Friday May 5th, 2023 -
Why invest in higher-end senior living facilities?
We’re investing in high-quality care homes because there is such a great need for this kind of care village. Buying a retirement home lets residents make a single decision about where they will live for the rest of their lives, safe in the knowledge that however their well-being journey turns out, they need never move from the care village location. And as people are living longer and requiring more support during their later years, we’re putting in facilities that make their lives easier, like the onsite healthcare we can offer.
You decided to further your education by completing a masters in dementia studies – has this improved your ability to deliver high-quality care services?
My further education has helped me better understand the daily lives of those living with dementia, the viewpoint from the angle of their loved ones and also to know what staff see when providing care to these clients each day. In a nutshell, I did it to understand the care and the support needed to provide an environment that can enrich the lives of those living with dementia to the very best they can live them. For me, knowledge is power, and I gained so much from my course.
What drove your decision to operate two different brands of senior living facilities (Park Lane and Lavender Fields) simultaneously?
The care homes we have under the Park Lane Healthcare name were all ‘other peoples’ care homes’ that we adapted to our own brand and style of running things. The Lavender Fields Care Village is a ‘from the ground up’ project, so to speak, and we can invest in that building in so many ways in a bespoke way, based on all we have learnt through 20 years of running Park Lane Healthcare.
How do you balance running a profitable business with delivering a personal service like senior care?
The irony is that the better the care, the better the profitability. It is a false economy to cut corners, and, not least, it’s also dangerous. Looking after folks well keeps the phone ringing for new residents to move in – word of mouth is still the best promotion!
What have your other business ventures taught you about running senior living complexes?
That quality trumps all in every sphere. Look after folks well, and everyone wants to live in your facilities.
What, for you, makes the difference for a senior care resident?
For me, it’s person-centred care. Having nice facilities is important, of course, but the most important part is to ensure that bespoke care revolves around the resident. You need to get to know their likes and dislikes, their personality, their history, and what shaped their life prior to coming to us. Then you build their care around this model. For example, just because a woman is in her 80s who says she wants to arrange flowers every Wednesday! She might want the wrestling on!
Having worked in the industry for a long time and seen plenty of changes, what do you think is next for the senior living world?
Truly I believe it is what we are doing. Not ‘care’ or ‘retirement communities’ where if you get too ill, you have to leave – it’s lifetime care from when they move in until forever.
Can you tell us about any interactions you’ve had with residents that have stuck with you and if you have gone on to make any changes in your business as a result?
Yes, definitely, I have a story that has stuck with me for more than a decade. Circa 2009, I sat with a lady who had fallen and broken her hip on the first floor. We had to get her to the ground floor in as little pain as possible. We had a lift that was not quite a stretcher lift – a little smaller. Seeing her pain at bending her body to get in safely was excruciating for me, and I resolved to do stretcher lifts everywhere from then in.
I’m pleased to say we have fully implemented this. The lady who inspired this change has since passed away, but the building has had the new stretcher lift installed and bears her name on a plaque outside of it telling the story, so her grace and dignity still walks along our corridors.
Quality trumps all in every sphere. Look after folks well, and everyone wants to live in your facilities.
What have you found essential in delivering standout care services that have stood the test of time?
Putting the resident’s needs first and not running it for the staff by the staff. You can walk into care homes with pop channels playing hits from the charts, and you know that this is not for the residents. Basically, it always comes back to person-centred care.
I will leave you with one final thought: There is an old song by Gladys Knight called Midnight Train to Georgia. It has a line that was not meant for the care sector but talks about travelling with her husband rather than being left behind. However, the words are so apt about those living with dementia, and she sings: ‘I’d rather live in his world than be without him in mine.’ That’s the kind of consideration I carry with me as I continue to run care homes: supporting our loved ones to live with dignity and providing them with the means to do so.
At OakNorth, we’re drawn to ambitious entrepreneurs like Chris as they scale their businesses even further, and we love to look back on their past successes with them too. So if you’re a care business that is also looking to take the next step in your growth journey, check out how our senior living loans could fund the future of your care.