Collingwood Court champions are part of the care home team

Maggie Harrison has been the manager at Collingwood Court Care Home in North Shields since it opened in 2005. She believes in making everyone who steps through the door feel welcome and part of the family. That welcome extends to the local people who come to the home as champions.

Maggie says, “They are part of the team, they really are, they’re one of us. The Altogether Better work is absolutely spot-on. I can’t fault it.”

The home provides residential and respite care for older people, including people with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia. Alongside Maggie is a caring and experienced team of staff and now also a committed group of champions. One of the most powerful things the champions do is to simply visit, sit with residents one to one and talk. With regular visits, the residents and champions are building a rapport.

Jimmy Chirnside is one of those champions and his easy, friendly manner and local knowledge help him to connect with people. He says, “A lot of the people in the home are from the local area and they remember the old fishing industry in North Shields. I worked in the fishing industry and I was born and bred in North Shields, so I remember things they can relate to and they pick up on that. Some of them are just a few years older than me and they appreciate someone talking to them about what they remember. Some of the gents are quite quiet, but with me going in, as a bloke, they can talk about things like working in the shipyards – I didn’t work in the shipyards, but I can let them talk, and that’s the main thing.”

Maggie says, “I think it’s such a gift, having people wanting to come into your home and spend time with your residents. You can’t buy that. The champions are lovely and one of the nice things is they introduce themselves to the families of the residents and they’re getting feedback from them that what they’re doing is good.”

In the beginning, some of the champions were concerned about what they could do that would be worthwhile and Maggie encouraged them to “just be in the moment” with the residents, seeing how they are on any given day, and simply sitting together.

Jimmy says, “I go in about three mornings a week. I try to see people individually, and then I try to get three or four of people together for the last half an hour or so, to help them get to know each other too. Sometimes I get the dominoes out and we have a game of dominoes. With one gentleman, we go for a walk around the corridors of the care home. It’s just a case of going in and breaking the day up for them.”

The champions are a trusted part of the team, and have the flexibility to visit when it suits them. One of the champions brings in magazines and papers for the residents, and another brings her children in when she visits.

For Jimmy, the experience of being part of the care home has been a really positive one. He says, “To me, they’re like friends now and I enjoy going in. Some days I might go in a little bit down but I come out laughing, because some of them are really funny. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t enjoy it, but I do enjoy it. As long as I can keep doing it, I will.”

Feedback from residents and staff is very positive. For Maggie, the success is not measured just by a positive impact on the residents, it’s also about the local community getting something out of the work. “I’ve said it since day one – the most important thing is the way you make people feel when they come into your home.”


Care home, AllCaitlin Milne