Plan with Care is the brainchild of Chris Gage, a social entrepreneur with a passion to improve quality in care, and his friend Nathan Harris, a chartered financial planner with over 20 years in his sector. Both men had seen older members of their families reach the stage where they needed more care and professionally the pair had seen how older people, particularly those with dementia, struggle to plan for their care and well-being.
In 2018 they set up Plan with Care, a company whose consultants work alongside the family, friends and – importantly – solicitors of older people, helping them to plan their care. Wellbeing consultants take time to understand an individual’s passions and goals, offering each family support and guidance through what is almost always a difficult period for all.
Chris Gage is a strong believer in the importance of creativity in care and says creativity, which should be the norm in every care setting, is often impeded by fear, which creeps in from different angles – from the negative media backdrop, from local authorities and relatives who are understandably anxious about safety, and from the weight of compliance rules.
But, says Chris, with real leadership, creativity can provide more, much-needed time. When other people such as police, children, volunteers, are encouraged into care homes a virtuous circle is created: carers have more time and a sense of freedom and confidence grows.
Nathan Harris grew up in Dover and as a child his grandmother played a big part of his life. When, years later, she developed dementia, this hit him hard. He found it difficult to engage with her and turned to his friend Chris for advice. By now a financial planner with expertise in pensions, investments and tax planning, he saw, too, the burden that his grandmother’s dementia placed on his mother as she struggled to make difficult decisions with little or no guidance.
Alise Kirtley is someone I first met at a dementia conference several years ago, when I was struck by her thoughtfulness and quiet confidence. Alise, it turns out, is Plan with Care’s lead wellbeing consultant, and I have to say, this discovery made me very keen to know more about the company.
Alise’s credentials are impressive: she has worked with care homes as a culture change manager and practice development consultant, delivered care training, contributed to the Mental Health Foundation’s dementia truth inquiry. She holds a Masters in ethical business development in dementia care and is qualified in various aspects of advanced dementia care.
But more than this, she has an ethos of care that runs through her, from her physical demeanour to the haunting songs she writes and performs with her band The Bearing. A classically trained pianist and composer, Alise began her musical journey aged six, but asked, when she was 11, whether she wanted to be a musician she wrote, “I will always love music but I want to do something that will help people”. Now she sometimes combines the two, bringing songs into her caring role.
I was introduced to my fourth guest through her wonderful blogs. Carrie Ioakim, a qualified counsellor with many years of experience working for charities, is an assistant wellbeing consultant and a creative companion at Plan with Care. Growing up in Kent, she was very close to her grandmother who developed dementia and lived with Carrie and her family until she moved into a care home after a series of falls.
It was at the care home that Carrie met a carer who made it her business to get to know them all, leafing through family albums and listening to all their stories. Carrie says that though her grandma was never the easiest of ladies, this wonderful carer handled her with patience and grace, loving her grandma for the fight she still had. “This had a real impact on me and I remember thinking at the time that this must be the most amazing job ever,” Carrie told me.