Interview with Mary Hardy, home manager of Birkenhead Court care home
Anchor are extremely proud that Birkenhead Court, our specialist dementia care home in Birkenhead, has received an Outstanding rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the regulator of health and social care providers in England.
We caught up with Birkenhead Court’s home manager, Mary Hardy, to find out about life in the home and discover how her dedicated team make every day special.
Mary’s career experience
Mary joined the Anchor team shortly after Birkenhead Court’s opening back in 2008. “Building finished that summer,” Mary began. “The home opened in October, and the first residents began moving in in December.”
It didn't take very long at all for Birkenhead Court to quickly establish itself as a leading residential care home in the Wirral. “It filled up so fast,” Mary said, “and its reputation spread really quickly.”
“It was actually all through word-of-mouth, from care sector professionals and members of the public coming into the home and seeing the standards of care and community we provide here.”
After working at the home for four years in several different roles, Mary became home manager in 2012, a job she very much continues to enjoy today.
A day in the life at Birkenhead Court
“When someone comes to live with us they may have been living with dementia for some time,” Mary said. “However, to the team here we are simply meeting that person at a particular point in their lives. We don’t see the condition, just the person. And we are focused on enhancing their life – their day-to-day living –what they can do and look to maintain their independence as best we can.”
One of the most important ways in which Mary and her team do this is through the remarkable ties they’ve fostered with the local Birkenhead community. Just one example is nearby football team, Tranmere Rovers.
“Tranmere have given us free transport and tickets for every home game,” Mary said, “and so anyone living here with an interest in football can go to Tranmere games. It’s been such a great experience that residents who weren’t huge football fans now are. The lives of the residents who have always followed football have improved immensely, not only because they can continue to enjoy the sport, but because they have been able to share their passion with their Birkenhead Court neighbours.”
“Recently, one of the Tranmere players – Ben Tollitt – came to visit the home and presented an eighty year old lady living here with her first pair of football boots! He stayed for three hours chatting with other residents, it was lovely.”
But sport isn’t the only interest Mary and her team encourage.
“We had another lady move into the home who had previously been a dresser in amateur dramatics and TV,” Mary said. “So, we reached out to the Little Theatre in Birkenhead, and now get half-priced tickets for the residents.”
“The lady couldn’t believe it. When she was living outside of care, she’d had to give up all her trips. But now she’s going to the theatre again. And for many other residents interested in the theatre, it’s a brilliant opportunity for them as well.”
Delivering person-centred care
Mary places immense importance on putting people first, building a thriving community and empowering every single person at Birkenhead Court to lead meaningful and joyful lives.
“Whenever I’m asked what activities we do I always tell people that that depends entirely on the people who live with us.”
“If nobody in their lives, past or present, enjoyed bingo, for instance, then there’s no point in us doing it.”
“Instead, we base our approach on each individual’s life history, so that they live very fruitful and rewarding lives with a sense of purpose.”
In fact, we found that the Birkenhead Court team literally transform the home to ensure that residents’ interests and passions are met and catered for, with the expert help of the home’s caretakers.
“One of the caretakers here turned a room into a spa, where we get a beauty technician in about once a week,” Mary said. “People love that – and it’s important for us to ensure that if we have ladies who have always worn perfume and lipstick, say, that they are able to continue doing so.”
“We created a library and get in books that cover the residents’ interests – with coffee table books on almost every subject. That’s one of our most popular places in the home, although some residents can no longer read, coffee table books are lovely for them to pick up and look through with all their interesting pictures.”
“At one point,” Mary continued, “we received a large donation of money and I asked residents what they wanted us to do with it. They said they wanted a pub, so we built a pub in the garden – and it’s still there today!”
“We do lots of things there, from themed days, to pound-a-pint. And the furniture has been donated by old local pubs, so it feels authentic.”
“I treat all the staff as if they were my own kids”
For Mary, person-centred care isn’t enough unless it applies to every single person involved in the life of the care home. And for that reason, she takes special care to make sure that her staff are able to flourish too.
“For me, it’s so important to look at the holistic and pastoral side of my role," Mary said, "and to treat all the staff with respect and always ensure they know they are as important as anyone else coming into the home. Because if I put my all into supporting the staff, then that positivity will spill into perfect care for the residents too.”
“The team here are exceptional. I couldn’t speak more highly of them. We help one another in every way and that’s one of the secrets to our success. Each and every one of them is a credit to Birkenhead Court.”
Looking after families
“When families come to visit, they often say to us that the residents have better lives than they do – with all the days out, meals, and attention to detail,” Mary said. “When someone comes to visit us they get to see it’s such a warm environment to live in, this can sometimes surprise people with little experience of care homes.”
For Mary, it’s crucial to foster strong relationships with the families of residents. “Families often need your care as much as the residents, because families often find the process of a loved one moving into care so difficult.”
“Family members can have preconceived ideas about what it means to have Mum or Dad move into a care home. However, when they visit Birkenhead Court, they straight away see this is a thriving community and a safe place to be – and that’s huge for them, for their peace of mind, and it’s a big part of my goal - to provide person-centred care for residents, staff, and families alike.”
Gaining satisfaction everyday
When we asked Mary what she’d say to someone considering a career in care she said they could expect three main things: to develop their confidence, gain maturity, and discover new heights of self-worth.
“For most of the day, and certainly when you go home,” Mary said, “you will feel that you’ve made a personal difference to a person, which is an amazing thing to have done. And you’ll feel that way every single day. To change someone’s life for the better each and every day raises your confidence and self-esteem to levels you could never have imagined. It is a wonderful, rewarding job.”
As we rounded up the interview, Mary said she’d recommend a career in care to anyone. “You’ll learn so much about life,” she said, “and I would recommend anyone to come into the sector. You will not believe the rewards you’ll get. And because you’re rewarded each and every day, you walk on air.”
Birkenhead Court was rated Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in October 2018. You can find out more about this impressive care home on our website here.
With nine care homes now rated as Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, Anchor has more Outstanding rated residential care homes than any other provider in the country. Find out about our other care homes being praised by the regulator here.
Understanding CQC ratings
Learn what the Care Quality Commission is, how they assess the performance of care homes, what their ratings mean, and how you can find their inspection reports online in our free online guide.
Anchor has most outstanding ratings out of all providers across the country
With nine care homes rated as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Anchor now has the most outstanding ratings out of large providers of residential care for older people.
Checking care home quality standards
The established independent regulator for care homes in England is called the Care Quality Commission. Find out what they do and how they can help you choose a care home.
Guide to choosing a care home
Moving to a care home is a big decision and sometimes it can be difficult to know where to start. Download our free guide to choosing a care home to ensure you make the right choice.