Jane Godden’s father moved into Baycroft’s Orpington home in late December 2017. His move marked the end of a long and difficult search for the perfect place to live – and Bill has come to love life at Baycroft. Jane talks to us about her experience in finding a place for Bill, and how Baycroft has become a part of her life too.

Thank you so much for agreeing to have a chat, Jane. Am I right in thinking your dad’s just had a big birthday at Baycroft?

He had his 90th on 12 January. It was wonderful, such a lovely day. He doesn’t remember a lot these days, but he remembers the birthday and keeps going back over it. The Baycroft staff were so sweet, they’ve even made me a photobook of my dad from the day.

All my family were there. I didn’t think we’d have many good memories left to make, to be honest, but it was lovely. Baycroft even laid on a singer, singing all the old songs, for the afternoon… my dad sang along, and loved joining in.

Could you tell me a little about the process of finding somewhere for Bill to live?

Before Baycroft he was living independently. My dad’s had Parkinson’s for many years, and he’s also got dementia. It wasn’t the easiest time.

He was living within walking distance from both my brother and me but he’d been going downhill for the last couple of years. We ended up having carers come in, because we were both working. He became wheelchair-bound, so although the carers could come in and feed him, do odd jobs here and there, they couldn’t lift him.

So we would come in at six in the morning to get him up and ready for his day, then come home from work and help at the other end of the day as well. We were called in the night when he fell out of bed. It came to the point that we felt irresponsible leaving him there on his own. He didn’t want to go into a home, but it almost seemed like we were waiting for something to force our hand.

It can be such a hard time. Was it around this point that you came across Baycroft?

It was. We started looking at homes, and took some time off work to do it. We must have looked at ten, at least. We were going further and further afield and there wasn’t one that I could bear him going into.

Then my sister-in-law said she’d found one on the internet, which turned out to be Baycroft. I phoned up and asked if we could come down that afternoon.

We met Lesley [customer relations manager at Baycroft], and it was like everything I wanted and more. It was the best feeling, because until that point I just didn’t know what we were going to do. Lesley’s always been an absolute rock, and I’ll always be grateful for her empathy.

This sounds really daft but we went into the cinema in the residence, and they had the name of the film showing up on the wall. It was my mum’s favourite film – it was almost like she’d found it for us. I know it sounds corny!

Lesley could see how tired I was, how tired we all were, and I could have cried I was so happy. I described it to my brother and he went the next day. I think he thought we’d been overdoing it a bit but he was just as thrilled as we were. This happened just before Christmas and he moved in on 29 December. They’ve done so much for us, more than we could have hoped for.

How’s Bill finding his experience at Baycroft so far?

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t been an easy ride. That’s partly because dad’s used to calling the shots – he was quite high up in the civil service. It’s also his dementia, it makes him forget sometimes that he can’t walk. He tries to get up… it’s been a rough ride but now he’s well and truly settled there and I just can’t speak highly enough of everyone at the home.

All I wanted was for him to not be stressed, not agitated – all these things come into play with dementia. It’s been such a learning curve. We had some informative meetings about dementia at the home where they explained a lot of stuff. You can’t read too much about it on the internet as it varies so much from person to person – so it’s been a real learning curve.

He was very used to working hard, and we’ve got a core of carers who are so good with him. For example, sometimes he’ll think he’s back in the civil service, and they’ll sit and pretend they’re taking minutes from him.

He can be a very difficult person if you don’t know him, but they’re making a huge effort to get to know his personality. At first when he went in, one of us would go every day but now we don’t and I don’t feel at all worried. I’m so comfortable with how things are there.

You must feel you know the staff very well now!

Yes, they must be sick of us! They really, really make an effort. Claire and Lauren have made each day fun for my dad, and Aimee and Mandy – two of the senior carers – have always gone above and beyond. It’s so reassuring to know they’re there.

They try all sorts of things to make residents happier and more comfortable. There are kids from the local primary school coming in once a week, and residents do colouring and drawing with them. Baycroft have got one of those dogs – a therapy dog – Gunner, who even sent dad a Christmas card… they just think of everything.

There are regular residents relatives meetings, and residents meetings too, where the carers take suggestions on possible improvements.

All the relatives have a natter at the meetings and we’ve got to know some of them really well. My grandson was six months old when dad went in. Now the other relatives all know him – he’s a little ray of sunshine. He’s always dancing. They call him the Baycroft Baby. I can’t imagine not going there now.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Well, what’s nice about Baycroft is that it’s nothing like the stereotype of a care home.

All of the grandchildren come in and they make tea, coffee. There’s lots going on and always something to talk about – it really encourages visitors. We took loads of my dad’s art in to hang up, and a bookcase with all his photos and Folio books. He’s got all of it in his room, so it’s all very familiar to him.

When he first went in he was on the lower ground floor, but they decided to move him upstairs. The handyman put everything in exactly the same place as in the old room so it looked as similar as possible.

I just really think that shows how every single person at Baycroft makes such an effort to go above and beyond. I can’t thank them enough.

Thanks so much for talking to us, Jane.

If you’re considering a Baycroft home for a friend or family member, you can give us a call for a chat or to arrange a visit.

Visit https://www.baycroft.co.uk/contact/ for more.