Ashton Manor: The state-of-the-art Lancaster home taking care to new heights
As a new care home, there can't be very many more turbulent times to open your doors than in the midst of a pandemic. But then again, Ashton Manor is no ordinary care home.
A brand new £8m state-of-the-art facility in Lancaster, the home opened its doors in October after a four-year planning and construction process, becoming the first new care home to open in the city for two decades. Run by Evermore Care Homes, the home uses innovative care tech such as acoustic monitoring to track residents' sound waves and allow carers to check on them if they deviate from normal.
Gaye Clark, Evermore's Commissioning Director, has 37 years' experience in the sector and has been closely involved in just about every aspect of the care home from chair fabrics to architectural design for two-and-a-half years. And she's thrilled to see a labour of love finally come to fruition.
"Being so involved has been really enjoyable because you can see the benefits first-hand and it really is a lovely place," says Gaye, 53, with each floor at Ashton Manor dedicated to a separate community with specific care needs served by specialist teams. "This is the residents' home; we're just working in it to make sure they're safe, so it melts my heart to see it all up and running.
"Social care is a real vocation, that care has really got to be there," she adds, with the care home boasting day rooms, lounge areas, a tea room serving freshly-baked cakes, an internal courtyard, a hairdressing salon, a library and cinema room, and terraces with leafy views. "I'll never get bored of seeing residents settling into their new environment and making friends.
"From the day we opened, the only sad thing has been the fact that we haven't been able to welcome visitors, because this place should be bustling."
In the lead-up to Christmas, the care home also introduced a four-week ‘Winter Wellbeing’ respite package for families worried about not being able to care for their elderly relatives over the festive period which allows their loved ones to enjoy Christmas in a more secure environment whilst removing the stress of potential infection.
"It's about what works for the team and the residents, because it's not been easy for anyone during Covid, including staff who take all that stress home," says Gaye, who lives in Southport. "It's about those simple things which make a big difference, especially during the festive period."
As well as making a mean Bakewell tart, Head Chef Paul Burns also has extensive experience of working in care homes, with his first job in catering being at Burrowbeck Grange, the former nursing home on the Ashton Manor site. One of 20 members of staff at Ashton Manor, he says that whilst opening during Covid has been strange, it's gone well.
"Covid has hit everyone hard and it's very different in the kitchen because we're so used to being actively involved with the residents," says Paul, 40. "It's hard because, while we can still provide what we would provide anyway, you really want to build those relationships with people and get more of an idea of what they want and need.
"The food we're sending out is hotel standard and this is the expectation we're building - we're a step up from a normal care home," adds Lancaster-born Paul, who has worked at the home since it opened. "I want the evening meals to be an event for people, which makes it an exciting job because there's a lot of care that goes into it."
Looking forward to being able to get more involved with the residents through things such as baking, Paul says that he loves his job at the home.
"It's all about trying to find out what each individual likes and trying to give them that," he explains. "There's a lot of pride in that because food is a massive part of people's lives. This is their home, so if they fancy something they should be able to have it."