About Laura Richardson-Cheater

Managing Partner at Richardson Partnership for Care. My husband and I run the business together - my parents started the business in 1987. I am passionate about creating and maintaining the kinds of homes that people with learning difficulties and/or an acquired brain injury enjoy living in and thrive in the supportive environment.

Why our care homes are in Northampton

We have six specialist residential care homes: three for adults with learning disabilities and three for adults with acquired brain injuries, and all of our homes cater for people who present with behaviour that challenges and have complex needs. All of our homes are located within a few miles of each other in Northampton, and we are often asked why this is the case.

The answer is two-fold. Firstly, Northampton is our home town. My parents started the business back in 1989 when they looked after service users with learning disabilities in their own home, and it grew from there. Having all the homes in Northampton means that we can more be aware of what’s happening in each one. As the owners of the business, we need to ensure its long-term sustainability and that we remain true to our values and objectives. We also need to be confident that we are providing a high-quality service on a day-to-day basis. Being close by helps us to stay in touch with what’s happening in each home. Too many care companies are owned by private equity firms, who view success in terms of profit alone, and not by the welfare and achievements of the people in their care.

Belonging to a community

Having the homes located close together also means that they share resources more easily: members of our multi-disciplinary team of therapists work with service users in all of our homes, so they are much more accessible. In addition, we can provide greater opportunities to service users. They can get together for activities such as short-mat bowling, live music events or parties. It helps them to feel part of a bigger community, increasing social interaction and building confidence.

A hub for neuro specialists

Secondly, Northampton has evolved as a hub for the treatment and care of people with neurological conditions, particularly brain injuries. Consequently, there is a high concentration of specialist care providers for people with acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities or mental health needs. This means that there is a range of a care options to suit individual needs, and The Richardson Partnership for Care forms part of the care pathway. We can also work in partnership with other support services if crisis care is required, providing continuity for service users and improving outcomes.

This specialism in the neurosciences and related care draws neuro experts to Northampton, which also means that there is a larger pool of talented and experienced people in this area. This makes it easier to recruit the right people to deliver the high-quality support that we provide.

Maintaining family relationships

In addition, Northampton’s location in the centre of England, and at the heart of the motorway network, makes it easy to access from most parts of the country. However, we appreciate that many families may still find it difficult to visit their loved ones in our homes. We can therefore include supported home visits as part of the individual’s care plan. This helps them to maintain or rebuild their relationship with their family, which is important for their well-being.

Person-centred care

Although there are many benefits to being in Northampton, we believe that location is just one of a range of factors to consider. What is best for the individual is what counts – the care and therapy provided, the environment, the community and the opportunities for social inclusion and fulfilment. Placing the service user at the centre of the decision-making process is crucial.

Managing fatigue and brain injury

Fatigue is one of the most common effects of brain injury, but it’s experienced differently by everyone. People may feel exhausted, lacking in energy and motivation, and feel weak or sleepy. Fatigue may also worsen existing difficulties associated with brain injury, such as memory problems, speech and language difficulties, frustration, irritability or low mood.

Pathological fatigue may be present most of the time and this excessive tiredness may not necessarily be alleviated by rest. As fatigue is different for everyone, and caused by a range of factors, there is no single cure or treatment. However, it can be managed and gradually alleviated by focusing on each individual’s specific needs.

Below are some of the factors that affect fatigue and some of the ways that we help our service users with acquired brain injury to manage their fatigue.

  1. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) – Regular CBT sessions with members of our psychology team help our service users to increase their understanding of their brain injury, including the fatigue that they experience, what the triggers are and how they can respond.

  2. Relaxation Therapy – weekly group relaxation sessions aim to teach relaxation methods, including progressive muscle relaxation exercises and guided imagery, which can help to reduce fatigue. In addition, our service users enjoy regular hand and foot massages from our massage therapist, which helps to reduce tension and aid relaxation.

  3. Mental well-being – low mood, anxiety and depression are all factors that can make people with acquired brain injuries more vulnerable to experiencing fatigue. These are addressed by a combination of therapies and activities in each individual’s rehabilitation plan. For example, our Consultant Neuropsychiatrist prescribes medication and monitors how an individual is affected by it, and the psychology team help them to deal with the psychological aspects of their brain injury. Our holistic approach to medication and psychology support aims to reduce the reliance on drug therapy over time, when possible, which also reduces side effects – another potential contributory factor in fatigue. In addition, our focus on providing opportunities for social inclusion and community participation also help to improve mental well-being and motivation.

  4. Neurological Physiotherapy – regular physiotherapy sessions help individuals to gradually increase their muscle strength and mobility, which helps them to manage their fatigue. These sessions are carefully controlled to ensure sufficient rest breaks.

  5. Neurological Speech & Language Therapy – enabling service users with acquired brain injuries to improve their communication skills helps to reduce frustration and building strength and co-ordination in their facial and vocal muscles also contributes to alleviating fatigue.

  6. Environment – the home environment that we provide is calm and relaxed, with a choice of social and quiet spaces so that each service user can decide when they spend time with others and when they have some time out. Also, the decoration within the homes is attractive, but not over-stimulating, and everyone has access to the garden and outdoor spaces, which is also important.

  7. Diet – we support all service users to have a healthy diet and maintain good hydration. As well as being important for their general health and well-being, it can also help to alleviate fatigue.

As with all aspects of brain injury rehabilitation, everyone is different and there is no single solution. Neurobehavioural factors are often interlinked, so our dedicated person-centred interventions, delivered by our experienced multi-disciplinary team, work together to deliver effective rehabilitation and positive outcomes for our service users.

Psychology services for adults with complex needs

The psychology team at The Richardson Partnership for Care plays a crucial role in the care and support of our service users, who have complex needs and acquired brain injuries or learning disabilities. Dr Pedro Areias Grilo, Consultant Clinical Neuropsychologist, heads up the team and is supported by three Assistant Psychologists: Julita Frackowska, Olivia Ferrie and Joseph Szablowski. The Assistant Psychologists are assigned to specific service users according to their needs and the homes in which they live.

Person-centred care
The ethos of the psychology team is the one that runs through the organisation as a whole: the service user is at the centre of everything we do. We are committed to providing individualised care to effectively support the nuanced needs of each service user. We take a person-centred approach and offer interventions to service users based on cognitive behavioural models, dialectical behaviour skills and operant conditioning. All of the interventions offered are evidence-based and follow NICE guidelines.

Psychological reviews
All service users receive an initial psychological review, which includes neuropsychological assessments, a review of clinical presentation, assessment of stability of mood and suggestions for future interventions. This review is then repeated on a regular basis to assess the effectiveness of the therapies and interventions delivered. In addition, we have an ‘open door’ policy at The Richardson Partnership for Care, so all members of the psychology team, and the Assistant Psychologists in particular, can develop close working relationships with the service users. This means that their well-being can be monitored closely on an informal basis and we have found that this helps to maintain their mental health, so any problems can be addressed early, preventing the need for crisis care.

Positive Behaviour Support
Positive Behaviour Support (PBS) is a key part of the psychological support that we provide and an emphasis on positivity is one of our main philosophies. PBS Plans are person-centred and designed with input from the service user to promote positive behaviour. They are supported to set their own goals and to achieve them.

In addition, Pedro and the team are working on an innovative Positive Behaviour Tool to more effectively monitor and encourage positive behaviour. This runs alongside the traditional techniques of reducing negative behaviour.

Multi-Disciplinary Team
The psychology team works closely with the other members of the multi-disciplinary team. (This comprises a consultant neuropsychiatrist, homes managers, service manager, physiotherapist, speech & language therapist and occupational therapist.) Pedro and Consultant Neuropsychiatrist, Dr Seth Mensah, work closely together to balance the use of drug therapies and psychosocial therapies. Where possible, we aim to focus on psychosocial approaches and gradually reduce the reliance on drug therapy to achieve better outcomes for service users over the longer term.

A diagram explaining the psychology services at The Richardson Partnership for Care
A summary of the psychology services offered at The Richardson Partnership for Care

Watch our video

Click on the link below to watch the video that was filmed at the opening of The Coach House, our new residential care and rehabilitation home for adults with long-term brain injuries and complex needs. It encapsulates the essence of our organisation and the homes that we provide for our service users.

The Coach House video

Liam cutting the ribbon to open The Coach House
Liam, a brain injury survivor and former service user, cut the ribbon to formally open The Coach House

Community participation and well-being

Activities for service users with learning disabilities and acquired brain injuries

With Spring in the air, we are looking forward to longer days and better weather. However, even in the winter, we have a varied range of activities for our service users. Community participation and presence are two of the key principles that underpin our organisation. We take positive steps to enable service users to integrate into the local community and build culturally-valued relationships, and we do this in a number of ways.

Our care home at 23 Duston Road, Northampton, accommodates ten adults with learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries or a dual diagnosis. In addition, service users have complex needs and may present with behaviour that challenges. Here is a brief list of some of the activities that they did, supported by their care workers, in January and February this year.

  • Walk into the village centre, visit local shops
  • Drive out and walk around garden centre
  • Visit local park, café and mini zoo
  • Singing in the music room, karaoke at Care with a Difference
  • In-house board games and movies
  • Trip to the cinema
  • Trampolining, swimming, working out at the gym
  • Ten-pin bowling, short-mat bowling
  • Card making at Headway
  • Dancing at the Rock Club disco
  • Shopping for clothes and toiletries
  • Visiting the library, visiting the museum
  • Meals out, pub lunches
  • Supported visit to see family in London

Many of these activities anyone would do at a weekend or part of their daily life: they are not particularly unusual. However, for someone who has previously been living in a hospital or institutional setting, they are a big step forward in their quality of life and an important part of their care plan.

For someone with learning disabilities and complex needs, managing their anxiety sufficiently for them go on a shopping trip and enjoy other people’s company has a very positive impact on their well-being. And for someone with an acquired brain injury, just being able to do some of the things that they did before their injury can be an important step. It is part of our focus on ‘normalisation’, enabling our service users to live as close to a normal life as possible and to improve their emotional well-being.

In addition, these activities benefit service users in several different ways:

  • Physical activity improves fitness as well as having a positive impact on mental health
  • Decision making – we respect each person’s individuality and support them in making their own choices
  • Skills development – craft activities improve dexterity and creativity, while developing skills in any area increases confidence
  • Reducing anxiety – gradually increasing the range of activities an individual undertakes, while helping them to develop their own awareness and coping strategies, reduces anxiety and improves their quality of life.

For more information about how our services improve the lives of service users with learning disabilities, acquired brain injuries and complex needs, see our case studies

Our new residential care and rehab home opens

Liam Prior, cuts the ribbon to officially open the brain injury rehab home
Brain injury survivor, and former service user, Liam Prior performs the opening ceremony

After months of hard work, we’re very pleased to announce that our new residential care and rehab home, The Coach House, is finally complete. To celebrate, we welcomed back Liam Prior to perform a ribbon cutting ceremony and officially open the home. Liam was the first person to move into The Mews (our adjacent home for adults with acquired brain injuries) back in December 2010. He has since moved out into his own flat in Northampton but still keeps in touch with the team at The Mews, and often comes back for Christmas dinner. It was great to see him on such good form and to be reminded of his sense of humour!

Greg Richardson-Cheater, Dr Seth Mensah, Jo Throp, Pedro Areias Grilo and Jo Wilkins
From left to right: Greg Richardson-Cheater, Dr Seth Mensah, Jo Throp, Pedro Areias Grilo, Jo Wilkins

We opened the doors of The Coach House to around 40 brain injury professionals, social workers and representatives from the NHS and Clinical Commissioning Groups. They were entertained and informed by presentations by senior members of the multi-disciplinary team (MDT) here at The Richardson Partnership for Care including Dr Seth Mensah, Consultant Neuropsychiatrist and Pedro Areias Grilo, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, along with Jo Throp, Neurological Occupational Therapist and Clinical Director at Krysalis Consultancy.

After the presentations, Simon the Saxophonist provided background music while everyone had lunch and the opportunity to look around The Coach House and The Mews, and to meet members of our team.

We wanted to give everyone the opportunity to understand more about what makes us different to other residential care and rehab environments. The physical environment that we provide is high quality, comfortable and homely as well as safe and practical. It’s always been important to us that our homes actually feel like home to the people who live here, and a lot of thought has gone into the details. It is a deliberate policy that the homes do not look like institutional settings and that staff don’t wear uniforms. But this doesn’t mean that we don’t have a clinical approach to support and rehabilitation. We have some high calibre neuro specialists in our team, and we are proud of our unique approach that delivers positive outcomes for our service users.

Accommodation details
• Nine ground-floor bedrooms, plus two on the first floor
• All have ensuite level-access wetrooms, designed to be both stylish and practical
• Two rooms have kitchenette facilities
• Seven rooms have their own patio area
•Three different light settings are available, depending on the needs of the individual – daylight, warm, cool – all with dimmer switches
• TV, wi-fi and the option of satellite TV

Communal rooms
• Kitchen with modern appliances and plenty of storage space
• Modern, spacious dining room
• Light, comfortable lounge area, plus additional seating areas
• Easy access to shared facilities at the Mews
• Latest environmental measures to increase energy efficiency and reduce running costs

In addition, The Coach House has plenty of natural light, high ceilings, spacious bedrooms and living areas, as well as vibrant décor and views of the gardens. These all contribute to enhancing the mood and well-being of service users.

Please call us on 01604 791266 to arrange a visit.

New Acquired Brain Injury Care Home Opening

We’re pleased to announce the launch of The Coach House – our new residential care and rehabilitation service for 11 adults with acquired brain injuries. And to celebrate, we’re holding an Open Day on Thursday 24th January, 2019.

The Coach House is a self-contained home in the grounds of The Mews, another of our specialist residential care homes in Kingsthorpe, Northampton. We’ve spent a lot of time, thought and effort in creating the best environment we can to help people recover from brain injuries and rebuild their lives. We believe that designing a home that is accessible, practical and safe does not mean that it can’t also be cosy, comfortable and feel like home. In fact, we believe this is crucial to service users’ well-being and their engagement in their own rehabilitation plan.

We have some fantastic speakers involved in the event, so please come along to celebrate the opening of the Coach House, meet the team at The Richardson Partnership for Care and find out more about brain injury rehabilitation.

Open Day Programme

9.30am – arrival and coffee
10.00am – 1.00pm – presentations and discussions

Dr Seth A. Mensah, MB ChB, MSc, DPM, MRCPsych – Consultant Neuropsychiatrist
“The Brain and Human Behaviour – What has Phineas Gage taught us?”

Pedro Areias Grilo, HCPC, MSc – Consultant Clinical Psychologist
“Positive Behavioural Tool – capturing positive behaviours in neurorehabilitation”

Jo Throp – Neurological Occupational Therapist and Clinical Director at Krysalis Consultancy
“The Brain and its Function from the Perspective of a Neuro-Occupational Therapist”

1.00pm ribbon cutting, lunch and tour of facilities
2.00pm close

Please reply to Sian.Richardson@careresidential.co.uk or call her on 01604 791071 for more information.

The Coach House residential home for adults with acquired brain injuries

The Coach House, Kingsthorpe, Northampton NN2 7PW

Activities for adults with acquired brain injuries

Building confidence and self-esteem
As well as specific therapeutic inputs, such as occupational therapy, physiotherapy and psychology sessions, service users in our care can also choose to take part in a range of activities each week, depending on their needs and abilities. These activities include music sessions, arts and crafts, ASDAN learning sessions, swimming, visiting local cafes, shops, etc. Not only are they fun and enjoyable activities in their own right, but they are also important in providing a ‘normal’ lifestyle and they support the therapeutic regime provided by the Multi-Disciplinary Team.

One popular activity for several of our service users with acquired brain injuries is Rock Club. It brings together people using different brain injury services in Northamptonshire to take part in a wide range of different activities: Anything from a disco and karaoke night to a bake-off competition, film night or quiz.

Halloween is a big event and the fancy dress disco is eagerly anticipated. Sallie Maris, the Arts and Crafts Co-ordinator at The Richardson Partnership for Care helped some of the service users prepare their Halloween costumes, which was all part of the fun.

Dressing up for HalloweenPreparing for the Halloween party

The Rock Club summer fun day was also a big occasion, with a barbecue, side shows and a visit from ‘Party Animals’ – an organisation that enables people to have close encounters with reptiles, rodents and mammals so they can learn more about them, overcome their fears and build confidence. Terry, one of our service users with an acquired brain injury was inspired to create this poster after the Rock Club summer fun day because he enjoyed it so much.

Terry's Rock Club poster

Rock Club events are held in Northamptonshire every other month, but the benefits extend to both before and after each occasion, and they are just part of the programme of activities included in the care plans for our service users.

As well as being very enjoyable, a varied activity schedule is important to service users in many ways: It helps them to build relationships with other people in a safe, supportive and good-humoured environment. This improves their well-being, self-esteem and confidence. In addition, the activities themselves help to improve motor skills, dexterity, co-ordination, concentration, memory skills, communication and vocal skills.

Service users’ families’ survey results 2018

At The Richardson Partnership for Care we have an open-door policy so the family members and friends of the service users in our care can visit at any time. As this is not practical for everyone we also include supported home visits in individuals’ care plans. As well as contributing to the service users’ well-being and family relationships, it also helps to encourage feedback from family members about the care that their loved one is receiving. In addition, we send out an annual questionnaire so that we can formalise the feedback process and identify any changes that are needed. Our service users have acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities and/or complex needs, so everyone’s requirements are different, but this process helps us to see the overall picture, identify trends and flag up any issues.

The questionnaires can be anonymous and they are optional, so we may only receive a relatively small number of responses. However, we are very grateful to the family members who complete them. Once again, we have received some very positive feedback and some lovely comments, but we are never complacent. We regularly step back and review our services and are always looking to improve.

The same questionnaire is sent to the families of service users who have learning disabilities and those who have an acquired brain injury. We ask all families whether they strongly agree, agree, don’t know or disagree with the following statements:

1. I am happy with the care provided for my relative
2. The home has a warm, non-institutional feeling
3. The home provides an inclusive or family environment
4. Staff are friendly and approachable
5. I am regularly updated with information
6. I feel that my relative is treated with dignity and respect
7. I feel that their quality of life has improved since they arrived at The Richardson Partnership for Care
8. I feel that my relative takes part in meaningful and/or enjoyable activities
9. Would you recommend The Richardson Partnership for Care?

We are pleased that:
100% of those who answered said that they would recommend the Richardson Partnership for Care to others.

100% of those who answered said that they strongly agreed or agreed with the statements:
“The home has a warm, non-institutional feeling”
“Staff are friendly and approachable”
“I feel that my relative is treated with dignity and respect”

94% of those who answered said that they strongly agreed or agreed with the statements:
“I am happy with the care provided for my relative”
“The home provides an inclusive or family environment”

All of the 2018 families’ questionnaire results are shown in the graph below.

2018 Survey Results

Some of the comments that we received are shown below with the names removed to protect the identity of the service users.

Comments from families of service users with an acquired brain injury:
“My sister has very good care and kindness at all times, which I know is not easy to achieve…Everyone works together to make it feel like a real family home.”

“The staff do appear to genuinely care about my brother.”

Comments from families of service users with learning disabilities:

“The home is superior to most other homes visited.”

“The staff have always been very supportive to our family.”

“He is very happy at Kingsthorpe Grove, we wouldn’t wish for him to be anywhere else.”

“He is more alert because of the time and effort the Manager and staff have worked to cut down on the amount of unnecessary drugs he was taking, which enables him to live his life in an enjoyable and contented way of his choosing.”

“He has a full and happy life. Everyone seems pleased to work with him. He could not receive better care.”

We would like to thank all of the family members who took the time to complete our annual survey.

Brain injury rehabilitation – Kay’s story

Kay - brain injury survivor

Kay has transformed her life with the help of the MDT and support staff at The Richardson Partnership for Care

When she was only 18 months old, Kay contracted Encephalitis and consequently experienced severe epilepsy. At the age of 13, she underwent surgery on her frontal lobe, which further exacerbated the brain damage. Kay also has a diagnosis of moderate learning disability.

Kay lived at home with her mother and grandmother before moving to specialist residential schools and other settings. At the age of 27, Kay moved to The Mews at The Richardson Partnership for Care. She had previously resided in a private hospital, but the placement broke down due to her risk behaviours and the inability to manage Kay in that environment.

Behaviour on Admission to The Richardson Partnership for Care
Kay’s challenging behaviour was thought to be underpinned by poor impulsivity control and a reactive approach to challenging situations due to her brain injury.

On admission, Kay presented with severe verbal and physical aggression towards herself and others. She also would make false allegations towards staff and other residents, disregarding staff prompts and instructions compromising her and others’ overall safety.

Kay was offered a holistic approach to help her to manage her challenging behaviour and become more self-aware. With the support of the multi-disciplinary team at The Richardson Partnership for Care and her care support workers, Kay has transformed her quality of life.

Read Kay’s brain injury rehabilitation case study in full here