Len Bannister, 67, is a resident of Charters Court Care Home, which is part of Charters Village retirement community.
Unfortunately Len suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS), which affects the nervous system and causes a range of debilitating symptoms. His condition means he needs round-the-clock care and support.
In his younger days Les was a professional footballer, joining Millwall as a centre forward when he was 15. His main inspiration was Duncan Edwards, the tragic Manchester United star who was killed in the Munich air disaster along with seven of his teammates in 1958.
Les played against many of the greats, including George Best, but ultimately decided to make football his hobby rather than his job. So he quit Millwall and spent time at nonprofessional clubs such as Sutton United, Yeoville and Walton & Hersham whilst becoming a cabbie on the side.
“What was really strange about my footballing days was that I earned just as much playing non-professionally as I did professionally,” said Len. “It was called ‘boot money’ and the amount we were paid depended on the result.”
Len was diagnosed with MS in his early thirties and remembers the onset only too well.
“In my case MS began very gradually, but it worsened over the years,” he explained. “Eventually my eyesight began to fail and I was experiencing severe mobility difficulties. I had my cabbie’s license taken away and was unable to work. It was a very difficult time.”
Len lived in Lingfield, London and fortunately had some wonderful friends nearby. Two of them, a couple, invited him to move in, which he did. They cared for him and he lived in their home for the best part of 25 years, for which he is extremely thankful.
However, eventually Len’s condition worsened and he needed round-the-clock care. He said: “It was sad but my friends could no longer provide me with the care I needed, despite their best efforts. Charters Court was one of the first places I visited and I loved it immediately, the staff were so friendly and the residents looked happy and well cared for.”
Len immediately moved to Charters Court, settling into a large residential suite. Here he receives personalised care services delivered by the home’s experienced, professional team.
“Living at Charters Court is brilliant, it has made an enormous difference to my quality of life,” said Len. “When I arrived here senior staff assessed me, before creating a care plan to meet my specific needs. The care provided is absolutely first class and means I can overcome many of the daily challenges posed by MS.”
He continued: “Carers are regularly slammed in the newspapers when something goes wrong but they play a vital role in their local communities and I don’t believe they are properly recognised for it. The people who look after me at Charters Court are fantastic.”
Len also enjoys the fresh, tasty meals cooked by Charters Court’s very own in-house chef. Every day Len picks what he wants to eat off the menu and if he fancies something that isn’t listed the chef makes a special effort to get it!
“Socially, there is an enormous range of events and activities to get involved with here, but only if you choose to,” remarked Len. “I keep myself very busy taking trips in the minibus to the south coast and local garden centres with some of the other residents, so the days just fly by!”
Charters Court regularly books entertainers for its residents, something else Len appreciates. “The last one was a harpist and I honestly didn’t think I was going to appreciate it as much as I did. He played songs such as ‘Wonderful Tonight’ by Eric Clapton, I couldn’t believe it!”
Len has made new friends at Charters Court too, including one wily 93-year-old lady who in his words is “sharp as a whistle”. The only problem is that when he tries to cheat in card games she spots him straightaway!
Despite the fact that Len is now confined to a wheelchair, he remains positive: “Life is entirely what you make of it so each day I try to enjoy myself. This could be going on an excursion, spending time with my brother who visits regularly or simply reading the morning papers. I am very happy at Charters Court and recommend it to anyone with residential care needs.”