A maintenance man who first went along to the Vale of Glamorgan nursing home where he works to cut the grass and ended up staying 15 years to become a mainstay of the operation has taken silver in major national awards.
On top of keeping the gardens tidy and the buildings up to scratch at College Fields in Barry 38-year-old Nikolas Williams has also undertaken specialist dementia training which has inspired him to take on tasks such as painting residents’ doors in familiar shades that are easy for the residents to remember.
He also literally goes the extra mile for them by driving them on trips out to the shops, the local beach and for pub lunches and generally tries to make sure he puts a smile on their faces whenever possible.
It is this dedication and commitment to his role that saw Nikolas, who lives in Barry, take silver in prestigious national competition, the 2018 Wales Care Awards.
This was the 15th anniversary of the awards and the glittering presentation ceremony was held at City Hall in Cardiff.
The awards, whose headline sponsor was Onyx Healthcare, are in association with Care Forum Wales, a not-for-profit organisation which is celebrating its own 25th anniversary this year after being set up in 1993 to give independent care providers a single professional voice with which to speak on one of the most important issues of our time – how to provide better quality care for those who need it most.
Nikolas took silver in Commitment to Quality in Housekeeping and Hospitality Award.
Born and bred in Barry, Nikolas – known to his friends at the home as Nik – had a few random jobs such as in the construction trade and working behind a bar before he went along to College Fields in 2003 to cut the grass.
He said: “The home’s regular gardener was off sick and they were looking for a part-time replacement so I turned up, did the work and have never left.
“In the years since then I’ve learned quite a bit about it and sort of grown into the job. In fact, it’s now just like coming home whenever I go there.
“I’ve done all the dementia training which allows me to properly interact with residents. It’s enabled me to put myself into their shoes and to see how they feel and I try to make them as comfortable as possible.
“One of the things about living with dementia is that the colour of your front door can sometimes look familiar. I’ve therefore painted the residents’ doors in whatever colour they like and we now have all sorts of shades from orange to purple but I reckon beigey brown is the most popular.
“We also went a bit further by painting the residents’ wet rooms in different colours to make them look more distinctive and memorable.”
Nik, who is single but who has a 13-year-old daughter and a son of seven, added: “I also like to take the residents out in one of the minibuses we have at College Fields.
“We go on trips all sorts trips. It might be to the local beach, or the shops or even for a pub lunch, which they really enjoy. When we go down to Barry beach I take along a special wheelchair to push them along the sand which has big wheels like a monster truck.
“I don’t want the residents to be stuck in all the time looking at four walls. I take them out to try and give them a bit of normality. I also like to have a bit of fun with them because I love to cheer people up.
“If we’re not going out I do other things for them like hanging up pictures in their rooms or setting up their smart TVs. It can all be quite rewarding.”
Helen Randall, the registered home manager, said of Nik in his nomination for the award: “He does not just ‘do maintenance’. Yes, he does ‘all that’, decorating, gardening, fixing and so on but it is more than this to Nik.
“Not only does he take pride in everything he does but also ensures that everything he does is resident focused. He builds up professional, individualised relationships with residents and their loved ones, never seeing the diagnosis but always seeing the person.”
Nike said of his nomination and shortlisting: “I was definitely surprised by it and when it went in I never expected anything to come from it but it’s nice to feel appreciated and I’m very proud.”
Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, said: “There are only winners here tonight so it is only fitting that the finalists have receive a gold, silver or bronze Wales Care Award.
“I trust that they will continue to inspire those around them as role models and encourage others to aspire to even greater heights in the months and years to come.
“This awards ceremony is our opportunity to pay tribute and to celebrate the talent and commitment that is improving the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people throughout Wales.
“We take our hats off to them.”