Thirteen years ago, Staffordshire couple Paul and Sandra Edden took a leap of faith.
They ditched their “well paid” jobs and decided to focus on caring for the county’s elderly population.
Ever since, they have been tackling the way people look after our older generation – one mince pie at a time.
Paul helped to launched Home Instead Senior Care in the UK – 13 years later, there are 200 franchise offices all over the UK.
“It was a complete leap of faith and a step into the unknown, which is always scary,” Paul recalls.
Home Instead was originally set up in America in 1994 when founder Paul Hogan’s grandmother’s dementia progressed.
He hired people who took care of his grandmother in order to give his own mum a break.
Paul Edden describes how they “sort of flew by the seat of our pants” in their first year.
Paul and Sandra, who now have a Home Instead senior care office in Newcastle and Stoke-on-Trent, approach care in a different way to other companies.
“Most people would usually associate care with a 20-minute dash in and dash out of people’s homes.
“We don’t do that and never have done.
“No one ever rings the doorbell and says ‘hello my name’s whatever’ and in they go.
“They always arrive at the door fully briefed and aware of what they are supposed to do and are introduced to the client by a senior member of the office team.
They especially have a different approach to phone calls with the elderly, which wasn’t always well received.
“The initial feedback we received when we were rigid into sticking to our one hour minimum care call was ‘you’re bonkers’, that will never, ever work in this country, you’ve got to do 15 minute calls and that’s the only way.
“We said ‘well thank you for your feedback but we’re not going to do that’.
“Now, 13 years on, it’s definitely bearing fruit because there are now 200 franchise offices all around the country.”
Home Instead Senior Care has won many accolades for the work they do, receiving the Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Innovation 2016, while also receiving the Princess Royal Training award for the training they provide.
Paul explains how, despite the hard work, the job is rewarding.
“Whenever I’m feeling a bit grumpy or a bit low just going out and talking to a client and understanding where they’ve come from and what they’ve done is helpful.
“Trust me, the people in this area have got some interesting stories to tell.
“It always puts a smile on my face when I go and talk to the people that we look after.”
Home Instead Senior Care hires caregivers from all different backgrounds, a source of pride for Paul.
“We have a few people who work with us who are retired nurses, they’ve come from a different care company, they’ve done care before, we also have people who’ve never worked in care.
“We focus very heavily on putting the client at the centre of everything we do.
“At this time of year we can help our clients put a shopping list together, our caregivers will go and collect the shopping, they’ll bring it back, they’ll then help or wrap the presents on behalf of the client, they’ll help write and deliver the cards.”
Paul and Sandra also plan to to set up a community cafe which they call a ‘friendship cafe’.
“It’s basically about people who are isolated and don’t normally get out and have very little access to family, possibly have lost contact with friends through all sorts of reasons, we are working with the Mitchell Arts Centre so that people can meet up, have a chat, have a cup of coffee and a cake and go see a film.”
Paul and Sandra also dedicate a lot of their time to fundraising, highlighting they’re donations to North Staffordshire Carers Association (NSCA).
According to Age UK, 3.6 million people in the UK live alone, and two million of those are aged 75 or over.
Paul adds: “Coming up to this time of year is quite difficult for some older people, I think, particularly the ones that haven’t got as many family members or friends, they’ve lost partners, they want to stay in their own home because thats the right place for them to be and who can blame them?”
Putting a smile on their face is something Home Instead Senior Care thinks is of significant importance.
“In the wider community, let’s just try and help each other during this festive period and put a bit of a smile on people’s faces.
“If that means what I do is put on a silly sort of red hat with a bobble on the end then go out in my car delivering mince pies to people, then that’s what I’ll do.
“When one of our staff members is cooking Christmas dinner, her mum cooks an extra couple of dinners, she hops in the car and takes them out to her clients, who would be on their own, totally.
“Now that’s fabulous. And we’ve heard a number of our caregivers are going to do the same thing this year.”
And Paul believes everyone can do their bit to make Christmas special for those who are alone.
“Make their day, more importantly make them a cup of tea.
“Make sure you take biscuits, we can all spend 50p on a pack of biscuits, and just sit and have a chat with them.
“And even if you can only spare 10,20,30 minutes, it will change their life. And they will be so appreciative of seeing somebody.
“Ten minutes can make such a difference.
“You could be the only person they’ve seen that week. Make their day and just pop round.”
For more information about Home Instead, visit their website by clicking here: https://www.homeinstead.co.uk/newcastleunderlyme