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An insight to working at Swarthmore Residential Care Home and the History of how it all began!

19th October

Caring can be so rewarding; it allows you to make a positive impact on someone’s day or life. You need to be passionate, have dedication, able to communicate and have a sense of humour, amongst other qualities.

Caring for the elderly promotes a career that places great emphasis on soft skills and personal traits rather than academic work. Finding people with the right motivation and principles is so valuable to the home. If you are a caring and empathetic person and want a job where no two days are the same – we may be able to offer you a role so please get in touch. Here’s an insight to working at Swarthmore from some of our staff:

Care Team
Jess - I chose to work in care because I wanted to make a difference to those who need it most. I enjoy bringing people out of there bad days and cheering them up when they are feeling down. My favourite part of the day is the morning – helping one to get washed, dressed and ready for the day. I love styling the hair especially if they are expecting visitors. It’s so rewarding to see a smile on their face when they feel complete. I feel overwhelmed sometimes when assisting a resident with their meals. Maintaining a balanced diet is paramount to their health. Sometimes I get a squeeze of the hand to let me know they appreciate my help. It melts my heart! Seeing a face light up when I enter the room makes my job so worthwhile. You need to be able to talk about anything and you certainly need a sense of humour and lots of energy to become a good carer.

Max - I have worked in care for two years and I cannot believe how quick this time has gone by. I enjoy looking after the residents, fulfilling their needs, making them happy and bringing laughs as well, with some good old entertaining! Working alongside my lovely colleagues is also enjoyable, too. Working in care you need to show you are caring and empathic. You also need to be vigilant in difficult situations, have good mental, physical strength, and be capable of team working with your colleagues, to get things done efficiently.

Agatha- working in care for 6 years. Why do I work in care because I have a passion to look after people! You need to have a big heart and know how to show love when caring for people. Its important to work as a team and communication is key. I just want to make people smile and feel good. If one of our ladies asks me to brush their hair, give them a wash and choose an outfit.  I believe – you need to show people that they are loved. Be true to yourself and let your heart come through when caring – it makes everyone shine!

Senior Care Assistants
Avril - I have worked in care for around 22 years, 15 of those at Swarthmore. I love being part of a dedicated team who together aim to provide the best possible twilight years for many elderly residents. Working in care you need to show empathy, have patience, making sure you bring fun to the environment and an ability to work well in a team.

Sarra - I have been working in the care sector for 9 years. I want to be able to look after the elderly as I feel they have worked hard most of their life, and its my way of giving something back in life. I enjoy giving exercise classes with the residents, painting their nails, I just want to make them feel happy and make them feel included and looked after. It gives me great pleasure to think that I have helped someone in some way. I believe the following qualities are required if working in care - lots of patience, be able to communicate and try to be a friend to everyone. I feel that our residents are part of our family and therefore treat everyone with respect.

Breakfast Assistant
Alysha - I have worked in care for 7 ½ years and thoroughly enjoy spending my mornings delivering breakfast to our residents. I feel you need great patience, as no day is the same and as we know moods change. You need to be able to start a conversation and make residents feel confident to talk about everything. I generally put smiles on faces with the first meal of the day and put the world to rights.

Home Manager
Claire - My career started off working with children with disabilities. I then moved on to being a Support Worker in the community, later becoming a Supported Housing Officer for local authorities. Moving to Swarthmore in 2013 as the Home Manager. As you can see from my employment history I am drawn to a role within care; there’s something rewarding about giving something back! Every day is different, it may be that I sit hold someone’s hand in times of need or sharing a special memory. Giving confidence to anyone that doubts themselves during difficult times. I am very passionate about the Quaker ethos within the home, we are one big family and cherish every moment. Swarthmore has something special; we offer an extension of family life when you become a resident. You need to be in the home to understand this feeling.

History of Swarthmore
1945 - 1950
On the 24th of January 1945, it was recognised by Hampstead & Westminster Quaker joint monthly meeting that there was a need for accommodation and care for elderly friends in the London area, many of whom had been displaced due to the war.   On the 27th April 1945, London and Middlesex Quaker joint meetings held their first meeting of an old peoples welfare committee. In June 1945, in conjunction with a similar committee of Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire quarterly meeting, the property known as Diplock Cottage Homes was bought (later to become Bernard Baron homes). It was felt that further accommodation nearer London was needed. On the recommendation of the Old Peoples Welfare Committee approval was given on June 26th 1945, to set up a housing society which, in order to raise funds towards this aim.  It was registered in October 1945 under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts as the Swarthmore Housing Society Ltd.

An appeal for financial support was addressed to all Quaker households in London & Middlesex Quaker joint quarterly meeting and some also in Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. Several properties were considered, in March 1946, approval was given for the purchase of a house at Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire and in July 1946 the committee reported that the premises known as ‘Rathfarnham’ had been purchased. The house was quite near the main high street and station, with a charming garden and outlook. Although in good condition, the house was built in 1925, it was going to require alterations to make it suitable for the proposed 17 occupants. The home had provision of fires in each bedroom so many changes had to be made to make the building safe.

The work required a Ministry of Works building license, and this was not forthcoming until the end of January 1947. An architect was sought for so changes could be made. Meanwhile a gardener/caretaker was employed to look after the property. Alterations to the building would obviously cost money, so Swarthmore acquired a grant from the Lord Mayor’s National Air Raid Distress Fund on the condition that wherever possible, admission would be given to air-raid sufferers. Over 140 written applications had been received, which eventually resulted in 63 completed applications - the selection of 16 potential residents was a problem as there were so many in need at this time! At this stage, it was hoped to open several such homes – but it was decided to give priority to making a success of the house in Gerrards Cross first

In July 1947, the first residents (a married couple) moved in followed by others in the next 2/3 months. By December 1947 there were 14 residents. There were 8 single rooms and 3 double rooms (occupied by couples) and there was 1 double vacant. A special house-warming event was held with 80 guests present.

Sketch plans had been drawn up by the architect to provide for at least 10 more residents due to the demand, they also looked at building an area for residents who may need nursing care. The 3rd official report of Swarthmore Housing Society dated 1948, records the end of the first full year of operation. The average age of a resident was 77 years. The report describes that there were plenty of activities to keep residents occupied. The croquet lawn was the most popular activity. Some residents were keen gardeners, so they had plenty to keep them busy due to the size of the grounds. The activities grew with visiting speakers, and music recitals, a member of the society donated a piano and poetry readings were held.

1950-1960
In March 1952 the building work started on the new extension, and by November the first new resident arrived. An additional 8 rooms on the ground-floor and another 8 upstairs were then available. In all, 26 residents and 3 staff could then be accommodated. By this point, Swarthmore had a nurse, a domestic helper and a cook – which meant that residents could stay when they began to need more care. There was an official opening ceremony of the new wing, which was to be known as the Lidbetter Wing, named after the architect Martin Lidbetter.

It was reported that the residents were getting older and less able to help with jobs around the home as they had been used to doing. This had included keeping their own rooms tidy, attending to their laundry and taking turns to do the washing-up. All of which made life more difficult. The area for consideration for nursing residents was still under discussion, but finances didn’t allow it. On a brighter note, a television set had now been provided.

25 residents living within the home with an average age now of 81 ranging from 70-91. This was a good year for Swarthmore and during the year of 1957, it was decided to consider providing better staff accommodation. In the past, it had only been possible to offer a bed-sitting room to the warden and her assistant and it had long been recognised as being inadequate. It was decided to add another extension to the main building, the lower ground floor to provide a flat for the warden and on the upper floor (ground level), five additional residents rooms.

Plans were proceeding during the year for the new extension. The committee started to raise further funds, which allowed them to instruct an architect shortly after. Meanwhile, a new oil-fired boiler was installed.

1961-1971
The first ever open day was held on September 2nd, when local residents, friends of residents, committee members and members of the Society of Friends were all invited and plans of the new extensions were on view. Just before Christmas, work started….. The waiting list was again distressingly long! In addition, the proportion of older residents was greater which tended to limit some of the possible activities in the home.

The main event of the year was the completion of the second extension. The new wing became known as the Mauger Wing, named after one of the architects Paul Mauger. The new wing was joined up to the original building through the dining room. There was a modern flat for the warden and an additional resident’s room on the lower ground floor and three more residents’ rooms and additional facilities above, opening out onto a long veranda overlooking the garden. The building was completed in November, and new residents were waiting to come in – the number of residents now rose to 31, 23 of whom were Friends, so the Sunday meetings always had very good attendance.

The committee had managed to raise funds of around £11,000.00 towards the cost but they were still short of around £600.00. An appeal was raised through a member who contacted the BBC and an appeal was made to the Home Service. For the first time in this type of broadcast, the BBC allowed a tape-recording to be used so the voices of some of the residents and the warden were heard. A total of £823 was raised from this appeal towards the building fund.

The new wing had welcomed its first new occupants in November the previous year, an official opening ceremony was held in January 1963, in bitterly cold weather.

Life proceeded much as normal during this year, with plenty of activities for the residents, though there were the inevitable changes, both in staff and residents. The average age at this time was now 82 ½ which meant there were less members to take on jobs. However, the activities of the garden committee, combined with good weather, produced record crops from the garden – raspberries, tomatoes, runner-beans, and spinach plus roses for the house.

During 1965, plans had gone ahead during the year for much needed modernisation of the kitchens. The project included a staff sitting room, another bed-sitting room, bath and toilet, additional storage space and garage space (in the area we now use as the office and laundry facility). Whilst work was going on, the opportunity was also taken to install wash-basins in rooms in the oldest part of the house that didn’t have them.

Again, an eventful year, dominated by the remodelling and modernisation of the kitchens and the building of the extra wing containing the flatlet for the assistant warden and the staff sitting room. The kitchens were out of action for three months during which time, the wardens most generously gave up their own kitchen and sitting room which were turned into a temporary kitchen for the whole house. This involved cooking the meals downstairs, carrying the food upstairs to the dining-room and then bringing the washing-up back down again – all those who were able, helped in whatever way they could. There was never a dull moment!

1967 was “the year of the new look”, the report states. Having completed all the building work and modernisation the year before. The warden could then spend time decorating the home and laying new flooring. There was a need to install a lift in 1969, to help the residents and staff. A new fire alarm system was also installed.

1970-80
Swarthmore celebrated its 25th anniversary – marked by a garden party on 18th July, 1970. During the afternoon, a new summerhouse was opened beside the croquet lawn, paid for with donations from the many friends. Croquet had always been popular at Swarthmore and this now gave somewhere comfortable to sit and watch residents enjoy a game.

You know when people say ‘everything goes wrong at once’ – this was the year! Complete re-wiring was needed. A new boiler was required as the old one had developed a crack. The lift gave problems, the washing-machine needed attention. Then a leak developed in the hot water service boiler and needed replacing. Also new fire regulations were now in force, which required a lot of expenditure to put it right.

For those who can remember 1974 was a year of considerable inflation and as Swarthmore is a non-profit making society, there were no reserves at this time. Most residents were on fixed incomes, so it was a very difficult year for all.

During 1976, everyone watched the staff accommodation block taking shape and it was completed by the end of the year. The kitchen was enlarged and the flat in the garage wing altered to provide a larger lighter sitting room.

The highlight of the year 1977 was the official opening of Burman Lodge on June 18th, Emily Burman, wife of James Burman who had done so much to raise the money for the venture, had the privilege of cutting the tape. The fire precautions had been brought up to standard by the installation of smoke detectors, alarm bells had also been installed in Burman Lodge and the path to the house from the lodge had lights installed to enable staff to reach the house quickly in an emergency.

1978, was an un-troubled year for Swarthmore, but it was a year of necessary structural repairs to the house. Repairs were required to the main chimney, there was a time when the home had to go without any central heating in a cold early spring and later in the year.  Leaks appeared in the roof of the Lidbetter wing, these issues caused a certain amount of discomfort. The library started to loan large-print books which was a great joy to all.

1980’s
The house was now able to sustain a much more comfortable temperature than it was ten years prior, this was down to the fact that a dedicated chimney for the boiler had been installed.

It was reported that the committee were studying the ‘Registration of Homes Act 1984’ with a view that, as a privately-run home, they are complying with all the requirements and maintain a high standard of care for their residents. Great efforts were made so the home conformed the new standards to the buildings and staffing levels. The new rules meant that the local authority had the responsibility of training care home staff (it was hoped through Bucks CC, but this did not happen) and so Swarthmore approached the local Health Authority, and some training was made available for new staff through Amersham Hospital. It was also arranged for a community nurse to come once a fortnight to train staff in basic skills.

1987 was a difficult one for the home. The warden’s flat was flooded after heavy rain, so a new drainage system and soak-away was installed. It was found that the lift did not conform to new regulations and had to be replaced but after lengthy negotiations with South Bucks District Council, a 100% grant was awarded.  After all the changes were made to the home Bucks Social Services Homes Officer commented that Swarthmore was ‘a well presented and comfortable home providing residents with a lot of freedom’.

1990’s
1994 saw an unusually high level of change amongst the residents. ‘The Care in the Community Act’, was implemented during Spring, 1993. This discouraged the elderly from entering residential care until later in life, when they are frailer, which inevitably meant that residents stayed for shorter periods. The committee pursued its concern about the future development of Swarthmore. It seemed that the priority was given to update the existing home so they could focus more adequately for extra care, but also to attract active residents by providing accommodation for semi-independent living in separate buildings in the garden. Funding would no doubt require an appeal.

Swarthmore were able to offer accommodation in 4 independent flats, (Burman Lodge), and 19 en-suite rooms in the house, one reserved for respite use, in addition to the balance of ‘standard’ rooms.

In July, 1997  the official opening of the new Garden Wing and 150 donors and friends joined to celebrate, despite the rain. The art, music, literature, exercise and discussion groups continued to flourish and the supporter’s group, to offer outings, visits and support.

The Millennium was creeping upon us and precautions were taken as advised by the government, to cover any emergencies that might arise, but in the event all went very smoothly. The home now had 19 residents in their 90’s – in August, an ‘End of the Nineties’ celebration was organised. This was in addition to ‘Open Day’ on June 26th, a smaller affair than the previous year but blessed with sunshine and a jazz band on the lawn.

2000 …….
Thoughts on the conversion of rooms in the Lidbetter wing to en-suites were desirable but would have high financial implications, and Swarthmore was not able to spend more money at the time. In July, a qualified nurse, joined the staff as Head of Care, and there was a decision to restructure the management team. Residents enjoyed a special tea to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday, but Swarthmore was able to boast 2 residents who far exceeded this – 103 and 104.

With the advent of the National Care Standards taking on the oversight of homes from April 2002, dual registration under ‘Residential and Nursing’ would no longer be possible, and Swarthmore felt that Residential was going to be the most appropriate. Life at Swarthmore in 2001 continued very smoothly, residents enjoying a well-run, comfortable home and much loving care.

2002 was known as the year that the National Care Standards were introduced and for many homes, the cost of reaching the standards was prohibitive and resulted in many closures. Swarthmore, having been run as a charity and being in good shape financially, was in a fortunate position.

To date Swarthmore continues to provide Respite, End of Life and Residential care to the elderly. Still an independent home that provides compassionate care. A characterful home in a peaceful dwelling.

We will bring the more recent events of Swarthmore up to date in the coming months, so keep an eye out on our news page........

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