Frome Nursing Home Chef Awarded in Parliament

Head Chef, Ben Kerslake, Frome Nursing Home with Home Manager, Maggie Rhodes

Ben Kerslake, the Head Chef at Frome Nursing Home, a 60-bed residential and dementia care home in Frome, was named as runner up in the 2018 Awards for Excellence in Vegetarian and Vegan Care Catering, held in the impressive surroundings of the Houses of Parliament, on 17th October.


The awards are run by the charity, Vegetarian for Life (VfL) who are a leading authority on meat free diets. Surprisingly, out of the UK’s 18,000 care homes, there are currently only two that are fully vegetarian. One of VfL’s major goals is to increase this number and improve the quality and range of vegan and vegetarian catering in all British care homes.

Ben was one of 3 semi-finalists chosen by VfL in their annual search to find the country’s best veggie care home chef.

In the home, Ben cooks a daily choice of dishes for both vegetarians and meat eaters, but the veggie options often prove to be more popular than the meat ones. His diners, say his vegetarian lasagne and cous-cous stuffed peppers are their favourites.

Frome Nursing Home Manager, Maggie Rhodes said “We’re delighted with Ben’s recognition in these prestigious awards. We’re one big family here, and always refer to our residents as family members. Our home is somewhere they always feel safe, and with Ben’s culinary skills, are always brilliantly catered for, too”

Amanda Woodvine, Chief Executive of VfL, said: “The awards have been an incredible way to celebrate the charity’s 10-year anniversary and to recognise the fantastic achievements of trailblazers in the care industry. The winners, and runners-up, are making a huge difference to the care and choices offered to older vegetarians and vegans.”

The home is part of the Bristol based, Evolve Care Group, who run 12 care homes, spread across the South West and have invested over £1.5m in developing a pioneering new model of care for those living with dementia which has been rated as Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

Jerry Short

Feature Writer, Evolve Care Group

Why Doesn’t the UK Have a Women’s Equality Day?

Wendy Mills, in Frome Nursing Home, and, pictured right, about to break the sound barrier.
Wendy Mills, in Frome Nursing Home, and, pictured right, about to break the sound barrier.

60 Years Ago, The RAF Told Wendy Mills, No Female Pilots

Now living in Frome Nursing Home, I asked her if things had changed

The 26th of August was Women’s Equality Day but only in America. In the UK the date is meaningless because we don’t have a day set to celebrate women’s equality, despite British women wining the right to vote over 100 years ago and having had a female Prime Minister for 11 years.

I wanted to speak with someone who had lived through many decades of discrimination and learn what they thought about this, so I started researching Nursing Homes in the South West, to find somebody who was both the right age, and had a powerful story to tell.

I found that person in Frome Nursing Home. One of their residents is 84-year old, Wendy Mills. Frome refer to all their residents as family members, and after I explained the reason for my visit, Wendy was keen to talk with me.

As a child, she had watched the Battle of Britain in the skies over her childhood home in London and grew up determined to become a pilot. As soon as she was old enough, she applied to join the Royal Air Force but when she asked about flying, she was told point blank, that they didn’t accept female pilots. She was angered and disappointed but didn’t let her frustration show. She went on to do her basic training in North Wales before going on to work as a fighter plotter, who are those women you see in war movies, pushing model aircraft around a map, with sticks. This was during the Cold War years when there were regular incursions into British airspace by Russian bombers, usually coming in over Scarpa Flow. Wendy and her team would scramble fighters up to intercept them. Her shifts could last 36 hrs, meaning she slept and ate underground, in a top security bunker in Norfolk. The job was onerous because the aircraft were sometimes carrying nuclear payloads. Before her shifts, she told me she would walk in the fields around the bunker, filling her nostrils with the scent of vegetation, because if a nuclear war did ensue, it may have been her last chance to experience that.


She did well in her post and was soon promoted to Flight Sergeant, but she never lost her yearning to fly. One day, she noticed a magazine advert for women to join the RAF as air-crew. Eagerly she took the magazine across the airfield to where the flight crews were based and knocked on the commanding officer’s door. She waited nervously before being invited in. She presented the magazine and explained that she was requesting flight training and had thought of little else since she was a child. The C/O smiled and carefully read the piece before leaning back in his chair and telling her that she’d need to pass a medical exam and get permission to fly, from her own commanding officer.

A few days later she presented him with both. The C/O smiled, stood up and told her to follow him. They walked into a large room, where the aircrews sat around smoking and drinking coffee before their missions. He introduced Wendy as their first female air crew member. The place erupted with cheers and whistles. Wendy’s eyes twinkled as she tells me this, the memory still fresh in her mind.

Although women could be air-crew members in 1958, they were not allowed to be operational pilots for another 34 years. In 1992, long after Wendy had left the RAF, the government finally announced that women would be allowed to fly military jet aircraft. But what had happened to Wendy?

She left the RAF, to get married and start a family. She went on to work as a successful aviation journalist for the Yorkshire Evening Post and spent her first month’s wages on flying lessons.

It turned out that she was a natural and quickly passed her pilot’s licence and then became a flying instructor and then a flight examiner and taught flying instructors how to teach. She continued to write aviation stories, including one memorable piece when she flew faster than the speed of sound, as a co-pilot in a 2-seater Phantom jet fighter.

Impressed by her remarkable story I asked Wendy if she thought the UK needed a Women’s Equality Day. She sighed before turning to me.

“Of course we do, dear. Things have improved, but I think Westminster still needs a good shake up, don’t you?”

I do, Wendy, I do. Suffragist, Millicent Fawcett, said, “Justice and freedom for women are worth securing, not only for their own sakes but for civilisation itself.”  It seems that millions think we should have a Women’s Equality Day. Last February 6th was the centenary of women getting the vote, so surely that would be an ideal date, but it does beg the question, why don’t we have one set already?

Jerry Short, Evolve Care Group

The 5 pillars of Comfort in Dementia Care

Comfort is defined as A state of physical ease, free from pain or constraint.

Comfort is also one of the six emotional and psychological needs highlighted by Professor Tom Kitwood, to maintain a sense of well-being for anyone living with dementia.

For a medium sized care organisation such as Evolve Care Group, keeping over 300 residents, whom they refer to as family members, living comfortably in their care homes, is a job that is not without its challenges. They advocate following 5 pillars of comfort.

1 Comfortably warm

The World Health Organisation’s standard for comfortable warmth for the elderly is at least 20 °C, but there is a certain amount of subjectivity with temperature preferences. Some choose to sit closer to a heat source, whereas some may opt to sit near a doorway or window, preferring cooler climes. To be a comfortable home, family members need access to both warm and cool locations.

2 Comfortably Sated

In the UK an adult eats an average of 3413 calories a day (approx. 1.8kg of food) but for somebody with dementia, this is likely to be lower, since eating difficulties are more noticeable as the dementia progresses and a reduced ability to taste or smell becomes evident, which reduces appetite. Desserts are often favoured over savoury foods, so, adding small amounts of honey or glucose to main courses can sometimes result in entire meals being consumed, as well as increasing the carbohydrate level of the food.

In later stages of dementia, chewing and swallowing can become difficult. Ben Kerslake, Evolve’s chef in their Frome Nursing Home, offers purees, moulded from casts of the food they are reconstituting, so that pureed carrots are served in a shape of a carrot. This has resulted in an increase in vegetable consumption. Eventually though, food may be refused entirely, in which case there is a difficult balance to be found between continuing to offer sustenance whilst maintaining that person’s dignity.

3 Comfortable Environment

To offer excellent dementia care, a calm environment is needed to help family members relax and rest.

Care homes need to be carefully designed and attention paid to noise levels, intensity of lighting and the décor of rooms, including colour and patterns on walls and carpets. Quiet areas need to be offered, for those that need a peaceful spot and the use of Bluetooth headphones can ensure those wanting to listen to music or watch television, can do so without disturbing those around them. In terms of lighting, minimising shadows and bright reflections can enable family members to relax more.

The Group’s Sundial Care Home uses the skills of an interior designer to make sure anyone living there is as comfortable as possible and this may have helped them in a recent inspection by CGC who rated the home as Outstanding.

4 Comfortably Occupied

Keeping those with dementia, occupied is an important part of care.  Activities improve self-esteem and can reduce loneliness. Walks around the garden or day- trips outside are recommended in the earlier stages of dementia. They are healthy activities and even when later stages have been reached, music is an entertaining way to stay occupied. The part of the brain that deals with the recognition of songs, thankfully remains comparatively unaffected by the condition. Music can still bring pleasure, even when vocal communication is no longer possible.

Person centred care is offered because it increases well-being. The key is being adaptive and observing situations from the resident’s point of view which means problems can often be avoided. If, as happened recently, a family member entered a dining room at 11:30pm, asking for breakfast, the Night Care Team sat them down and offered them breakfast.  Had they tried explaining that it wasn’t breakfast time, and offered a cup of cocoa instead, this would have caused confusion and been disorientating.






5 Comfortably Housed

Making a living area dementia friendly is not a science. Bringing in personal items from former homes is important, such as photos, or a favourite blanket, or even favoured items of furniture that have a long family history, can be moved in. These can provide reassurance and remind the person which room they are in. Making a care home comfortable also means anticipating needs. It means managing pain before it is out of control, it means encouraging someone to rest before fatigue sets in and engaging with someone before they become bored or lonely.

Team Work

This sort of care operation relies on up to 450 skilled care staff and is a 24 hour a day ministration, so the fees charged can be high, but comfort, dementia expertise and safety do not come cheaply. The company spends around £80,000 a year, just on gas. It is not surprising to learn that the number of residential care businesses that went out of business, almost doubled last year, with 148 closures. Accountants have said the introduction of the national living wage has driven up the cost of providing care, but what is the alternative? Uncomfortable and unsafe care?

Comfort in a care environment is about carefully listening and observing to ensure the well-being of everyone is maintained. Or, put another way, it can mean breakfast at 11:30pm sat on a favourite sofa in a home from home.

Jerry Short, Content writer, Evolve Care Group

Undressing the Uniform Debate

In a Nursing Times survey in 2014, almost 60% of staff consulted, indicated that they thought uniforms were an important part of the job. It is, like the uniforms, a multi-layered topic that generates strong opinions.

The Evolve Care Group run 6 care and nursing homes across the South West of the UK, employing some 450 carers and offering over a million hours of specialist care, over the last 14 months.

Four years ago, they started discussing the pros and cons of not wearing uniforms. After careful consideration, they decided that this was a good idea because it was in line with their Household Model of Care and would help them minimise the institutionalisation seen in their care homes.


They announced to their Care Teams across the company, that they no longer needed to wear a uniform. By and large, the teams were delighted, but a few carers argued against it. One said that she thought that uniforms were important because they were respected, and it simplified identifying senior carers.

At the time, Health Care Assistant, Rose Pearce, from the group’s Gibraltar Nursing Home in Monmouth, said visitors needed to quickly identify who they could talk to about important care issues and argued to keep the wearing of uniforms.

Talking with her recently, however, she has changed her mind, completely.

She said “It’s not often that I admit that I was wrong, but I was”

She went on to say that within the first few weeks of giving up uniforms, she began to notice the people she cared for, who are referred to as family members by the care teams, started commenting on the clothes she and the other team members wore to work. Nobody had ever commented on the uniforms, before, she said, but since but the change, they were regularly hearing comments such as “I love that top” and “That colour really suits you, dear”

She also noted that the care staff and family members seemed more relaxed and began to realise how divisive uniforms had been, drawing a line between the carers and the cared for.

Being able to choose what to wear for work also meant that staff were able to choose clothes to wear that would be more likely to generate a positive reaction, such as wearing a particular football top when working with a family member who supported that team, or wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a horse, and asking if anyone had ever been horse riding.

Communication levels between carer and cared for, increased, as did the level of wellbeing.

Although uniforms made it easier to recognise care staff, this was primarily benefitting visitors to the Home. For the family members, especially if they were living with dementia, seeing a uniform was not something they were used to seeing in their own homes and could increase levels of anxiety. Also, from the Care Teams’ point of view, uniforms could be uncomfortable and poorly designed, or cheaply made. It also seemed that some people had an antipathy towards uniforms. This may have its roots in our history of associating them with war or the emergency services or even school bullies.

Nocturnally, the care teams were encouraged to wear night attire, such as dressing gowns and pyjamas, so that if a family member rose in the night and saw a carer in a nightie or pyjamas, this seemed normal, but had the carer been wearing a uniform, this could have become problematic.

Evolve’s bold policy change has won favour with the CQC which recently rated one of its homes as Outstanding. Inspectors found that no uniforms promoted an “inclusive family environment” and minimised confusion for people living with dementia.

Having received top marks and approval from CQC, the Group now plans to roll out its innovative model of care with an ambitious £75m acquisition and new development plan.”  Jerry Short

Music at Frome Nursing Home

Emma Tanner, Frome Nursing Home

Ever get chills listening to a particularly moving piece of music? You can thank the salience network of your brain for that wave of emotion. Surprisingly, the part of our brain that appreciates music is spared from the memory losses usually associated with dementia.

Listening to music is a key part of life that most of us take for granted. We know it can alter our moods and trigger memories, but for the 850,000 people in the UK who live with dementia, listening to music helps not just with recall, but has measurable medical benefits, too. It can help reduce anxiety and depression and helps with speech and language too.

Frome Nursing Home, use music as part of their care for up to 60 people who live with dementia. Whether being taken out to see a singing group or listening to mp3 players with comfortable headphones, access to music is seen as therapeutic.

When songs are heard that can be remembered from a listener’s youth, he or she are often compelled to join in.

79 year old Emma Tanner, from Frome Nursing Home, says music is her thread of life. She’s from a musical family and leant to play guitar and organ and regularly sang at Church events with her siblings. Her son, Trever Tanner, grew up to be a professional musician with post punk band, The Bolshoi.

Emma describes music as her comforter and says, “If I feel fed up, I pick up my guitar and start playing and all’s right again.” She says she carries songs in her head the whole time.

For those in the later stages of dementia, when communicating can be very difficult, music is an anchor, grounding the listener back into reality because music stimulates parts of the brain that other treatments fail to reach. Frome Nursing Home encourages music, as it helps ensure the listeners are happier, whether they have dementia or not.

Star Chef earns Care Home another 5* rating

Virginia Woolf once proclaimed “You cannot think well, love well or sleep well if you haven’t dined well” If Care Homes are not the first place you think of to find great food, then think again.

Frome Nursing Home was awarded the maximum five stars for the 9th year in a row, in the latest food hygiene rating by the Food Standards Agency. Head Chef at Frome, Ben Kerslake, is also celebrating 11 years of working in the kitchens at the home, having started as a kitchen assistant back in 2007.

Ben and his team impressed food inspectors from Mendip council, who left well assured that the services available were the highest possible. They focused on the handling and storage of food, the cleanliness and layout of the buildings and the recording of food information.

Maggie Rhodes, Home Manager, proudly told us: “achieving 5 stars for the ninth time is an amazing achievement and a true testament to the continuous hard work of Ben and his team. They ensure that everyone living with us has a choice of food, as they would at home, which is always nutritious and well-presented.”

Ben’s passion has helped him achieve numerous awards and climb the ranks to the coveted Head Chef position.

He said, “I love working here, and the trust I have from the people living here is heart-warming. I listen and understand each individual’s tastes and nutritional needs. I get to exercise my creative side as well, particularly when using food moulds, where pureed foods are moulded to make them look as good as they taste. I can make mushy peas look like fresh peas straight from the pod!”

Maggie and the team at Frome Nursing Home have thanked Ben for his years of brilliant work and look forward to many more 5 Star meals.

Jerry Short

July 7th is World Chocolate Day at Frome Nursing Home

In Britain we eat more chocolate than any other country, 8.5kg per person each year.

At Frome Nursing Home, the residents are called family members and like most of the UK, many have a sweet tooth. In 2012, the journal, Hypertension, said that eating dark chocolate slowed the progression of dementia, so eating dark chocolate could benefit any family members at Frome, who are living with this condition.

The Alzheimer’s Society says that one in 6 people have dementia by time they reach 80, but out of all the known treatments, chocolate must be the tastiest.

Harvard Medical School found that flavonoids in dark chocolate increased the blood flow to the brain, which resulted in a 30% increase in memory test scores.  A second study found that completing crosswords, four times a week, reduced the risk of developing dementia by an impressive 47%.

So, is this enough evidence to go out and buy a lifetime supply of chocolate, and crossword puzzles?

Possibly, but whilst the advice is to try any daily brain puzzle whilst munching a bar of dark chocolate, we’d be at risk of being criticised by the Dental Association if we didn’t mention cleaning your teeth after eating sugary foods!

3 unusual Chocolate facts

1/ There was once a Chocolate River – In 1971 a chocolate river was made for the film Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. It used 15,000 gallons of water mixed with chocolate & cream, but it went off, quickly and caused a terrible smell

2/ Chocolate Money – In Mayan times, cocoa beans were used as currency as they were worth more than gold.

3/ Chocolate Can Kill – It contains a powerful stimulant called theobromine which can cause heart failure, but you’d need to ingest 10kg of chocolate or 40 bars in one sitting.

Frome Nursing Home are Jumping For Dementia

Two of the marketing team from Frome Nursing Home, Somerset, have just raised around £1000 for the Alzheimer’s Society in two sponsored parachute jumps. Two thirds of those being cared for at Frome Nursing Home, live with dementia and Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia among older adults.

Jessica Caine and Luke Barnett took to the sky on Sunday 5th August from Dunkeswell Airfield in Devon, and jumped, each attached to their instructors.

Jessica had parachuted once before, and said the views were incredible, but it was Luke’s first jump. Prior to taking off, he admitted to being terrified of heights, preferring his feet planted firmly on the ground. Shortly after landing he said “It was all over so quickly, I didn’t have time to be scared”

They jumped from 15,000 feet, any higher would require oxygen tanks, and within seconds, they were plummeting downwards at 120mph, in a tandem jump, which is the easiest of all skydives. It requires only 30 minutes of training before jumping, each strapped to a British Parachute Association Tandem Instructor. Jessica and Luke said that tandem jumping was a truly unforgettable experience, and a fantastic way to raise funds for their chosen charity.

They raised enough money to pay for 2 years’ worth of clinical trial drugs to search for an effective treatment for vascular dementia. Speaking afterwards, they said the day was a total success for both Frome Nursing Home, and for Alzheimer’s Society.

Jerry Short, Evolve Care Group

3 Surprising Parachuting Facts

  • There is a sport called Banzai Skydiving. You throw the parachute out of the airplane first and then jump out after it and put it on whilst freefalling. The world-record wait before jumping out is 50 seconds!
  • Afraid of flying, Muhammad Ali spent his first flight praying with a parachute strapped to his back. He was heading to Rome
  • In the 1940s the Idaho Fish and Game Dept relocated beavers into the wilderness by dropping them out of airplanes with parachutes

Mothering Sunday

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone who recently celebrated Mothering Sunday!
We had a wonderful day here at Frome Nursing Home. We had so many beautiful bunches of flowers delivered from friends and family that perhaps live further away or that just wanted to send something extra special – we had enough to open up as a local florist!
Everyone enjoyed a delicious Sunday Roast, and so many relatives and friends visited and celebrated with us. Our whole home was full of love!
Mum’s are so special, and it was a fabulous day celebrating them, together here at Frome Nursing Home.

Frome MP Supports Local Care Home

Frome Nursing Home, a specialist dementia nursing and residential care provider in the Somerset town of Frome, have been commended by local MP David Warburton for creating their own solution to the care funding crisis.

The group that supports the home, Evolve Care Group, have set up a subsidy fund of £100,000 in order to help local people afford the care they need and deserve.

Home Manager at Frome Nursing Home, Maggie Rhodes, told us “we want to provide love and care to everyone that needs it. Our subsidy fund will allow those currently stuck at home or in hospital to access our specialist services at a cost that they can afford.”

She went on to explain “the team at Frome Nursing Home have implemented a cutting edge new model of person-centred dementia care. This is having an amazing impact on the lives of people living with dementia and we want lots of people to benefit from these advances.”

Frome’s newly re-elected MP, David Warburton, recently met with colleagues from Frome Nursing Home to hear more about their new funding solution and to offer his support. He commented: “the current crisis in funding for social care is an issue that urgently needs addressing and it is brilliant to see that Frome Nursing Home are doing their own bit to help ease the costs of care.”

David is currently planning a visit to the nursing home, located on Styles Hill in Frome. He plans to meet with some of the people living there and see first-hand the fantastic care that is being provided, as well as viewing the newly refurbished residences.

Frome Nursing Home is dedicated to offering care that revolves around the individual and their needs. We offer Dementia Care, Residential and Nursing, Respite Care, Step down placements and End of Life Care.

The Home and support is tailored to every person who lives here. The priority is focusing on small communities and families rather than conventional institutional approaches. The staff at Frome Nursing Home are passionate about offering the best possible care, with many feeling that they have gained many extra grandparents.

The home is set in the heart of the breath-taking Somerset countryside in the picturesque town of Frome.

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