Caring to the core
Updated: Jan 4
From the very earliest of ages, Nikki has been involved with the care system. As a teenager, Nikki spent her school summer holidays helping out at her aunt’s care home near Dartmouth. It was an experience that she loved, talking with the older residents, and it set her on a life-long career caring for others.
Over the years she’s worked with children that have experienced severe learning difficulties and complex conditions such as cerebral palsy. She’s managed care homes helping clients suffering from dementia, and worked with soldiers battling PTSD.
She’s also developed an award-winning training programme to help carers understand and cope with end of life care, supported by fast response teams experienced in helping clients through their final hours; treating them with dignity and respect, making sure that they have the opportunity to see their family and say their goodbyes.
For Nikki, mental health has always been a draw. It’s where she first came in to contact with Marie Tolly, Founder of Independent Living West Country.
Marie and Nikki both worked for the Guinness Partnership. Together, they managed several supported living houses in the South West, providing care for clients with mental health conditions or learning disabilities, such as severe autism. Here, the focus was very much person-centred, giving individuals choices and support.
In some ways, this was to be the seed for Independent Living West Country itself, stirring up Marie’s vision for a new kind of care service in an ideal world, which Nikki and Marie would discuss regularly at length.
Having finished her time at the Guinness Partnership, Nikki returned to the care home sector, where she was reminded of the commercially driven world, in which the needs of the individual take a back seat to profitability – something which happens all too often in the industry.
Disheartened by this experience, she quit her position and met up with old friend Marie for a coffee and a catch up. By this time, Marie had been running Independent Living West Country for almost two years, and Nikki could see that Marie’s dream had become a reality. Excited by the prospect of working for a business where the client really does come first, one week later Nikki joined the team.
Today, Nikki manages ILWC’s growing and devoted team of staff, but also takes time out to work at the RD&E as healthcare support, where she holds a position equivalent to that of a junior nurse.
As part of ILWC fast response support team, which goes out to see clients experiencing episodes that could result in injury or self-harm, she provides invaluable first aid experience and knowledge, which is vital in ensuring the health and wellbeing of clients.
Importantly, in addition to managing the team, Nikki remains very hands-on, working directly with clients to give them the support they need, be that assisting with their dietary needs or accompanying them while taking part in activities such as kayaking to achieve one of their personal goals.
“That’s what I love most about Independent Living West Country,” says Nikki. “It’s a business, yes, but our focus is all about doing everything we can for our clients, helping them to achieve personal goals on their journey towards greater independence. We’ve torn up the rule book in that respect, which is liberating and rewarding.”
Nikki adds: “Too many businesses in the Care System have the wrong priorities; putting unreasonable profit over care. We’re different. We set goals with our clients, and we do all that we can to deliver them, often in unexpected and uplifting ways. That includes everything from using a therapy dog to enrich our clients’ lives, giving them the opportunity to walk and pet a dog, through to making all the arrangements for a client to move house. It’s not the norm. It’s not what’s expected, but it’s what makes all the difference to our clients, and that’s what matters most.”
To find out more about how Independent Living West Country could be helping you, a member of your family, or a client suffering from a mental health condition, visit https://www.independentlivingsw.co.uk/ or call 01392 467 007