Setting up your own business is tough, especially in the early days. Hard work, long hours and a huge amount of self belief were what was needed to establish the roots and grow Home Instead Wimbledon and Kingston.
Entering an industry that I knew little about was even harder, with only my experience of poor care for my parents, instinct and a desperate desire to make a difference as my guide. Wearing my heart on my sleeve and ignoring the 'profit and loss', I set out to make a difference for those needing care.
Almost four years down the line, and many many hours of introductions, talks, and meetings, learning about what is out there in the community if you are old, have a long term disability or dementia have resulted in my dream now being a reality and my local area recognises that if you are looking for only the best, Home Instead has it in bucketfuls.
So from early dreams of wanting to be recognised for our beautiful, considerate and compassionate care, opportunities have opened for me to help and support other organisations. Then one chance came from a meeting over coffee 6 months ago. I was offered a role I had to accept.
Age UK Merton (AUKM) invited me to be a Trustee and sit on their board. AUKM was going through a massive change and uncertain times and I was rather nervous of joining through fear of what I was getting involved in. But to me, Age UK should be THE go to place for any information and support and advice for older people in the area - so I wanted to be part of bringing AUKM back from the brink of extinction.
Last week - six months after I agreed to stand as a Trustee, I was witness to why I believed in AUKM and wanted to support them. At an away day for staff, volunteers, and trustees, I got to know the people who do such a fantastic job and learned more about the services and support they offer. The commitment and dedication of the staff was overwhelming, with each and every member of the team, proudly standing up and talking passionately about the services and support they offer to older people of Merton. It was truly humbling to listen to. I knew AUKM was brilliant, I just hadn't realised quite how brilliant!
I leant about the amazing work that Andrew and Jan, the handyman team do. To them it's not about fitting a key safe or a handrail, it's about looking at the safety and wellbeing of the person they are visiting, helping and supporting them to live independently.
The Love Later Life team - Paula, Tracey and Caroline care passionately about giving older people the chance to carry on living, by offering the most enormous calendar of activities across Merton, from Zumba classes, to trips to the sea side.
Phillippa Mackee and Peter Bird offer a wide range of support and information, to ensure that older folk are getting the benefits and money that they are entitled to. Both come with a fountain of knowledge and are really helping those who have used their services.
Nic Newman, Health Programme Manager, runs the wonderful Life after Stroke service, looking at ways for people who have had a stroke to get back to living a normal life again. He is doing some great work. Nic is also running the In-Control service, looking at incontinence, and again, is really helping people in a dignified and supportive manner.
With Sarah Crook and her Home Services team, Sole Mates, Podiatry, Gardening Services and the annual Celebrating Age Festival all offered by AUKM, CEO Charmaine Bennett not only has a beautiful new centre in Mitcham, but has the most fantastic team offering a very caring approach, to really make a difference to Merton's older folk.
I have had the opportunity to train the Dignity in Care volunteers to understand more about Dementia and will be taking the whole of AUKM through our Home Instead Dementia workshop in March. With the new Alzheimer's Society Merton hub just down the road, joined up working is essential to ensure that everyone receives the right care, support and help.
Offering time in an already busy week is often a bit of a juggling act, but I can honestly say, it is so worth it - being a Trustee of Age UK Merton is an absolute privilege. Volunteering has never felt so good.
If you would like to get involved with Age UK Merton or for more information, please go to www.ageuk.org.uk/merton
Need to know more about dementia? Would you like to explore and learn techniques to encourage loved ones and friends to live independently? Join us at this FREE dementia workshop for family, friends and carers in Surbiton Thursday 6th March 2014 at 14:30 - 16:30.
Places are limited - please call or email to book
For more information contact Clare: 020 8942 4137 email: firstname.lastname@example.org www.homeinstead.co.uk/wimbledonandkingston