Celebrating 30 Years!

We recently celebrated our 30th anniversary with a garden party for service users, their families, staff and guests. Everyone was invited to take part in traditional games and activities such as tombola, bean bag throwing and ‘pin the tail on the donkey’, while enjoying entertainment from the Northampton Ukulele group and Martin the Music Man. A celebration cake was cut by service user, Denise, who has learning disabilities, along with Dawn Briggs, an Administrator, who has been with Richardson Care for 24 years.

We have a fantastic team at Richardson Care, and this was an opportunity to celebrate this amazing achievement and say thank you. It was a fabulous day with a happy, relaxed atmosphere, which is indicative of the family environment that we aim to create in our homes.

As a family business and one of the few independently owned and run specialist care providers in the country, we’re very proud to reach this milestone. I’m sure our longevity and success are due to remaining true to the values that my parents established back in 1989. We believe that social inclusion, community participation, dignity and respect, combined with tailored therapeutic input are key to enabling service users to fulfil their potential. We never forget that we’re all here because of the service users and we deliver truly person-centred care.

Thirty years is a long time in the care sector, and we have achieved this by not standing still. We are continually looking to the future and are innovative in our approach to supporting adults with complex needs and behaviours that challenge, delivering positive outcomes for the people in our care. This year has also seen the opening of our sixth residential care home: We now have three homes for adults with acquired brain injuries and three for adults with learning disabilities, all providing specialist care. Thank you to everyone who is part of the Richardson Care family.

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

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

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.

Sad news and tribute to Brian Richardson

Brian Richardson

Brian Richardson

This month we pay tribute to my dad, Brian Richardson, who has died after a short illness: He was diagnosed with Lymphoma in his brain in April this year. Brian was the driving force behind The Richardson Partnership for Care, which he founded with my mum, Jackie, in 1989.

Brian was an amazing man who touched the lives and hearts of so many people. He was born on Christmas Eve 1949 and grew up in humble surroundings in Northampton with his parents and two brothers. His entrepreneurial spirit was evident from a young age when he would devise enterprising schemes, which included repairing motorbikes on the lawn in front of the family home.

After leaving school Brian attended the newly opened Nene College in Northampton and qualified as a teacher, however he didn’t quite fit into the teaching world. Instead he came home with a teenage student who desperately needed short-term foster care and that was the beginning of his career as a carer.

Brian and Jackie started The Richardson Partnership for Care in their own home, caring for people with learning disabilities. In fact, two of the people that they looked after then are still residents in our care homes now, almost thirty years later. They built up the business with love, sheer hard work, determination and dedication; qualities that Brian also displayed in his personal and social life.

Brian and Jackie grew the business by buying up properties in Northampton to enable them to care for more people. They also recognised there was a need for specialist residential care and rehabilitation for people with acquired brain injuries, so extended the services to care for them too. I grew up in the business and have worked full time for The Richardson Partnership for Care since leaving school. Around 15-20 years ago, I was appointed a Director, and Brian and Jackie gradually stepped down from the day to day running of the business, handing over to me and my husband Greg.

The Richardson Partnership for Care is very much Brian’s legacy. He and Jackie established it to feel more like a family than a business. Brian was more than a boss to his employees – he was a true friend and a gentleman. He was known for his generosity, often helping people out when they didn’t expect it and investing in their personal development. He gave them the skills and the freedom to move on, but many of the staff chose to stay. This is still the case today.

Part of Brian’s legacy is also the ethos of The Richardson Partnership for Care and its commitment to providing a warm, friendly and positive environment for people with learning disabilities and acquired brain injuries. They are treated with dignity and respect and we aim to support them to realise their potential and live a fulfilling life.
Brian was a man who lived life to the full. He had many friends and a wide range of interests. As a youngster he would go to the Salon ballroom with his parents where he achieved gold medals for Ballroom and Latin American Dancing, and in later years he would love to Rock and Roll and Salsa with Jackie and Laura. He also loved the outdoors: he enjoyed walking and fishing, but his great passion was stalking and shooting. He was also a confident and extremely competent diver, as well as fast and enthusiastic skier. He was a risk-taker and had a reputation for a having a dare-devil attitude, which is perhaps why he was so much fun.

Brian was a warm and generous host and loved cooking for friends and family. He has been described as kind, caring, friendly, funny, a life-long friend, supportive, great company, interesting, intelligent, daring, obstinate and even, eccentric. We will miss him dearly, but we endeavour to maintain the ethos and vision for The Richardson Partnership for Care that Brian and Jackie established.

Summer holidays and activities

The excitement has been building as the holiday season is now well underway and we’ve had weeks of glorious sunshine. Holidays are planned months in advance and our service users, who have acquired brain injuries, or learning disabilities and complex needs, are supported in choosing where they would like to go.

Wherever possible, we try to accommodate specific requests for holiday destinations and they are financed by accruing a certain amount each month then topped up if someone needs something extra. Service users go away in small groups or individually, depending on their needs and preferences. They are supported by their care workers and they are involved in the decisions on who accompanies them.

Our service users enjoy the activities, atmosphere and the change in environment that a holiday brings. Some people need familiarity and routine so we balance this with the opportunity for enjoying new experiences. This year, some of our service users have been on a boat or seen the sea for the first time. Going on holiday is paramount to their health and well-being and is instrumental in their social inclusion and positive feelings of self-worth. There are also physical benefits of being outside and taking part in new activities.

This year popular holiday destinations include the Isle of Wight, Hemsby in Norfolk and Skegness in Lincolnshire – which is also close enough for a day trip. Billing Aquadrome is a local holiday park with good facilities, which is popular as it combines a change of scene and a relaxed holiday environment with a very convenient location. In addition, one service user has enjoyed a weekend trip to Blackpool, and others have visited their respective families in Malta and Serbia. We’ve also enjoyed day trips to London, the coast, zoos and country parks. Summer activities have also included trampolining and swimming, and one of our service users went to a David Byrne concert in London. We support our service users to lead a fulfilling and active life as possible.

A boat moored off the Norfolk Coast

Importance of location when placing someone in residential care

The front of 2 Kingsthorpe Grove

Location is often one of the first considerations when placing someone in residential care – so that they can be close to friends and family – but it’s not necessarily the most important. It’s usually a combination of factors that contribute to the quality of the care provided that takes precedent over the location. This is especially true of specialist residential care and rehabilitation for adults with acquired brain injuries, learning disabilities, complex needs and behaviour that challenges – there simply aren’t the facilities available across the country to meet local needs.

The Richardson Partnership for Care is located in Northampton – we’re in the centre of the country and have good road and rail links, so easily accessible for families to visit. We welcome visits to our care homes but these are not always practical, especially if family members work full-time, have children to look after or are elderly. Or they may have a long way to travel – our service users come from all over the UK as well Ireland and Eastern Europe.

Supported home visits
We believe that family contact is very important for our service users’ well-being so we include regular supported home visits when devising each individual’s care plan. Our care support staff arrange their transport and accompany them on their journey (overseas if necessary) and often continue to support them in their family home during their stay. If it’s not practical for individuals to stay with their relatives, then we arrange accommodation for them. This provides valuable assistance to the families too, helping them to enjoy the time spent with their loved one.

Video calls
As well as phone calls, we also use online applications and video calls to help service users and their families keep in touch – this can enhance communication for people with speech and language difficulties, making them easier to understand. It also means that their families get to see them and become more involved and reassured about their care.

We also use video calls to enable family members to participate in the review process. Our service users have an external review every 12 months where their care team and case workers review their care plan and discuss their progress. The service user can choose whether or not they take part in the review, but under The Care Act 2014, reviews must be attended by a family member or advocate.

A video call enables family members to take part in a review when they may have otherwise been unable to perhaps due to other family or work commitments. They can contribute fully to all areas discussed, see and hear the review team and ask questions as well as providing their thoughts and feelings on the care package.

If the service user declines to take part in the review, they can still have a video call with their family afterwards and speak with their care manager and review coordinator about what happened in the review.

Local environment
The immediate local environment can have a greater impact on someone’s day to day wellbeing than where they are located in the country. For example, all of our homes are situated in areas within easy reach of the town centre, but with their own communities. This means that we can visit local shops, pubs, cafes and leisure facilities and benefit from the friendly and personal service that they provide. We have found that some service users with acquired brain injuries and/or complex needs, on arrival at The Richardson Partnership for Care, have not accessed local communities for years. We facilitate and actively encourage service users to access local facilities as it is an important part of their well-being, rehabilitation and progress towards independence.

Centre of excellence
Due to historical factors, Northampton has evolved to become a centre of excellence in brain injury rehabilitation. This draws neurological experts to Northampton, which means that we have a larger pool of talented and experienced professionals in the area enabling us to deliver high quality rehabilitation care and support. We work in partnership with other support services if crisis care is required, providing continuity and orientation for service users and improving outcomes.

So, although location may be a starting point when placing someone in residential care or for residential rehabilitation, geographical distances can be overcome. It’s the quality of care, well-being and outcomes for service users that should take priority. We also find that in some cases, after a period of specialist rehabilitation, service users require less intensive support and are therefore able to go and live closer to their families.

Promoting safety as part of Action for Brain Injury Week

Kieran Richardson-Cheater in one of the new cricket helmets

Kieran Richardson-Cheater in one of the new cricket helmets

To raise awareness of the importance of protecting your head and to promote Action for Brain Injury Week, we have donated 12 cricket helmets to The Juniors at Pitsford School. The helmets are fully adjustable so suitable for children of all ages.

Headway’s Action for Brain Injury Week is an excellent campaign that raises awareness of brain injuries and the importance of prevention. Our sons attend the school and play cricket, and we were aware that the kit was being reviewed. This seemed to be the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of protecting your head to avoid the risk of brain injury. If we can encourage good safety habits in our children, they will hopefully continue them as they grow older.

Mrs Julia Willmott, Head of the Junior School, said: “’I am delighted with this kind and generous donation to The Junior School and it gives us an ideal opportunity to highlight the importance of protecting your head to the children.”

For more information about the campaign go to: www.headway.org.uk

Bowls sessions provide a range of benefits

One of the most popular activities that we arrange in-house for our service users is the weekly bowling sessions that we hold in the main hall at The Mews each Monday.

We are fortunate to have Duggie Mitchell on our team, who is an experienced bowling instructor and has played competitive bowls for 35 years with success at Club, County and National levels. Duggie joined the board of Disability Bowls England in 2016 and continues to be inspired by the achievements of people with disabilities. His experience, skill and enthusiasm for the game as well as his empathy with the service users have contributed to the success of the sessions. Duggie is assisted by Lisa Hutchins, the Administrator at 144 Boughton Green Road, who helps with the organisation and keeps the score.

Bowling adapted to suit the players
The format of the game is Short Mat Bowling, which is very similar to Carpet Bowling. A mat 45 feet long and 6 feet wide is laid out in the main hall with guards at either end to stop the bowls running too far. A jack is placed at one end of the mat and each player uses weighted bowls to try and hit the jack. We have adapted the rules to meet the cognition needs and suit the various abilities of the players. They bowl eight balls each and Lisa records the number of ‘strikes’. People from all of our homes join in and we have a league in which around 20 players take part. One of our service users who is blind has mastered bowling very successfully. Other service users come along to watch and support, and it’s a lively, social occasion with lots of cheering.

Key benefits to individuals
What may just look like a leisure activity is actually an important element of our service users’ care. As well as being very enjoyable, the bowling sessions also help to improve:

Physical strength and dexterity
Co-ordination
Cognition and communication
Motivation and self-esteem
Social Skills

Duggie has been running the sessions for around two years and new players can join in at any time. He has noticed significant improvements in some of the participants and says: “I have seen so much change in many of the group since we started: going from little or no eye contact or verbal communication in the early days to total interaction and response. My partner and I went along to the Christmas party recently and it was lovely to have them recognise us and want us to join them dancing.”

Thank you to Duggie and Lisa for their help and commitment to these sessions. They have contributed to some significant improvement and much enjoyment for our service users.

Duggie Mitchell demonstrating short mat bowls

Duggie Mitchell demonstrating short mat bowls