Dedicated to the Experts by Experience programme, Sue Johnson, gives us an insight into how she sees the social care provisions changing in the future.

Working as an ExE in adult social care for the elderly and those with dementia, means being at the centre of one of the key issues of our time; the provision of social care.

Prompted by the discussion topics suggested by Eva Chappell, and based on my own observations as an ExE and providing care and support to my parents at the end of their lives, I have reflected on what I believe creates a more positive care experience and what residential social care might look like in future and how it might be developed both now and for future generations.

Living Longer

More of us are living longer, which is good news, but with many people living with multiple conditions it means more of us are likely to need appropriate care and support in our old age. For some the prospect of living into old age brings a level of fear and anxiety, which stems from a dread of losing independence and surrendering control to strangers.

At the time of writing there are grim statistics about the number of care homes that are failing. Despite the issues and problems, I think there are rays of hope for the future.

I have seen good care from very committed carers and there are homes which are rated outstanding.

Being Involved

What has struck me during the inspections I have assisted on is that the better providers allow people, as much as possible, to “own” the home they live in; they are more able to live there as if it were their own. This can be through enabling them to make choices about the decoration and furnishing of their room and the home generally; they are involved in making decisions about the home; they are able to make drinks at a time of their choosing and to gather together with friends, including carers, to have a chat; and they are assisted to make a connection with the community in which they live.

Enabling residents to participate in a broad range of interesting and stimulating activities is another significant factor in the provision of good care.  I spoke to one lady who made soft furnishings and other handiwork for herself and the home, which she did in dedicated, regular handiwork sessions. When I asked her to tell me about her work, she showed me objects she had made and said “I love it”. She seemed generally happy and relaxed in her environment. Having spoken to people who enjoy a wide range of different activities, I believe they feel more positive about themselves and their situation, whilst accepting the limitations age brings as a consequence.

I believe social interaction is also a really important element of good care. In my experience, there is a better atmosphere in those homes where carers are able to take time to chat to residents. Particularly those residents who have regular visits, not only from friends and relatives, but also from people in the local community. This may be from organised events such as musical and theatrical performances or ad hoc visits from volunteers who give their time to simply talk to residents. On my visits, I have found that most people I speak to welcome the opportunity for conversation.

The role ExEs play

It seems that at last there is more debate happening around the subject of adult social care for the elderly. As ExEs, we have a valuable opportunity to share our views and observations. I hope that the discussions which are taking place will feed into new initiatives for better care in the future, not only in residential care homes but across the spectrum of care. Going forward, the role of the CQC is critical in driving up standards generally and to encourage more and more homes to achieve an “outstanding” rating.

In conclusion, we need to tackle the taboos around ageing and social care, not least by encouraging constructive and continuing debate on the subject amongst the young, older and elderly alike. People should be encouraged to think about what constitutes good care and the sort of care they want to see not just in the here and now, but also for themselves and their relatives in the future.

I hope that, before too long, we will have less cause to fear some of the consequences of ageing, particularly in relation to our care needs.”

To find out more about the work of the ExEs visit www.remploy.co.uk/exe and http://www.cqc.org.uk

Care in the future. Blog by Sue Johnson

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