Celebrating International Women’s Day with Shirley

Shirley with a dog. Shirley Bradley, our Head of Day Care Services has worked for Friends of the Elderly for nearly 19 years. To support this year’s International Women’s Day, which celebrates the achievements of women, Shirley has been sharing her own care career journey, her passion for caring and her inspiration for inclusivity for all her clients and team members.

At Friends of the Elderly, we run day care services in Malvern and Kidderminster in Worcestershire, and in Woking and Wallington in Surrey. All the services care for and support older people who are living with dementia and a range of age-related conditions. “I used to live in South Africa and when I finished school at the age of 18, working in the Care Sector wasn’t something I had even thought about, as I didn’t know anybody that needed it and it wasn’t something the Careers Advisor even mentioned,” said Shirley. “I worked in the Hotel Industry and my last job before leaving South Africa was as General Manager of a 63 bedroom hotel. In August 1999, my Husband, my three young children and I moved briefly to an island off the coast of Kenya to run an exclusive resort before moving lock, stock and barrel to England in December 1999.

“As our children were so young – and childcare was expensive – I was only able to take small part time jobs whilst the children were at nursery and school, so I worked in a supermarket and well-known high street shops. However, in 2005, a friend suggested I apply for a job in the day centre and as my skills in the hotel industry were easily transferable, I went along for an interview. The rest as they say is History as I realised that I loved working with and supporting older people,” Shirley continued.

Shirley at Christmas. Shirley’s first care role was as a Bank Day Care Assistant for two different day care clubs, specifically for people living with dementia and one for older people living alone in the community. In 2006, she became the Manager of the two services.

In 2015, Shirley became the Manager of Friends of the Elderly’s Malvern and Kidderminster Day Care Services and, in 2019, took on the role of Interim Engagement Manager for a year at the Malvern Site. Most recently in November 2021, Shirley was promoted to Head of Day Care Services, line managing the Malvern and Kidderminster Day Care Services and also Friends of the Elderly’s Wallington and Woking Day Care Services.

“Throughout all of Friends of the Elderly’s Day Care Services, each member of the team always makes sure that our clients are involved in decisions about their care. We ask for a life history before clients join us, as we find this so useful to get to know them a little bit before they start. That way we can tailor support to meet their individual needs and include some of the things that they have told us they like to do,” continued Shirley.

“Everyone has a different story to tell and I find them so inspiring,” Shirley added. “We have regular client meetings to make sure we are constantly delivering the type of engaging and stimulating activities our clients want to take part in. They tell us what they like or dislike and what they would like to see included in the Service or if we are missing anything. Whether it is about our menu or the kinds of activities they would like – we listen and take everything onboard.”

However, client inclusion doesn’t stop there. “For example, if we are redecorating, or buying blinds or furniture, we always include our clients in the choices we make.

Shirley Bradley. It is important that our clients feel included and that their opinions matter.”

When it comes to including and motivating her team, Shirley agrees there’s no ‘I’ in team. “I would never expect anyone to do something that I wouldn’t do myself,” said Shirley.

“I encourage and support everyone to be the best they can be. I don’t micromanage but am always available if anyone needs my help. I genuinely feel that I could not do what I do without my Teams’ support.

“Friends of the Elderly doesn’t just talk about its values that underpin the care we give to our clients; it includes and upholds them for staff too. I am encouraged to be the best I can be too and, like everyone at the Charity, I have access to training support and receive recognition. I am treated with respect and above all they care about my safety.

“I love working for Friends of the Elderly and am so lucky to work with the best bunch of colleagues and support a wonderful group of clients. I am passionate about the care we provide and it makes me so proud to be able to be to contribute even a little bit in ensuring that the time our clients spend with us in the day centres is as happy and fulfilling as possible,” concluded Shirley.

Find out more about our Day Care services by calling 020 7730 8263 or emailing enquiries@fote.org.uk