An activities coordinator at a Hastings care home is celebrating 30 years at the residence she joined at as a volunteer, and was even born opposite – with staff and residents throwing her a surprise celebratory lunch.
Shelagh Hazleton started working at Mountside Care Home, a branch of ACI Care that specialises in residential, respite and dementia care, in 1992 – where she joined to assist residents with their hair, before volunteering with afternoon activities.
Staff and residents at the Laton Road home kept the celebrations a secret so Shelagh was overwhelmed when she walked into the lounge to be greeted by a room of smiling faces. Even some residents who would normally stay in their room opted to come out and share Shelagh’s special afternoon. She was given a card full of warming messages, a bottle of wine and a beautiful clock, and the home’s chef Steve had prepared a buffet.
The rewarding job has seen Shelagh spend three decades at the care home, ensuring each resident is engaged, happy and their needs are met. Shelagh, who is now the home’s activities coordinator, joined after her husband’s grandmother became a resident at Mountside thirty years ago.
By showing kindness, Shelagh received kindness in return. Mountside wanted to offer Shelagh a full-time position after seeing her patience and empathy with the residents during her voluntary work but she initially turned down the offer due to childcare struggles of her newborn daughter, Louise. However, not wanting to lose Shelagh and the great work she does, the home offered the solution for Shelagh to bring Louise to work with her so she could continue her duties whilst keeping an eye on her daughter. This delighted some of the residents, with one finding particular joy in cuddling and feeding Louise.
Shelagh leads various activities throughout the week, trying to make each day different and engaging. Some of the most popular activities include board games, card games, magnetic darts and bingo on a Friday. She goes above and beyond to ensure all residents’ needs are met, and for those who don’t wish to leave their rooms, Shelagh sits with them one-to-one and encourages them to play cribbage and cards, or just engage in conversation.
Speaking of her time at the care home, Shelagh Hazleton said: “It’s amazing. I love my job every single day. It’s hard work but very rewarding. In fact, the rewards you get from it far outweigh the hard work.”
Talking of one of her fondest memories, she recalls: “We did have one lady who thought our Elvis performer was the real Elvis. Her heart would melt the minute he came in and her family always paid for him to come and sing for us all. Even when her dementia got quite bad she could always recognise Elvis, and it was lovely to see!”
Not falling far from the tree, in what could be considered fate, Shelagh was born in the house opposite the care home where she now works. Reminiscing over its history, she recalls that the property was two separate buildings – one being a boys school, and the other a house that was sold to become a care home. The care home took over the house next door, combining the properties and adding an extension to make it what stands today, before ACI Care acquired it in 2020.
Kimberley Mann, fellow activities coordinator at Mountside Care Home, said: “Shelagh is amazing with the residents and she really takes her time to ensure they are all happy and accounted for. Even those who don’t want to come out of their rooms and participate in activities, Shelagh is happy to go and just spend time with them one-on-one for a chat.
“To reach a 30-year milestone working at a care home is amazing. There is always bad press about care homes being understaffed and experiencing high turnover, but amongst all the noise there is a Shelagh who wouldn’t want to be doing anything else, and in Mountside’s case, the residents wouldn’t want anyone else here either. It’s a pleasure to be able to work alongside her in creating a bit of magic for our residents’ lives every day.”
For more information on Mountside and ACI Care, please visit https://aci.care/mountside/.