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Marilyn Tracey's

Marilyn Tracey had not expected or planned to move into dementia care. She was happy being a Care Assistant in the nursing wing of Westbury Grange in Newport Pagnell. But now, encouraged by MHA’s training programme and ethos of nurturing professional growth, she is a Senior Care Assistant in dementia care, and happier than ever.

“I never dreamed I’d be in dementia care,” she recalls. “But now I’ve done a five-day Dementia Care Mapping course with Bradford University, arranged by MHA. Originally I said dementia care was not for me, but now I love it and I’ve learned so much.”

Marilyn’s Manager asked her if she wanted to continue in dementia care after her initial experience with it, and Marilyn replied that she did. The Manager then suggested she work towards becoming a Senior Care Assistant, as she displayed so much promise. Marilyn was ‘buddied’ with senior care staff and trained in areas such as medication. She advanced so much, she became a moving and handling trainer herself.

“I found it really challenging and interesting and I’m so glad I did it,” she said. “I found dementia care frightening at first but now I understand how to interact with people. You can’t treat everyone the same, you can’t even treat each individual the same all the time as their frame of mind will change.

“MHA has definitely helped, offering lots of opportunities for training and ways you can improve yourself and your skill set. I’m happy in my role and I encourage and support others to continue their training too. It works two ways, doesn’t it – the better trained we are, the better care we can provide.”

Nikki Cantwell

From Relief Care Assistant to Home Manager several times over, Nikki Cantwell’s professional journey in MHA has been a tremendous success. Her staff in the homes she has managed have benefited from her experience and support, aiding their own professional development, and also passing on the fruits of this to the residents in their care.

Nikki’s career with MHA started when she began working at Norwood care home to gain experience – she initially wanted to be a social worker but was too young at the time to gain the necessary qualification. Instead, she found herself drawn to the work and ethos of MHA and worked her way up to full-time Care Assistant, Senior Care Assistant, Assistant Home Manager and then Home Manager itself. “What first attracted me to MHA was the idea of a not-for-profit organisation where all funds and energies are concentrated on the care and support of older people,” she said. “I’ve grown with MHA and I love my job. It makes a huge difference to staff to know that they are listened to.”

Nikki describes the role of Home Manager as “challenging and diverse.

“The key role of a Home Manager is to make sure that all residents are happy and well cared for, and live their lives to the full. In order to maintain a high level of care, staff need to be supported in their work and committed to residents’ well-being. The Manager needs to ensure the home runs efficiently through financial planning and control, identifying areas for improvement and development, whilst at the same time enabling staff to maximise their potential through leadership and development.

Now Home Manager of Willesden Court in Willesden, London NW10, Nikki’s support for growth in all senses continues. “MHA is growing,” she says, “but I still feel like a person and not a number in a large organisation.”


Ming Hung Hsu

As the first person to provide music therapy within MHA, Ming was a pioneer for the organisation even before he began heading a team as the Lead Music Therapist. His work with a resident at MHA formed the basis of his Masters dissertation, for which he received a distinction, and his role as a researcher in the field continues to grow.

Ming has spoken at international music therapy conferences in Seoul and Norway about his work with MHA, and is now embarking on a research trial in connection with the Anglia Ruskin University. “We are assessing how the therapy can help people with dementia in care homes, testing the hypothesis that music therapy can help improve quality of life for people with dementia,” he said. Ming is also studying for a PhD with the university, aided by an MHA training bursary. “In time, I’d like to write a book, possibly in collaboration with others, about music therapy in care homes,” he said. “Nobody is publishing anything about that at the moment.”

He added, “I’m thrilled that MHA has agreed to fund the PhD. It shows that we’re dedicated to pioneering new techniques to enhance our residents’ lives and it’s exciting to be pushing into new territory with my research. Music therapy is quite a new profession – it was only started in the 1960s – so there are many things to explore.”

Joanna Kus

Nursing  is a key element of MHA’s care provision. As well as being fully qualified and registered, our Nurses also need to have the right personal qualities and respect for older people to ensure person-centred care – like Joanna Kus of Rushden Park in Rushden, Northamptonshire.

“Nursing isn’t only about treating a person’s condition,” she says. “It’s also about caring for them on a personal level, getting to know them and what they like. Talking to relatives is important too. Part of nursing is explaining the care their loved ones are receiving and keeping them involved and informed. I like to reassure them and explain everything that is happening. Relatives need to be involved, to understand the care we give and to know that we respect their feelings.”

Joanna has been at Rushden Park for six years and describes the home as having “very good communication between the Nurses” and “very good teamwork. 

“Although we all have different roles, we all work together really well,” she says. “We ensure residents have the highest level of care that we can give them, and we help each other out as much as we can.”

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