Apparently I am an overly fussy pernickety eater although I would prefer to say I have a truly sensitive palate which means that there are many foods that are not palatable to me! Many have tried to test and trick me but always have failed.
It is not something that has any significant impact on my life and I doubt I am the only person like this.
Yet what if someone with a similar palate found themselves suffering with dementia and placed in a care home. Without knowing the persons likes (because the dislikes will be far too many to mention!) it would be easy to try and give the individual just what is on the menu. Personally if that happened to me I would simply not eat what was in front of me, but how does that act get viewed by the care provider? Am I being awkward? Am I refusing to eat? The more I insist that I will not eat what’s in front of is my behaviour becoming ‘challenging’?
If I have no relative’s to speak up for me to explain my eating foibles what happens next?
If I am refusing to eat what is in front of me yet I don’t have the capacity to express that how can I be sure that my behaviour is interpreted correctly? And how will my non-eating be reacted to?
If I lack capacity then someone will make a decision in my ‘best interest’ under the guidance of the Mental Capacity Act. Obviously it would be in my best interest to eat yet if I were forced to eat something that tasted extremely bad to me the more likely my behaviour would become more challenging and I would probably be labelled as such and because of my limited likes it attempts to try different foods would also probably fail and lead to more ‘challenging behaviour’.
This is, of course, hypothetical yet there are, undoubtedly, many people in similar situations, it may not be with food but with other aspects of daily life.
This is why carers and families are so important in the social care system. Social care professionals need to understand the person who needs care services and, where individuals are unable to articulate their needs, listening to carers and families is vital in providing quality personalised care.
The quality of social care is not just about now, it is about the future and the quality of care we want to receive in the future if we find ourselves needing care services. Quality services can only be achieved by understanding the individual and, equally important, their individuality. By the time care ‘professionals’ become involved in a person’s needs it is likely those needs have already progressed to a point where understanding individuality becomes more difficult making it ever more important for those professionals to engage with carers and families to truly get to understand what makes the person needing care service tick.
Carers and families have a responsibility too. As someone they love begins to deteriorate through age-related conditions they should prepare that information to ensure they are able to pass it on. Obviously, as individuals, we also have a responsibility to make sure those things are known in case we need social care services in the future.
In reality the real onus is on those paid to provide social care services to ensure they are providing personalised care based on the information given to them by the individual, their carer’s and their families.
If I ever need social care services I want those people providing those services to understand all of my needs and provide care based on those needs. Undoubtedly you do to. So let’s focus on moving toward that for the benefit of those who need care services now.