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Carer to Aisle Three Please!

BOGOF! Super Special Mega Offer! More Reasons To Shop At”. All things that you would possibly associate with high street grocer Morrisons. But care provision? That’s hardly something you’d expect to pick up in aisle four next to the self-raising flour.

But while the in-store cafe at Morrisons, Southport may not be scheduled for a CQC inspection anytime soon, it is undoubtedly where you’ll find care for the elderly of Britain’s poshest seaside town being served in big helpings along with the £5.75 Sunday roast (11.30 – 2.00pm. This is significant later).

Let me explain.

On a recent visit to my sharp-as-a-pin but frail-as-a-brandy snap mother at her care home in the Merseyside resort, she was keen to get away from “the school dinners” that the home serves up on a Sunday and  go to a “really good restaurant around the corner” that she and many of the other residents Zimmer off to as soon as the care home door is left unlocked.

So off we went from the front door to my car parked just outside.

Some 25 minutes later, my mother, her stick, her coat, her waterproof jacket (it was about 26 degrees and sunny), her hat, her handbag and a plastic carrier bag packed with other plastic bags “just in case”, were origamied into the passenger seat of my motor and we were off.

After a drive that took less than a tenth of the time we’d taken to get this Sunday lunch show on the road, Mother had succeeded in navigating us to the car park of the Morrisons superstore about 400 yards away, next to the prom, and opposite the band stand. Confused, I asked her where the “really good restaurant” was that she was so keen to escape to. “You’re parked outside it, dopey,” said Mother, kindly.

Clearly this wasn’t a shared definition of the word “restaurant” but I shrugged and just got on with the logistical, physical and patience-testing challenge of getting Mother, her stick, her coat, her hat, her handbag and plastic bags out of the car (maybe she didn’t need her waterproof jacket now, could I not see the sun?) out of the car, across the car park and into Morrisons Cafe before it closed at 2.00. It was by now 1.15 and, frankly, we were pushing it already.

Bursting at the seams with prejudices about in-store eateries, we progressed at glacier-speed to the entrance and, finally, to a seat in the sunny conservatory-style cafe just in time for lunch. Also bursting at the seams was the place itself, every table taken by customers of all ages from 85 to about 90.

Immediately, a young man in his early twenties (in fact, so young in comparison to the cafe’s clientele as to appear positively under legal employment age) in a Morrisons uniform, approached the table and asked how Mother was. And suddenly my mind began to change.

The care that this young man exhibited, the eye contact and attention that was undoubtedly genuine and even more undoubtedly well received, was palpable. Even when I’d trotted off to order the Chicken Roast (no onions) for Mother and the pasta for myself, the waiter kept my mother entertained with more questions and some commentary about Southport’s never-ending weather. And this young member of staff wasn’t alone; all of the waiters and cashiers and cleaners we came into contact with at the cafe were equally caring and kind.

Now, before you start wondering why everyLIFE has decided to start publishing supermarket restaurant reviews instead of encouragement to make the jump to digital care planning, I’ll get to where I’m going.

My mother spends nine days out of ten in a care home nearly 250 miles away from her nearest family member. It is impossible to have someone there with her every weekend. So all of us who care about her depend more and more, not just on the care staff at her home who support her, but also on the everyday caring and kindness that is in people she encounters, to render more bearable the gentle decline of elderly people like Mother, who measure the rest of her life in Christmases and cups of tea.

Even if I’d taken Mother to posh Southport’s poshest eatery, I know that she wouldn’t have enjoyed the roast or the service anywhere near as much as what Morrisons laid on for her. It might cost nothing to care but it takes these magical moments of care in our community to deliver the care that most of us are just too busy or distant to hand out, but mean a lot more than a fifty-pounds-a-head lunch!

By Rob Swift, Head of Marketing & Design

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