PJ Care has celebrated 21 years of providing specialist neurological care with a party to mark the anniversary of opening its first care centre.
Families and residents, staff, invited guests and the Mayor of Milton Keynes, Amanda Marlow, gathered in the gardens of the Bluebirds care centre together with the company’s founder, Jan Flawn CBE. PJ Care, which offers care for adults with progressive neurological conditions, was established in 2001 by former nurse, Jan, who identified the need for an age-appropriate environment for people with young onset dementia. Up to then, the only option for people who developed neurological conditions before the age of 65 was to be cared for in hospital or alongside the elderly in a care home.
After a long battle both for respect and funding for her proposition, Bluebirds care centre opened offering 22 beds, all of which were filled within a matter of months. Since then, PJ Care has gone on to open Mallard House in the cityand the Eagle Wood care centre in Peterborough. The centres also provide care and rehabilitation for people with acquired brain injuries and employ close to 600 staff.
Jan retired from the business five years ago and PJ Care is now run by her son, Neil Russell.
“It’s been the most wonderful event,” said Jan. “I can’t believe it’s been 21 years since I started PJ Care. Neil and the entire team have done the most wonderful job in keeping our original values of care, compassion and commitment, not just towards the residents but the staff, too. We are like one big family.”
Jan started PJ Care because of the frustrations of not being able to provide the care she felt her patients needed.
“We didn’t have time to look after them properly,” she remembered. “They didn’t just need us to care for their physical needs, they needed us emotionally. That was especially true of people with neurological conditions; they were just people in beds and that wasn’t good enough for me. To have been able to do it myself and create centres where people have time to care, time to talk and give people the quality of life they deserve, is wonderful. I still remember welcoming our first resident. I was nursing at the time so I was hands on and my son, Neil, left the Diplomatic Service to come to work with me.”
Neil Russell has since expanded the service to its current three centres, with plans to create a new care centre at Eagle Wood later this year, and another planned for Northamptonshire.
“I am incredibly proud of Mum and what she’s achieved,” he said. “We worked side by side in the beginning. I would help out with personal care, covering shifts in the kitchen, even cleaning toilets if that’s what was needed to get the job done. She knew there was a need for this kind of specialist service and demand is growing and growing. I am thrilled to be able to carry on what she created and although she’s retired now, I still discuss board papers with her and ask her opinion.”
Current and former managers at the home were presented with bouquets of flowers and Jan was reunited with one of her very first nurses at Bluebirds, Linda Matthews. Jan said it was a perfect celebration but feels there is still much support needed for the care sector.
“I would have thought that COVID might have got the message through, but sadly not. No government has yet had the courage to develop a strategy for the care sector that works. But I feel proud of what we’ve achieved as a company and the efforts we make for our staff and I’m excited to see where Neil takes the business in the future.”