The Blog of Lesa Walton - Managing Director - Brookdale Care

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A week in the life of....

by Lesa Walton 16. August 2013 11:02

Well I’m back at work now, great holiday, but always good to be back.

Now, what do you think is the most important meeting an organisation of our size (400ish staff) has?  Board meetings? No, Annual General Meeting? No.  It’s our weekly referral meeting.  Why? 

This is the gateway to our services, where crucial decisions about the most important thing within this company are made; the people who use our services.  Every single person referred to Brookdale is discussed in name and nature.  We spend a significant amount of time looking at needs, wishes, personality, current and future social situation etc.  If the person comes to us, it’s like we already know them.  If we believe that an individual will not benefit from our services, we will decline, and give solid reasons for doing so.  At Brookdale, it’s always a shared, multi-disciplinary decision on who comes or not. It is most defiantly NOT just about bums in beds here!

This meeting is so important, that it is always attended by me as MD, Brookdale’s Medical Director, Milton Park’s manager, Head of Residential Services, Head of Therapeutic Services etc. etc.  It will always be our most important diary event, and everyone knows that.  I personally know many of our service users, however, those I don’t know in person, I know by name, needs and circumstances, because of my involvement in referral meetings.

In how many organisations of a similar size do senior people become completely detached form the coal face, and the very building bricks on which the company has been built and exists? Many senior management teams are so much more comfortable in a board room, talking profit and loss, than they are ‘on location’ being involved in operational matters. 

Well, thankfully, our senior team do not have their heads, far up their rear, wallowing in self-importance.  They are ‘out there’ and involved.  They make their own their tea, wash their own cups and suits are far from mandatory.  Even non care related managers here, such as I.T, finance etc. are not allowed to hide behind their spread sheets, within the safety of their office.  They regularly get out and about.  Our head of I.T has to help our service users address their I.T problems and needs, of which there are many; it’s an Aspie thing!  Our head of finance will talk directly to our service users about any financial issues, or worries they may have etc.  It’s all about, don’t forget why you are here, and a reminder of who the most important people in Brookdale are, and it certainly isn’t the management team!

I consider myself so lucky to work with such a brilliant senior team, but that is just icing on the cake.  I said earlier we have 400ish staff at Brookdale.  Well, I have to say, these are the most amazing, hardworking, competent and committed staff.  They are brilliant, and believe me, it is not an easy job!  Working with people on the spectrum is immensely rewarding when you see positive outcomes.  But, only because our staff are well trained, specifically in Autistic Spectrum Conditions, can they realise the satisfaction.  They completely get why, the people they support may not thank them, or give very much back to them emotionally, and it’s fine by them, because they get it.

So, the job satisfaction may not be quite as ‘in your face’ as caring for children or elderly people, but it’s there somewhere.  It must be, or our ‘top or the range’ staff would be working in childcare and older people’s services.

Anyway, I came back to work on Monday.  Every Monday afternoon is our referral meeting.  People are referred to Brookdale for the following: - supported living (people on the spectrum able to live independently but, can get in a bit of a pickle without some intermittent help), residential care (people on the spectrum who get into a big and awkward pickle, without 24 hour support), and Milton Park (people on the spectrum, that for many reasons, are already in a massive pickle, and need intense therapeutic input to unravel and move their life forward positively.  Sometimes, also detained under the Mental Health Act).

So, as I have said, we class this Monday meeting as the most important meeting we ever have.  Decisions are made here, that truly have a significant impact on people lives and future, so it has to be taken extremely seriously.  It is through these meetings I read, and hear about the most horrendous stories, of, dysfunctional lives, bizarre, and sometimes shocking behaviour, forensic mishaps and neglect, be it by their parents, self, or, most commonly, neglect by our society in failing to provide basic, and essential support.  We see extreme cases of very damaged people with Autistic Spectrum Conditions, who would have had a very different life path, had they received the support and direction they so badly needed as they grew up.

I think people with Asperger’s Syndrome are most often in the worst situations, given the invisibility of being an alternative thinker.  This person can walk, talk, and breathe all at once.  They are articulate and intelligent, so how can we possibly justify public money being spent on supporting someone so able?”  Every person with Asperger’s referred to us has a similar theme running through their life, even though their outcomes are unique, there is a commonality.  This is that there has been a complete lack of understanding of their needs, by one or more, very important and influential people who have touched their lives.  Usually it will be, teachers, employers, police, family, so called friends, and most commonly Joe public.  Multiple misunderstandings, and negative experiences, leading to fear and making wrong choices, with sometimes, terrible consequences.  If a positive life mentor is not part of their lives at this point, the cycle becomes cumulative and more disastrous.  It must be kept in mind that Brookdale only receive referrals for people on the Spectrum, who are already in this life cyclone!  There are obviously many people on the Spectrum who negotiate life’s pathways just fine.

One of our young guys said to me, many years ago, “I wish I could cut both my legs off and be in a wheel chair”.  I attempted to suggest his thoughts were irrational, but then he said,
“Well at least then people would see I need some help!”

It was at that moment I totally got it.  Anyway, more about the amazing people I have met on the Spectrum in future blogs.

I was intending to write about my week, but I have only covered off Monday afternoon and already exceeded 1000 words!!   So, to cut the long story short, significant events this week were:-

Worked my way through 3 weeks’ worth of emails and post.  Obviously I did the inevitable, and started my emails from the bottom, giving opinions and solutions to things that later on in my inbox, were appropriately resolved without my two-penneth.  This is especially funny when my response or advice is totally at odds with the advice of the manager who eventually dealt with it, whoops!

Weds: My secretary Julie has had the audacity to take a week of leave; it’s all self, self, self with that one!  So, as a result of the iron curtain being absent, I landed a very persistent sales call, for adjustable hospital beds.  Now what part of, “people who use our service are young and fit and can use normal beds” did this bloke not get?  You know the rude, bordering on bully, types?  So, I asked him what his company’s name was again, and asked him to spell it very slowly which he did, then I asked him the address, and could he again spell it very slowly, then phone no. then fax no, each time asking him to spell it as slow as possible.  Clearly frustrated, he put the phone down on me before I could even ask about, number of employees, annual turnover etc.  Works every time!

Got my first text from SJ (10 year old son).  I was really pleased, but then suddenly, had a reality check, and wondered how long it will be until he has a phone permanently super-glued to his thumbs!
Decided it is not an occasion to celebrate.  Good day at the office, almost straightened out the holiday aftermath!

Friday: Well you all know those things in your ‘to do’ pile that you really don’t want to face, as they fall in to the category of,  mind numbing, contentious or tin opener to can of worms?  Well, having processed the exciting and easy stuff, this is where I am now at!  I am desperately seeking any diversion, even a hospital bed salesman would be good right now, although I suspect we are well and truly deleted from his database.  Thus, I decided to blog, but as I can’t draw this epic out any further, I will have to clear the last of the ‘to do’ pile now.


Follow @LesaWaltonBC on twitter and @BrookdaleCare on twitter, facebook and LinkedIn

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