceptional person-centred dementia care of the highest quality of life level’.

Dementia Care Matters has undertaken 750 audits. Only 1% of these lead to a Level 1 distinction.

To achieve Level 1, there must be over 70% of the day where the majority of the people living in the home are experiencing positive social interactions and positive personal care.

The Royal Star & Garter Homes are ‘Butterfly Service’ Homes and follow the Dementia Care Matters’ internationally recognised standard of care. The care team work as a close, coherent family which is feelings-based and emotional; they treat residents as they would wish to be treated themselves, with compassion and love.

Staff at the Charity also provide in-house DCM training and refresher courses to colleagues.

In its summary, DCM reports: “The Royal Star & Garter Homes is clearly, as confirmed in last year’s rating by CQC, an ‘Outstanding’ home and appears to be able to sustain this going forward.”

The Charity cares for ex-Servicemen and women and their partners living with disability or dementia.

Home Manager Cheryl Harbourne said: “I am so incredibly proud of the team in the Solihull Home. This consistent achievement is indicative of the hard work and passion within the team, and I am delighted it has been recognised once again in the form of the Level 1 award.”

The Charity’s Director of Care Pauline Shaw added: “I’m delighted with this news. It is just reward for the Solihull team, and I’m so happy their hard work and dedication has been recognised again. To maintain a Level 1 is exceptional.”