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Mar 07, 2024

Champions of Care winner Cheryl Vickerstaffe talks about making a real difference to the lives of care home residents

Winner of the Champions of Care Special Recognition award Cheryl Vickerstaffe discusses going the extra mile for her residents, creating a family atmosphere in the home and the importance of activities for quality of life. 

Special Recognition winner 2024

Person Centred Software’s Champions of Care awards provide an opportunity to celebrate and recognise the achievements of our everyday heroes, often working behind the scenes in the social care sector - the champions of change who dedicate their lives to caring for the most vulnerable members of society. 

This time, we’re sharing the story of Cheryl Vickerstaffe, winner of the Special Recognition award, here is her story! 

Starting as a carer at 15 before building a successful career in the NHS, Cheryl is now the Home Manager of Church View Care Home and has been running the home for the last four years, managing 45 beds and 48 members of staff. Though it is a challenging job, as Church View often looks after people with complex care needs, for Cheryl working in social care was something that she always wanted to do, and finding the right mix of clinical care and wellbeing care was her top priority.  

“I didn’t want to work in a position where people were just getting cared for,” she said, “I wanted to be in a position where people were getting cared for and making good memories. This was something I was very passionate about and very keen to bring into Church View when I became manager. 

“I think now we have a good balance – we have a good balance of clinical oversight on complex care [Under Cheryl, Church View is the only home in the Liverpool Local Authority to achieve clinical excellence via the CCG] but also from a wellbeing point of view, we do a lot for the residents. For example, each resident has their own personalised bedrooms, they enjoy personalised trips and activities, and in this we are really trying to make a difference to people’s lives.” 

For Cheryl, one of the most important aspects of fostering an environment that really promotes good quality of life is the sense of community - whether it’s the community of the residents or the staff. Cheryl’s ambition is for all residents when they move into Church View to feel like there, they are part of an extended family. And through dedication, passion, and thinking outside the box when it comes to recording care notes, factoring in resident likes and dislikes, and planning activities around their life story and individual interests, this has been something that Cheryl has been able to achieve, even to the point where family members of residents who have sadly passed away will still come in regularly to visit the staff and to have a cup of tea, such is the warmth and such is the strength of the bond between residents, staff and relatives.  

Though an incredible achievement, it hasn’t been easy, as Cheryl commented: “Sometimes it does take over your life and it feels like it’s more than a job; it can feel quite 24/7 - you’re managing the care home, you’re managing the residents, you’re managing the staff. Just this morning, for example, I was in a meeting with a GP and one our staff said to me that we needed more eggs. 

“It can feel constant, but this is how we wanted it – we wanted it to feel like one big family, and everybody who comes in says just that; they say it feels like a family.” 

The relationships that Cheryl has formed with residents and staff, not to mention the strong feeling of community she has helped create, is one of the main reasons she decided to move into social care after spending 19 years in the NHS.   

“I never thought I’d leave [the NHS] but [returning to social care] was something that I’d always wanted to do, and when visiting Church View as a District Lead it struck me that it had a really nice feel.” 

From there, Cheryl made the move and took the position of home manager at Church View – which is her first home management job – and with it came an unprecedented set of challenges to navigate, as she recalls: “I took over at the end of March 2020, and initially because of Covid none of the families got to meet me in person, and I find you can tell a lot by meeting someone in person, so it was hard to build relationships because everything had to be remotely.  

“We went through a big Covid outbreak in October 2020 which was really hard – I can honestly say that in my 22-year career I’ve never done anything like that before. But at the same time, I’ve also never been so proud of a team.  

“Even though I’ve been a manager before, I’ve been a manager on wards and a manager in the NHS, that was the first time I’d ever dealt with anything like that. What the staff did for the residents especially at that time was amazing – whether it was coming in on days off to help or all of us working 48-hour shifts – so while it was so difficult, I really think it made us stronger.” 

This commitment to doing whatever it takes to ensure the best possible quality of life for residents has been one of Cheryl’s core principles during her tenure as Home Manager at Church View Care Home, so much so that Cheryl’s colleagues have said they are often in awe of what she does, saying that she lives and breathes person centred care, and also that the instances where she has demonstrated her ethos that the resident is at the heart of everything are too many to mention! 

This is because for Cheryl, keeping the residents’ likes and dislikes at the heart of the care Church View provides is essential.  

“As soon as we get a referral for any potential new resident,” Cheryl said, “we always link in with the family to ask things like, for example, where they were born and bred, how many siblings did they have, and for us that is relevant because we’re getting that link back, we’re getting the backstory of that person. We never want our residents to become just a person living in a care home – just a name and a number. 

“We always make sure to understand what’s important to them in life, and to always remember their life story. So, for example, we have residents who are retired nurses and retired engineers and that should be remembered, we always think why should that history be forgotten just because they’re in a care home?”  

A significant aspect of providing person centred care, creating memories, and helping residents and staff achieve outstanding levels of quality of life within the community of the home are the activities that are provided. Cheryl believes that providing this type of fun and engaging atmosphere is essential to going above and beyond in the provision of care, as exampled by the many trips and events that Church View have undertaken, such as a holiday to a sister care home in Southport where Cheryl and the team enjoyed meals and drinks with residents, as well as days at the fun fair and doing some shopping. 

Recalling this, Cheryl said, “That was an experience I’ll never forget; I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so much in my life!” 

Creating these memories and sharing in these experiences is what makes a care home a real community, and what often makes the difference when it comes to true quality of life for those living in care homes – to feel like they can still enjoy life, have new experiences, make new friends and be part of a community. The difference that Cheryl has made to the lives of the residents and the staff she works with have had a profound impact on all involved – especially the families of residents. One family commented that, thanks to the work of Cheryl and her team, after their mum moved into Church View, they “had her back for a year.”  

“I try not to, but I do get a little bit emotional [when hearing comments like that] because it’s not just a job. You could do a job anywhere, but you come in here to make a difference, and it’s so nice when you see that you’ve really made a difference – it does make it special.” 


March 7, 2024

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