Monday, 24 February 2014

Helping Hands: Local Care Service Manager Clare Turner

I am the local care service manager for East Anglia and while I don’t currently have a customer with a spinal injury, this time last year my fiancĂ© broke C7 which as you know is in the neck and was paralyzed for 2 weeks. 

Following surgery to remove it, and replace it with a steel scaffold and screws it has been a long road of physio and support from Addenbrooks hospital and Stoke Mandeville spinal unit as an outpatient. Despite working in health and social care for 25 yrs, being a relative of someone who is told they have a 50/50 chance of never walking again is a heart stopping moment in time. He was lucky and has made a good recovery but it has given me a very different outlook on life and also the work I do at Helping Hands.

For more information please call 0808 180 1553.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Helping Hands: Why is quality of care so important when dealing with people who have spinal injuries? By Abbey Herbert (Senior Quality Assurance Manager)

Quality of care and dedication to excellence are essential elements to ensure the most successful outcomes in spinal injury customer care and satisfaction.

Helping Hands’ carers are dedicated to provide the very best care to maintain its lead in the treatment and care of people with spinal injuries. To facilitate this we are committed to developing the skills and potential of all our staff. Our aim is to develop a workforce which has inquiring minds and is capable of learning from customers as well as colleagues. Our teams challenge and change practice in order to improve and develop the care they give.
Excellence in spinal injury care is facilitated by providing access to specific complex care training. 

The support we provide at Helping Hands should enable people with spinal injury to:

1. Have confidence that the care they receive will be of a consistent high quality

2. Control their own care and feel confident working in collaboration with the carer.

3. Know that their care has been designed in a way that acknowledges its place within their broader lives.

Our services at Helping Hands concentrates on understanding and meeting individual, practical and social needs of people with spinal injuries who wish to live independent lives in their own homes.  For more information about spinal injury care quality, please contact Abbey Herbert on 0808 180 1553 or visit


Monday, 17 February 2014

Helping Hands: Simon and Anna's story

Spending an afternoon with Simon Brain and Anna Chmielewska, one of our long-term live-in care partnerships, it is clear to see why we do what we do. Simon, who previously sustained a C5/C6 spinal cord injury at the age of nineteen, has been receiving live-in care from Helping Hands since 2000. 

Immediately after sustaining his injury, Simon was understandably anxious. An independent young man, he was unsure about what the future would hold and how the direction of his life would change. 

“For the first few years after my accident, I closed myself off and didn’t want to do anything as I was originally worried what other people would think. However, over time I started going out to different places and stopped worrying about what other people thought.”

Receiving Live-in Care from Helping Hands, although later proving a great decision, was initially a daunting prospect that contributed to Simon’s uncertainty. 

“It was a shock,” Simon explains. “Going from being so independent to relying on someone and putting your trust in them was difficult. In the beginning, I was instructed to stay in bed because of an unhealed pressure sore. I was advised to stay in hospital, but I just wanted to get home. Helping Hands came out to me, and I was able to return home with support from one of their Live-in Carers.”

Now, fourteen years down the line, Simon is embracing independent living with support from his permanent Helping Hands Live-in Carer, Anna Chmielewska. Visiting them at home, it is clear to see that they are a perfect match.  

“When a Carer first arrives, I am a little bit nervous about whether or not we will get on. I prefer Carers to be a similar age to me, as then we generally have a similar taste in music and films. My permanent Carer, Anna, is just great.”

Sitting together in front of a roaring open fire, Anna brings in Simon’s two dogs, which are obviously spoilt rotten by the pair. United by their love of dogs, Anna and Simon just seem to click, and it is clear to see that Helping Hands’ matching process worked perfectly for them.
“You really can’t fault the Carers,” Simon remarks. “The matching process is great and Anna is perfect in terms of personality and competence.”

Every day, Simon and Anna work well together. They maintain a routine that follows the outcomes stipulated in his individualised plan of support, whilst having fun along the way.
“We generally stick to the same morning routine,” says Simon. “Anna supports me in the morning with my personal care routine. Then, in the afternoon, I spend my time studying web design and photography on the computer. Being a self-employed photographer is definitely an option for the future.”

With support from Anna, Simon continues to pursue his chosen lifestyle. Here at Helping Hands, we are committed to making independent living possible for many others like Simon across the UK. 

Offering invaluable advice to others affected by spinal cord injuries, Simon says, “When I was in hospital, being around other people with spinal cord injuries and seeing how confident they were taught me to move forwards. 

I would say to others in my position, just get back out there and start living your life. Before my accident, I was really active and into sports. I couldn’t see myself doing anything with computers, but you just have to work through it and try different things.”

Leaving Simon and Anna to it, we know that we have just witnessed what Live-in Care is all about. 

 If you, like Simon, have sustained a spinal cord injury and would like support from someone like Anna, please contact Helping Hands today on 0808 180 1553.

Friday, 14 February 2014

Helping Hands: Looking back to an emotional rollercoaster by Lisa Watkiss

When I was 17 and studying for my A Levels  my then boyfriend Dave was involved in an accident where his car broke down on a Motorway on his way to visit friends in Bristol.  He was underneath the car at the side of the road trying to fix it when a lorry clipped the car and dragged him along underneath it for quite a distance before the driver realized what had happened.

During an initial period of paralysis he remained at Frenchay hospital in Bristol, but then when things started to look a little more hopeful he was transferred to the Spinal Injuries Unit at a specialist spinal hospital in Oswestry. He then spent the next 8 months bed-ridden on the same ward and I spent the time travelling to and from Oswestry failing my A levels.

For him those months involved lots of operations, physio and being prodded by all sorts of consultants and specialists.

For me and those close to him what was more noticeable was the change in his personality as a result of what had happened to him.

People not close to the person may see  the physical changes that have taken place, but those close see the  emotional changes too.  Being told you might not walk again is probably one of the hardest things to hear, and it can have a dramatic effect on the way you view life.

Dave became very frustrated and angry with everyone, including himself for what he’d allowed to happen.  Being so young I struggled to cope with his constant mood swings and his anger with everything and everyone and our relationship didn’t survive very long after he came home.

The story does have a happy ending though. Dave returned home from Oswestry and for some time set up a bedroom in his parents’ dining room. Through the dedication and support of carers visiting him at home and his physio’s persistence, Dave did regain his mobility and learnt to walk again.

Despite having several bits of metal in his body he has led a pretty normal life, but like the majority of those effected by such a traumatic experience his out look on life was changed dramatically as a result.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Helping Hands - Our first spinal injury customer in 1999 by CEO, Tim Lee

Back in 1989 Helping Hands was a traditional Home Care agency providing support mainly to the elderly members in our local communities. Over the years it became clear to us that some of our elderly customers wanted or needed full time support and the reassurance of having a live in carer with them most of the time.  They chose this rather than going into a residential home. They wanted to stay at home, maintain their independence and have the support and companionship of someone living with them.
As our confidence in providing our Live in Care service grew, we saw opportunities to facilitate younger adults, including those with Spinal Injuries, to retain their independence and live independently. Back in 1999 we started support for our first spinal injury customer and since then we have supported many more.  Some customers we have assisted through their rehabilitation programme, others we continue to provide long term care so that they are able to live independently, grow in confidence and maintain the lifestyle choices that they have made.  We support those with spinal injuries to further their studies at college or university, to continue with employment and to enjoy their chosen hobbies and activities.   Sometimes we help in the transition from being looked after by family carers, to living away from parents and having a carer live in.
As Helping Hands has grown, so has our knowledge in how best to support each customer in a way that truly meets their individual needs. Our carers are able to support both the physical and emotional needs of those living with spinal injuries and as our knowledge is continually enhanced, so is the training that we provide to those supporting our customers, so that we always provide the best care possible.