Name: Sara McKee
Role: Founder and Director of Market Innovation
Tell us about a usual working day?
There is no ‘usual’ working day. Since I founded Evermore, I’ve never really relinquished involvement in any aspect. I do everything from office admin through to strategy & business development. It’s non-stop, which helps to keep me on my toes. Some days are easier than others to navigate, and some days are simply unfathomable! For instance, after this interview I am participating in a Radio 4 programme on the state of residential care in the UK, but I will probably finish the day organising the office! From high culture to everyday issues, it’s all part and parcel of running Evermore.
What is Evermore’s proudest achievement
I really like that Evermore is often talked about by the industry as standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other innovative players in the sector. Our profile is on the up and we’re frequently invited to sit on panels that position us alongside the big players.
Evermore has gone a long way in the last three years and I am encouraged by the great team we have managed to put together. It is much better than I could ever have dared to dream!
I think a big part to this success can be attributed to the 4 values that guide Evermore and its staff, including:
Fun: Evermore exists to make life happier for those we support & our colleagues
Fearless: Evermore is revolutionising the sector: just because it’s not been done before won’t stop us innovating
Free: Evermore people are encouraged to use their initiative to make decisions on the day
Frank: Evermore likes to keep it simple and challenge complexity. We say it like it is.
We are fortunate to employee colleagues who live by these values. For us, character is everything because it is the only thing you can’t train people one
The state and quality of residential care is front page news these days, why do you think this is?
A lot of things happen when the right people are in the right place. Firstly, we are all now living longer, which puts more pressure on the care sector. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, we’re now in a position where the wealthy baby-boomers are facing old age and not willing to accept the standard of care currently on offer. And why not? Care costs money and so it is understandable they will scrutinise its services and performance.
I like to think that most people in the care sector are trying to deliver a good job, yet they are under too much pressure, with too little resource. Consequently standards can slip. In my opinion, there should be more openness about the costs of care and quality of service. We should approach it like any consumer service or the technology sector, and design products that are appealing to an ageing population.
Stories of residents being locked away in rooms or only let out at set times are very distressing and should not happen. The Evermore approach is all about increased flexibility for the resident and allowing them to choose how they want to live everyday. It’s a respect issue. We want to live in an environment where growing older is about having choices, doing what you love and feeling good.
The big players in the industry lack the agility to make the necessary changes. Yet the smaller firms – making up 90% of the market – don’t always have the resources to make the change. Hence we find ourselves in a position of ever-decreasing circles of quality.
How does Evermore differ from traditional care homes?
Firstly, we are Independent and we don’t operate any care homes – we provide opportunities to live happier for longer. This allows us to have more freedom and control over our choices and direction. Everything is done at a local level.
We also treat all our customers as paying guests. They are not residents but active decision makers in their day-to-day lives. Evermore communities are set up to offer customers greater flexibility and choice, with the opportunity to mix with likeminded souls. Establishing an environment that is conducive to social living is very important to Evermore communities. We try to focus on ‘lifestyle’ as opposed to ‘care’, which has negative connotations.
Engaged staff are also crucial for high-performing residential care and we try to empower our people have proper meaningful relationships with the people they care for.
How important are engaged care staff to the quality of residential care?
It is the only thing that matters!
It is impossible to develop teams if they don’t ‘love’ old people or are worried about not sharing emotions through simple things like touch and hugs. It is about showing you care, perhaps spending ten minutes catching up with a customer over a coffee, rather than rushing off to complete a list of tasks. The personal touch is everything. Too much regulation and you effectively disable the purpose of care.
How do you go about motivating care staff?
I like to lead by example and remain open to colleagues asking for guidance and advice. I also like to involve the team in all aspect of the business. It shows that a more holistic involvement in a business increases a colleagues’ sense of purpose and engagement.
Today, too many residential homes kill staff development and freedom over fear of over-stepping regulation and liability concerns. I think this is wrong because the majority of care colleagues genuinely care about the residents, yet they are restricted from showing initiative or affection out of fear of reprisal.
What is your opinion on the introduction of surveillance in residential/care homes?
It is a terrible development. Installing surveillance suggests a residential home is failing and shows a complete lack of trust in its staff. It undermines any trust in the care provided. Would you send a family member to a home with surveillance cameras?
What makes you optimistic?
Very optimistic! We’re experiencing a situation similar to the advent of the iPhone hitting the market. It is very promising. The market is becoming more demanding of itself, consumers are now more demanding, and I expect big changes on the horizon. The industry has reached its tipping point and Evermore is perfectly positioned to deliver.