STAFF, guests and families of former residents joined the celebrations as specialist care provider PJ Care marked the 21st anniversary of opening its first care centre.
The company offers care for adults with progressive neurological conditions and was the brainchild of former nurse Jan Flawn, who identified the need for an age-appropriate environment for people with young onset dementia. Up to then, the only option for people who developed neurological conditions before the age of 65 was to be cared for in hospital or alongside the elderly in a care home.
Bluebirds care centre opened at Shenley Lodge in 2001, offering 22 beds which were filled within a matter of months. PJ Care now also operates Mallard House in Grange Farm and the Eagle Wood care centre in Peterborough. The centres provide care and rehabilitation for people with acquired brain injuries and employ close to 600 staff.
Jan retired from the business five years ago. It is now in the hands of her son Neil Russell. “It has been the most wonderful event,” says Jan. “I cannot believe it’s been 21 years since I started PJ Care. Neil and the entire team have done the most wonderful job in keeping our original values of care, compassion and commitment, not just towards the residents but the staff too. We are like one big family.”
Jan started PJ Care because of the frustrations of not being able to provide the care she felt her patients needed.
“We did not have time to look after them properly,” she remembers. “They did not just need us to care for their physical needs, they needed us emotionally. That was especially true of people with neurological conditions; they were just people in beds and that was not good enough for me.
“To have been able to do it myself and create centres where people have time to care, time to talk and give people the quality of life they deserve is wonderful.”
Her son Neil left his career in the Diplomatic Service to join Jan at PJ Care. He has expanded the service to its current three centres, with plans to create a new care centre at Eagle Wood near Wavendon later this year and another planned for Northamptonshire.
“I am incredibly proud of Mum and what she has achieved,” he says. “We worked side by side in the beginning. I would help out showering residents, covering shifts in the kitchen, even cleaning toilets if that was what was needed to get the job done.
“She knew there was a need for this kind of specialist service and demand is growing and growing. I am thrilled to be able to carry on what she created and although she is retired now, I still discuss board papers with her and ask her opinion.”
Among the guests at the party was Linda Germano, a lead carer at Bluebirds and PJ Care’s longest serving member of staff having been with the company for 19 years.
“It is so wonderful to see Jan again,” Linda says. “I started as a kitchen assistant, the only one we had back in 2003. When they asked to me do a food hygiene course, I told Jan I would have to leave because my literacy skills were not very good but she just told me not to be silly.
“She supported me all the way, brought in reading support and I will never forget the night I went home and was able to read a bedtime story to my daughter.”