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Askham: delivering life-changing rehab step by step

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From meeting people at their most vulnerable, facing an uncertain future after devastating injury or illness, Askham Rehab has a stellar track record in supporting them to achieve positive life-changing outcomes. 

From the very start of their rehabilitation journey, the Askham team unite behind each resident, helping them to achieve their personal goals and look to a more positive future than the one they believed lay ahead when they arrived. 

Such is the reputation of Askham, based near Doddington, Cambridgeshire, that residents come from across the nation, with the compelling combination of person-centred rehabilitation – which includes hydrotherapy and the latest in robotic innovation – helping to deliver significant results, often within a 12-week placement. 

And at the heart of the service Askham delivers is its team. From the care, nursing and therapy teams, through to the housekeepers and facilities support, everyone has a role in ensuring the Askham journey is the best it can be for each and every resident. 

“What we do here starts with one person and ends with one person – the resident – but it goes so far beyond that during their time with us. The team we have here is incredible and we couldn’t achieve what we do without them,” says Luke Cook, head of rehab and nursing at Askham Rehab.

“Our care team have the most time with the residents, more eyes and hands on our residents than anyone else, the role of carer is impossible to define and they do one million roles rolled into one. They support with; personal care, mobilisation, therapy, personal issues, they holistically support our residents with absolutely everything – and more. 

“Often they will be the first and last person a resident will talk to most days. Care teams don’t get mentioned as much as they should, and I don’t think even they realise how much their involvement influences everything else.

“From sharing past experiences, to being about the encourage participation in certain activities as of the relationships formed, through to making the ‘best cup of tea’ – it’s sometimes the little things that have a really big impact.

“Our nursing team, with the support they provide with pain management, corresponding with MDTs and enhanced levels of care, alongside our therapy team – so the SLTs, OTs, physios and neuropsychologist – are crucial in the support, leadership and expertise they give our residents. 

“But around that is our support services. We have a seven-acre tranquil environment, but it wouldn’t be that if not for the facilities team. If the boilers didn’t work and the lightbulbs weren’t changed, we wouldn’t function as we do. Likewise with our housekeepers, without them the service doesn’t work – and after 18 months where infection control was absolutely paramount, without them, we couldn’t have done the job during the pandemic we have done.

“Importantly, these are very relatable people, someone for our residents to have ‘normal’ or ’non-clinical’ conversations with. We know our residents really value that.

“Our team all support each other, they very much rely on each other, their roles are interlinked and we all work together to make sure everything we do is as meaningful as possible for the residents. I’m so proud of the role they all play.” 

While many people may not have heard of Askham until such time they need its specialist support, its dedication to securing the best possible outcomes means its work begins as soon as they arrive – with discharge already planned for even before that time.  

“The sad truth is that people don’t know about us until they need us. People come from far and wide, because of our nursing-led support as well as the rehabilitation we provide. We are very niche and with a strong reputation, which is increasingly growing with the outstanding work the team consistently delivers” says Luke.

“It all starts with an illness or injury, a life-changing event which, after discharge from hospitalisation, will enable us to work with that individual and support them. We make sure we have all the information we need to commence the pathway and start to create what they want the outcomes to be and what that journey will look like.

“The discharge planning starts as soon as we do the pre-admission assessment, and what that may look like – whether they will go home, if their home needs to be adapted, or whether they will need longer-term care. 

“Residents have a finite amount of time here, so it’s important we commence their plan at the earliest opportunity, which is
then reviewed after eight weeks, but again it’s very personalised and there is no set timeframe for recovery. You could have two people of the same age with a brain injury, but it could impact them very, very differently. It is all about the individual and how they progress during their time with us.” 

Upon transition to Askham, each resident is assessed by its in-house therapy team – comprising speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and neuropsychiatry – to set out the goals during their time there, with support given on a daily basis in making them possible. 

“It can sometimes be a challenging conversation to talk about what is realistic to achieve,” says Luke. 

“We want to give people hope, but not false hope. They will have as much time, support and therapy as they need, which is tailor-made to help them achieve the results they want. 

“But without the resident and their desire to achieve, we wouldn’t be able to make the progress. We offer the tools and they do the work. There aren’t always good days in rehab, a patient could regress or feel they’ve taken steps backwards, but they are always outweighed by the positives.”

To increase its support for residents nearing the end of their time at Askham, and in preparation for their return to home, four apartments have been created on site to help the transition, which also offer the opportunity for residents to be joined by loved ones. 

“We make the flats as much like home as we can so we aren’t setting people up to fail,” says Luke. 

“If someone is going to succeed at home, they need to experience what it will be like, so we try and make it as similar and user-friendly as we can – the benches in the kitchen are the same height as they would be back at home, for example, but it’s in a supported safe environment.  

“We have one resident at present who is living there with her husband, she’s someone not from a million miles away but this is definitely a step in the right direction for her. She has been there with her partner for two months and this is an invaluable opportunity for them both to see what life will be like beyond Askham. 

“Having a loved one on site with a resident is wonderful, and it’s another string to our bow to be able to offer this.”

As a small and very close community, inevitably many of Askham’s former residents keep in touch with the team post-discharge, such is the bonds that are routinely created during a person’s time there.  

Indeed, Askham has recently named its first ambassadors, four former residents who are now Experts by Experience, who will share their experience with current residents to help inspire them through what may seem a long and difficult journey.

“By the time they leave, some people see us as an extension to their family. After such an experience, you cannot help but form a positive relationship with our team,” says Luke.  

“It is wonderful for our staff to see where that person is now, and we hope to go back to being as open as we were in 2018 at some point, so we can welcome many more former residents back.  

“Some of our residents have had outstanding outcomes and some are now our first Experts by Experience, who are invited back in to share their stories directly. It is probably the most empathised conversation you could imagine, hearing from someone who has lived that reality. 

“Every lesson not learned is a lesson lost, and those who have lived it are now sharing it, which is for the benefit of everyone.” 

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