No one relishes the idea of getting older and starting to need additional support for day-to-day living. Many older people would choose to stay in their own homes – homes in which they have often spent many years and which hold so many lifetime memories – for as long as possible, but need additional support to be able to do so. Halo has been established to help people do just that.
Founder John Merrien was faced with his own personal situation when his own mother (who suffers from Alzheimers) fell in her home and broke her hip.
“Often the catalyst for moving older relatives into nursing or residential care is an accident in the home. For me Mum’s fall was a wakeup call to the fact that she wasn’t coping at home and that the environment in which she was living wasn’t a safe one. My brother and I found ourselves facing a very difficult decision concerning her long-term care.”
John’s Mum was adamant she wanted to stay in her own house. Initially, John employed a ‘home care assistant’, Kyra, for 20 hours a week to undertake basic chores and provide companionship for his Mum who showed immediate signs of improvement in both her physical and mental health as a direct result. Kyra’s partner Reece undertook basic maintenance work on the property and the solution was found – and the idea for Halo was born.
Described broadly as a ‘home concierge service’ Halo provides a range of services to people who need additional support at home. Kyra now works for Halo full-time and is responsible for the small team of carers who have since joined the company. The management team is completed by Gina who is a qualified home assessor and who runs the company on a day-to-day basis as Managing Director.
John’s aim is for Halo to provide ‘personalised assistance delivered with kindness and compassion’. Each client has a tailored support package which can include anything from reminders to take medication, to washing dishes, gardening or a trip out for a cup of tea or an ice cream so that they have some meaningful human connection.
Since the company’s inception, John has reached an agreement with UK company Autumn Care giving Halo access to a bank of care professionals who are able to give 24/7 live-in support where necessary. In addition, he has put Halo through the rigorous UK Care Quality Commission’s quality validation process as an extra layer of quality assurance for clients and their families.
Alongside his growing team of full and part-time staff, John is developing a directory of other service providers and tradesmen on whom the team can call as and when required.
“The only thing we ask for is a guarantee of a ‘rapid response’,” John explained.
Care workers generally are undervalued and underpaid in John’s view, and he has therefore set out to pay above market salaries.
“We want to build something to last. We are employing the best people; we pay them as well as we can; and we give them the most flexible working arrangements we are able.”
John is mindful that the families of clients also need some level of on-going reassurance and support – particularly if they live away from the island. Halo has adopted the use of an app called ‘Jointly’. Clients sign up and the care team is able to add updates, photos and any other useful information that family members can access at any point.
Swoffers is also part of this ground-breaking (for Guernsey anyway) service. For Halo’s clients with large complex properties, Swoffers will be providing property maintenance assessments and plans as it would for large rental properties, minimising the pressure and stress this can create.
With pressure on care and nursing home beds, the on-going issue of blocked hospital beds because older patients are unable to return to their homes, and an ageing demographic, Halo’s service delivery model is arguably long overdue. Whilst John is a businessman – and runs his own accountancy firm Books & Co – he aims to keep fixed costs low and work with small profit margins to ensure that the service is accessible to as broad a range of people in Guernsey as possible. He wants Halo to have real ‘societal benefit’ and his own Mum was the best-case study he could have wished for.