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Staff at homecare provider receive mental health first aid training

Written by on 17/01/2023

Staff at a South Lakeland homecare provider have received training to help colleagues who might develop issues with their mental health and wellbeing.

The primary aim is to look after staff at Westmorland Homecare’s South Lakes branch, which has offices in Kendal and Grange-over-Sands – but the training will also bring spin-off benefits to the company’s clients.

Senior coordinators Sarah Croasdell and Kelly Haygarth and scheduling coordinator Lisa Huck all attended and passed two-day Mental Health First Aider in the Workplace courses run by St John Ambulance.

“We have always had a passion for caring for our staff,” said Sarah. “We believe if we look after our staff they are in a better place to look after the clients so we have to make sure their mental health well-being is our top priority.”

Issues which might arise could involve workplace, family or cost of living pressures, with the effects of Covid pandemic sometimes a contributing factor.

“We felt we needed someone here who people might approach if they needed help,” said Lisa. “People know they can come in for a cup of coffee or tea and talk to us or simply send us an email. I now feel I have the knowledge to speak to people when they are at their most vulnerable and that I can make a connection with them.

“And if we feel there is a need for extra help, we can signpost them on to specific experts.”

The trio’s new skills mean they can also recognise signs of mental health distress in clients, clients’ families and in people outside the work environment.

Although January is traditionally viewed as a time when people’s mental health can be low, Sarah and Lisa stressed that issues could arise at any time.

They said mental health could still be a taboo subject, particularly for males. “We are adapting the workplace environment and have a policy in place to look at normalising the topic of mental health and letting people know that it is OK to say they have an issue,” said Sarah.

“We tell staff how to access their mental health first aiders and, once they have done so, we can set up a well-being plan, which sets goals and ensures we regularly check in with them.

“We are also considering introducing possible mental health days where, if necessary, staff can tell us that they need a day off because of issues they are facing.”

Other initiatives to care for staff have included Christmas gifts and socials and sending cards and flowers to those who go the extra mile to cover for holidays and sickness.

For clients, procedures are in place for homecare assistants to send alerts to the office if they feel a client is down or not themselves so a specific welfare call can be organised.

“It is also about the little things,” said Sarah. “It might be creating a smiley-faced salad, taking a client out on a walk or painting their nails. These kinds of things are already part of homecare assistants’ day-to-day job but these can be magic moments when they are specifically thinking about their client’s mental health.”

Dr Chris Moss, one of the directors of Westmorland Homecare, said: “It’s wonderful that Lisa, Kelly and Sarah are leading new and interesting ways to support our staff. Care is a very rewarding job but can be mentally draining too. It’s great to see as a service how we are continuing to develop new ways to support staff and their mental wellbeing.”

Westmorland Homecare provides hundreds of hours of care each week to enable elderly and often frail people to live independently in their own home.

Its services include home care, such as help with housekeeping and meal preparation, and personal care, such as help with dressing, bathing and getting in and out of bed.