Heidi Bradley reflects on a remarkable first year as manager of Scots Lane day club and the journey that led her there.

Tell us something about your early life and career history?

At the age of 17 I started working with elderly people as a domicillary carer, carrying out visits on my moped! I had a six year break when my children were young and returned back to work in a specialist dementia care home, working day and night shifts for two years. I went on to work for another domicillary care company in Salisbury as a part time carer. I quickly progressed to a team leader and over five years I worked my way up to become a deputy care manager. I worked hard during this time to complete my level 3 health and social care because as a single mum to three children, I knew I needed to progress my career. Continuing with with my studies, I moved to a different company but soon realised I wasn’t happy being in an office environment, preferring to be front line and to have that physical contact with people.

I came across the day club manager position for Scots Lane whilst trawling through endless adverts on Indeed, in the hope of finding some inspiration on what I really wanted to do. I was invited to take a look around Old Silk Works club with Grant Newton, head of day care and day club manager Lou Gover. I was almost certain that it wouldn’t be the place for me but I left praying that I would get the position at Scots Lane.

I fell in love with what Alzheimer's Support offer their members and what they do, it's truly amazing and is exactly what I wanted to do. I was nervous at the interview and honestly didn’t think I’d get the job but a few hours later I was ecstatic to be offered the position as Scots Lane day club manager. From a personal perspective, working for a company that supports family and work life balance has been life changing. My children and I are much happier, I have more time with them and the stress I did have has now gone.

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

It's so rewarding knowing that every member who comes to the club is having a lovely, fun day and that the carers they depend on also get a well deserved day off. Gaining the trust of carers to look after their loved one is amazing. I look at members and carers faces when they first walk into the day club for a visit and they are always so amazed by the look of the club and how they get a nice friendly welcome from our members, volunteers and staff.

It's always a pleasure having the time to sit and talk to our members about what they use to do, where they came from and their life experiences. They love teaching me new things too, members often get excited when were doing a quiz and I actually get the questions right haha!

What one thing do you wish more people knew about working with people living with dementia?

I wish people had more understanding about dementia and knew what support is out there to enable the mindset of, look at what we can do, rather than what we can't do. Education and raising awareness is so important, I feel very passionate about that.

Can you tell us about any special memories that stand out for you - special people, moments or achievements?

People that stand out are my wonderful team. When I needed to recruit a senior support worker, I knew it had to be someone I could work well with and someone that has the same ethos as me. Sue Lancaster was my team leader at a previous job and I felt certain she was the lady for the job.  Her self confidence has grown so much over the past year. She's a fantastic senior support worker and Scots Lane wouldn't be what it is today without her. In fact my whole team are amazing and I feel very fortunate to have them and I know the club wouldn't be the success it is without them. Support worker Kate has been with us since day one working hard to set up our amazing club and support workers Andy and Julie are just the heart and soul, our members love them.

What advice would you give a new member of staff?

Be willing to learn new things each day. Even if you have worked with people living with dementia for 30 years there's still always room to learn more and you can't be afraid to try a different approach.