My home life: Residents, family and staff open up about their experiences at a Brentwood care home

PUBLISHED: 15:29 13 April 2018 | UPDATED: 10:37 23 July 2018

Residents at dementia unit in Howard Lodge

Residents at dementia unit in Howard Lodge


Sean Watson, director at the family-run St Michaels Homes which runs Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall, answers the common questions people have about care homes.

The gardens at Howard Lodge care home in Kelvedon Hatch just outside Brentwood, EssexThe gardens at Howard Lodge care home in Kelvedon Hatch just outside Brentwood, Essex

No one likes to imagine anyone in their family getting older. But it’s a fact of life that in older age some people need extra help in their daily lives, or even specialist care as they are unable to look after themselves any more.


Is in home care or residential care right for me/my family member?

It all depends on the individual circumstances. Round-the-clock-care in an individual’s home can be very expensive, and is out of reach for most people. But for some individuals, home care works really well as it allows them to still do things at home and retain a level of independence. However, if you do not have the financial means, you might just be eligible for basic domiciliary care, which may only consist of two to three visits a day under half an hour each. With residential care, staff are available at the push of a button should anything happen, and you also get the benefit of being in a social environment among people of a similar age.

It’s important to note however that a move into residential care is not necessarily a permanent one, and a good care home will always reassess resident’s needs.


Left to right, Helen Rowlan, Debbie Marshall and their mum Peggy Drummond. Peggy has been looked after by Howard Lodge since February 2015Left to right, Helen Rowlan, Debbie Marshall and their mum Peggy Drummond. Peggy has been looked after by Howard Lodge since February 2015

Can mum or dad afford the fees to live here?

Some care home places are funded by the local authority or the NHS.

However, if the person in question has capital or savings above £23,250, they will have to pay for their own care.

Your local authority will need to carry out a care needs assessment, which looks at income and savings to decide eligibility for funding, but it can be a postcode lottery.

Where you are from can massively impact how much you have to pay for care.

Where you are from can massively impact how much you have to pay for care. On Essex County Council’s website there is information on care funding for Brentwood residents.

The dementia unit at Howard Lodge is themed around a villageThe dementia unit at Howard Lodge is themed around a village

If you live in Havering, Havering Council also has a guide to adult social care funding.

It is really important to know exactly what you will be charged for from the beginning.

You will also want to ask what extras if any the headline fee covers, things like trips, toiletries, and hairdressing, and what furniture is included in the rooms.


Check the home’s Care Quality Commision rating

There are four ratings: Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement and Inadequate. Health and social care services are rated in five areas relating to safety, outcomes, how caring they are, how responsive they are to individual needs, and the quality of leadership. Home’s are also given an overall rating. Check the service’s score here.

The gardens at Howard Lodge care home in Kelvedon Hatch just outside Brentwood, EssexThe gardens at Howard Lodge care home in Kelvedon Hatch just outside Brentwood, Essex

On top of this you can also ask for the home’s staff retention rate.


What kind of care do they specialise in?

Residential homes differ in the levels of care they offer. Alongside the round-the-clock supervision you might normally expect, which covers accommodation, meals and help with personal care, some also offer short-stay and daycare facilities. Some will also offer nursing, respite and specialist dementia care as they work closely with the district nursing teams, GPs, and social services.

Many people are starting to recognise the work homes do in keeping the elderly out of hospitals in the first place.


Each door in the dementia unit at Howard Lodge care home in Brentwood is painted a different colour to aid residents in finding their room.Each door in the dementia unit at Howard Lodge care home in Brentwood is painted a different colour to aid residents in finding their room.

Is it the right location and when can I visit?

Visits from family will be an essential part of your relative’s stay in a care home. Good homes should allow you to visit at any time, within reason. Also, you need to consider whether is it in the right location - is it a peaceful and relaxed environment to live and visit with family and friends? Do the staff look rushed off their feet?


What is the food like?

A good diet is important at any age, but for the elderly it can help protect against a variety of age-related conditions like cardiovascular disease, dementia, bowel problems and osteoporosis. Ask whether the menu is fixed every week or does it vary? You may also want to ask whether the meals are delivered pre-prepared or cooked on-site using fresh ingredients.


So what is life like in a residential care home? We spoke to a resident at Dudbrook Hall in Brentwood, Essex and a family member of a resident at the neighbouring Howard Lodge about their experiences.

“I just don’t look back”

Betty Watts has been a resident at Dudbrook Hall for three years

I’ve lived in this area for 88 years, and if it came a time when I would go into a home, I wanted it to be a place near to where I was born.

Dudbrook Hall is only five minutes from where I lived in Kelvedon Hatch.

I moved here because I couldn’t do the things at home that I wanted to do, and it wasn’t safe being on my own at night. I have arthritis, and after an operation I couldn’t walk. In home care wasn’t really the right thing for me at the time.

I raised four beautiful boys, and they all agreed with me it was for the best. We didn’t have a lot of time to get me in here after the operation, but my son had given Dudbrook Hall all the details about my circumstances. You are eased into things when you first move in, and I can honestly say I’ve been very satisfied.

The staff are very good, and cope very well when under pressure. I just can’t fault it.

We have a great activities lady that takes us out for lunches, plays games and that. It keeps us active.

I just don’t look back.

“It was the best decision we ever made”

Helen Rowlan’s parents moved into Howard Lodge in February 2015

My sister and I were caring for our mum and dad at home. Dad had vascular dementia, and Mum has alzheimers and dementia. We were both working full-time, and couldn’t manage it. An emergency situation meant we had to get them into a care home quickly.

We had previously looked at five or six different places, some nicer than others, but Howard Lodge felt different straight away. After meeting deputy manager Barbara Lane and looking at the facilities, we knew it was the right place.

My parents had two rooms, a bedroom and a lounge. Dad’s health deteriorated, and was taken into hospital, but with the help of Barbara we managed to get him back in the home with mum and arranged care for him in his last days.

What the team at Howard Lodge do is a lifeline. The care my dad received was amazing, and we will always be grateful for what they did. It meant that we were able to all be there together as a family.

After my dad died, my mum moved into the Poppy Hamlet. The staff are so pro-active and on the ball all the time. If my mum’s chest is a bit bad, I know they’re on to it already, and if a Doctor has visited they always call me to tell me what happened.

The first night was like leaving your child on the first day of school, but we went back the next day and Mum and Dad were fine. It was difficult to begin with, but it didn’t take long for them to settle.

We always feel involved in my mum’s care. Howard Lodge do a care plan every three to six months, where I sit with a team leader or my mum’s key work and go through all of it together.

The staff and other residents feel like my second family. Everyone is going through the same thing, and the open door policy means I always feel comfortable asking questions.

I know that every time I leave mum, I can walk away with total peace of mind, knowing if there is a problem, I’ll get a phone call.

For us as a family, it was the best decision we ever made.


Open day

Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall are opening their doors to the public to mark the Queen’s birthday on April 21. Current residents and their families, as well as the families of former residents, will be there to mark the occasion with an afternoon tea.

Dudbrook Hall is a 400-year-old country manor house set in stunning Essex countryside. No two rooms are the same, and you are only 10 minutes from Ongar and Brentwood Town Centres. Howard Lodge is a purpose-built 71-bedroom care facility adjacent to Dudbrook Hall that opened in 2014. Both sites specialise in providing elderly and dementia care.

To register your interest in attending, or to simply learn more about the services offered by the teams at Howard Lodge and Dudbrook Hall, call 01277 372095 or visit

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