A day in the life of Grace Sloan

As care home manager at Balhousie Wheatlands, Grace Sloan has helped turn the home around to gain the group’s first Grade 6 rating. Here she shares her typical day.

“The first thing I did was open my office door. Now staff, residents and families can come in whenever they want.”

What I do…

I drive everyone mad! Seriously, I coach other managers and encourage the staff at Wheatlands to deliver the best care they possibly can.

Welcome to Balhousie Wheatlands

8.00am

The first thing I do is make sure residents are happy, make sure there are enough nursing staff, and plan for the rest of the day. There is a meeting of key senior staff at 11am. We go through each resident’s needs. I am sometime involved in social work review meetings too.

Sometimes I bring in my pug, Jacob, who is a therapet for residents and goes out for walks with some of the residents (it’s one of our aims as a care home this year to do more physical activity all round).

I also enjoy mentoring other care managers, which means regular phone conversations and meetings with them.

1.30 pm

I’m usually having lunch in my office while checking emails and having a look at upcoming events. We pride ourselves here on accommodating different resident requirements if needed. For example, we have a resident who is younger and has Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic condition that leads to excessive appetite and overeating. She needs to be constantly monitored.

4.00pm

Balhousie Care Group’s Dementia Consultant Yvonne Manson visits once a month. Right now she is piloting some new signage to help residents with dementia. In line with our Participation Charter, residents get a say in choosing the signage.

Afternoons are also the times we show around new families and give them a tour of the home.

I spend a lot of time blethering! I talk to residents and relatives. A lot of my time is taking up with staff planning, such as one-to-ones, sorting out rotas and annual leave. Sometimes I feel like my life revolves around post-its! I tend to eat on the hoof as my days are very busy.

8.00pm

In theory my day ends at 5.30 or 6pm but in actual fact it’s very flexible – I might have my own appointment during the day, for example, and work later to make up for it. Weekends and evenings I am always on call. I would rather know if there is a problem.

Meet the Challenges

When I arrived at Balhousie Wheatlands the home had 4 Grade 2 ratings from the Care Inspectorate. I told Tony Banks my intention on Day 1 – that I would like to get Balhousie’s first Grade 6 rating. We got that in September 2017 when we got the excellent rating for care and support at Wheatlands. It was a first not only for Balhousie Care Group but for any care home in the Stirlingshire region.

I like rising to challenges. My USP when I arrived at Balhousie was to see homes through periods of change and make improvements. My first job when I joined in 2012 was at Balhousie Clement Park. But the joy of coming here to Wheatlands, and staying here, was to be left alone to fill it with the staff I wanted. I’m a fixer and I enjoyed that, but for the first time in my career I wanted to be somewhere long enough to see something through and develop it further.

The atmosphere wasn’t great when I started here, with the Grade 2’s hanging over the staff and having had a couple of different managers. They needed direction and to know they were worth it. But they were also very upbeat saying ‘We can fix this’.

It was never going to be a quick fix. It needed to be a slow process. It took a lot of networking in the community and with stakeholders – the council, the Care Inspectorate. It helped that I had previously worked in the Falkirk Council area so they had trust and confidence in me. It took about a year for occupancy to rise. For me that was all about inclusion and getting everyone involved in the decision making.

Makes me smile

Seeing my residents happy. The Woodlands Experience we did last year involved 12 residents visiting the woods of Callander Park to take part in activities like campfire cooking and willow weaving. It was a 12-week programme and it really had profound effects on our residents mentally and physically. We saw a huge improvement in their general well-being and they were happier and slept better. We also saw improvements in mobility. Whether it was wet or cold outside, everyone was up bright and early and ready to go. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such anticipation.

In an ideal world

I’d like to go out on more trips with the residents. I’d like to let my hair down and go and enjoy their away-days with them. I’d also like to retain the Grade 6s we have, and earn some more! And I also have a cunning plan to turn our basement into an area for residents. Watch this space!

The best part of my job

Watching people develop. I love seeing the staff flourish. The care had been very good when I arrived, but the problem was that previous management didn’t allow staff to develop and use the skills they had. They needed nurturing. They were like sponges, they wanted to learn.

I’m very involved with the staff and I literally have an open-door policy. There are two entrances to my office but one was permanently shut. The very first thing I did was to leave both doors open. Staff, residents and family members know they can come in whenever they want to.