Friday, 26 October 2012

Let's Change from ‘Being in a Home’ to Being ‘at Home’.


Do we pay enough attention to the ‘home’ part of care home?

Take a moment to think about what ‘home’ means to you, after all a home is more than just a dwelling place – e.g. house, flat etc. – it is about you. It is the place where you, hopefully, can retreat to, a place filled with memories, a place decked out in the style you like and filled with your things. It is not just a building but a fundamental part of your character and both sociologically and psychologically an important part of your life.

When we go into another person’s home we look around and make judgements about their character, their life, their likes and dislikes etc. and then make judgements on how we feel we will get on with them by making comparisons to our own home.

Yet if it becomes necessary to move a vulnerable person into a care home is there enough thought about the human aspect of a home rather than it just being a ‘placement’.

And what of moving into a care home?

It is well documented that one of life’s greatest stresses is moving home, yes there are the stresses of mortgages, solicitors etc. but the psychological change also creates stress, e.g. how do I create my home in this new house? How do I make it so I am comfortable here?

When a vulnerable person is moved from their home into a care home, for whatever reason, how much thought is given to that transition especially given the additional stresses involved that have forced the need to move in the first place.

Age UK have said that care homes are damaged by a culture of negativity (http://www.ageuk.org.uk/latest-news/care-homes-damaged-by-culture-of-negativity/) and this is certainly true in terms of reports of abusive behaviour and the general perception of care homes as places of ‘last resort’ and while I whole-heartedly agree with the Age UK recommendations I would, perhaps, suggest that we need to add to this the aspect of it being the person’s home and that it is vital that any individual feels ‘at home’.

We can have the most professional, caring staff, but if a person does not feel ‘at home’ there is always going to be difficulty in adjusting to their life in the care home. This may lead to depression, challenging behaviours or just a general malaise and dissatisfaction with life.

How would you feel if you had to live in a place you did not feel comfortable in? Many people have had to because of abusive relationships etc. but for the majority of us can we really comprehend what it is like to have to spend day after day in a place where we did not feel ‘at home’.

There is a need for care homes in the social care system and, in one sense, they should be the ‘last resort’ choice and only consider when it is a danger for a person to live alone and there are no other care alternatives possible. But when it is necessary care homes should not be merely a placement but a real home alternative. Many care homes provide this homely atmosphere yet many do not. Equally those that do may not be the type of home that appeals to the individual and every care should be taken to make sure that the choice of home reflects the individual’s needs, traits and characteristics to ensure the best possible outcomes in their new life.

We need to work to change attitudes, we need to create a new culture of care, we need to change from ‘being in a home’ to being ‘at home’.