SweetTree Home care services opened its doors in March 2002, but the vision to provide high-quality comprehensive care at home started long before this time. It all started with a carer called Margie; a carer who looked after Barry Sweetbaum’s mum when she had terminal cancer. The dedication and passion that Margie brought to that care for his mother and the whole family inspired Barry to somehow ‘give back’ and so he founded SweetTree Home Care Services.
The mission, vision and values for SweetTree were laid as cornerstones before the doors opened and it became fundamental to us to change the landscape of care at home to meet Barry’s vision. Both of us had NHS, nursing and care home backgrounds but neither of us had even worked in, let alone managed care at home. Our research showed us that services were inflexible, managed in the way of ‘runs’ with carers who were sent like the mailman from home to home in short slots of 15 minutes to an hour to provide care. Clients found themselves with no choice of time of the visit and a system where the carer was often running late and missed key times of their day and with a variety of different carers in and out of their homes in a rushed and unsatisfactory way. Clients stayed in the system through lack of choice.
The vision for SweetTree was quite different. It was quite clear that the carers doing these roles were hard-working and dedicated people, but the system made it a challenge for them. Retention was low, training and career opportunities were inadequate at best, and team members found themselves in a daily struggle to get from place to place on time – often having to leave their clients when they felt they needed them most. Barry and I started by setting out our objectives; what did we want to change about the traditional home care system and asked ourselves very frank questions about what we were here to achieve. Our founding objective was to provide clients with the highest quality domiciliary care and support possible to facilitate people living in their own homes with dignity, independence, and control over how they live their lives.
Making that vision a reality could only be done by moving away from the traditional models of care and taking this back to the client and carer experiences. How could the client have expert high-quality care at home and how could the carers be part of an organisation that meant they had a fulfilling role with career opportunities that they wanted to remain in. To achieve this, one of the fundamental decisions we made was to provide clients and care team members the opportunity to build meaningful relationships in a way that matched the right carer to the right client. It involved a person-centred package of care and moved firmly away from the home care ‘runs’ to have a minimum care visit of two hours. This matching together of clients and carers became our Special SweetTree Way. It meant that clients could have care when they chose to, delivered by a carer they chose in a flexible way that met their needs. The carers were able to spend time, know that their visit was meaningful and supportive, and they had the opportunity to get to know and understand their clients in a way they had always wanted to.
Delivering care with 2 – 24hour support in this way has had a marked impact on SweetTree having the opportunity to be the best by being able to hire the best! Enabling team members to be highly trained by the accredited SweetTree Training Academy with career opportunities with a manner of working that enables them to provide the care that they have always wanted to provide has indeed changed the landscape of care at home for both the clients and carers.