Care Home: what do you see?

13th  April 2018, Written by: Residential Forum Trustee, Sharon Blackburn

Through my work with the National Care Forum, I see
vibrant communities of people living in care homes across the U.K. But
people outside of the care sector often perceive things through a
different and, in my view, tainted lens. Care homes are seen as
unpleasant institutions that people ‘end up’ or are ‘put in’. Those
outside of care homes often tend to see health conditions and buildings,
but not people.

If you think of the words ‘care’ and ‘home’ separately, a
range of warm images and feelings will ordinarily come to mind.
However, too often when these words appear together as ‘care home’,
negative connotations emerge and we lose sight of the individual person
and see an anonymous cohort of people who are typically age 85+; have
four or more long term conditions; may have a degree of cognitive
impairment; and need end of life care.

Typically, though not exclusively, care home residents
are older, and they have lived varied and fulfilling lives. They have
made significant contributions to our society, have had unique life
experiences, and still desire to live, love and laugh. First and
foremost, they are people who have the rest of their lives to live.

I cannot do justice to all the innovation that National
Care Forum members are engaged in to recognize this, but I can give a
flavor:

  • WCS Care in
    Warwickshire have launched an innovation hub which enables the sharing
    of new technology and emerging best practice in order to transform care
    and improve the lives of their residents. As part of this, WCS have
    partnered with researchers from Coventry University to evaluate how the
    use of technology acts as an enabler to the care and support provided by
    staff.
  • Somerset Care were
    involved in Ages 2.0, an international research project with the
    University of Exeter. The study examined the affect that social media
    can have in helping to alleviate loneliness in older people, with
    positive results widely reported in the national media including The Guardian, Daily Mail, and Western Daily Press.
  • St Monica Care Trust is
    all about community and building relationships including across the
    generations. The Trust plans daily activities for elderly residents and
    local preschool children and has become the subject of Channel 4 series ‘Old People’s Home for Four Year Olds.

And these examples are not exceptions – nearly 80% of care providers
are rated as good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.

We need to build a consensus for changing perceptions, to be a force
for change and understand the important place that care homes have in
our communities. A great opportunity to start this journey is coming up –
with Care Home Open Day held this year on the 21st April.

I encourage readers to explore that which you do not know: to visit,
to be inquisitive, to have an open mind. You will then discover that
care homes are places where people live and have fun and laugh, as well
as receiving highly skilled care for their complex care needs. Start
challenging your perceptions now.

The RSA’s Health as a Social Movement programme and
Health and Care Fellow Network provides a platform to explore and
question together to create a future that we are part of and can
positively influence.

Sharon Blackburn CBE, RGN RMN. FRSA is Policy and Communications Director at the National Care Forum

The National Care Forum (NCF) is a member organisation for not-for-profit care and support providers operating across the UK. NCF is linked to The Global Ageing Network and CommonAge, enabling shared learning and collaboration across the globe.

Read more about the RSA’s work on Reimagining the Care Home in this blog by Research Assistant Becca Antink

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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