The award, approved by the NHS, Department of Health, Age UK and Macmillan Nurses, is designed to acknowledge the highest levels of end-of-life care and encourages choice and dignity for the patient as well as sensitive and effective support for relatives.
The Gold Standard Framework Care Homes training programme is a three-stage quality assurance programme that includes training for all staff in the home and stringent monitoring, documentation and evaluation to ensure standards are kept at the very highest level. The homes are then inspected to ensure all the techniques are fully embedded and that staff are consistently following the guidelines.
Betty Couch, the home’s operations support manager, put Amberley Lodge forward for the rigorous two year programme. She said: "The Department of Health was very keen on homes working towards the standards and it is easy to understand why. The end of a person’ life is such an important time for them and their relatives. So much of the anxiety can be removed by planning and building relationships with the people involved.
"We work very closely with doctors and palliative care nurses and we have always worked hard to make this time as painless and peaceful as possible. Now we have a framework that means we can improve and learn at each stage and use the feedback we get from staff, residents and family to offer an even better service."
Patient choice is key to the programme and care staff at Amberley Lodge have made it increasingly possible for more patients to stay in the home until the end rather than moving to hospital. Others go to hospital for treatment and then return to the home.
Deputy manager Charles Addai said: "This is our residents’ home and many opt to stay here. They know the surroundings and they are comfortable. They and their relatives can then choose to have active medication or pain relief.
"It is an incredibly sensitive time. Some people are less anxious if they talk about it, and others do not want to talk. Our staff are very good at judging people’s needs and working with them."
The team also works to provide spiritual support for patients and relatives. Charles, who was joint co-ordinator with staff nurse Gloria Tay, said: "We have a great relationship with a local vicar who visits and we also organise a memorial service at the home and keep a Book of Remembrance in the home. We have a folder full of the most touching letters thanking us for the way we cared for their relative. It is a special feeling to know you have been able to leave relatives with peaceful memories of their loved ones."
The award will be presented to Betty, Gloria and Charles at an awards ceremony on Wednesday 13th July 2011 in London.
Amberley Lodge provides residential care, nursing care and respite for 59 older people with dementia or a mental disorder.