International Day of Older Persons took place on 1 October 2016. The theme of “take a stand against ageism” aimed to highlight the detrimental impact ageism can have on older people, which can lead to depression, social isolation and potentially a shorter life span.
With over 200 care homes across the UK, Barchester Healthcare understands that one of the fundamental roles in caring for their 10,000 elderly residents is to ensure they are active not just physically, but mentally too.
“Getting to know your residents is key in helping them maintain a positive and healthy outlook on life,” says Rebecca Phillpot (RMN) Head of Unit at Barchester’s Harper Fields Care Home in the West Midlands. “By taking the time to understand the psychological needs of each resident, we can help them to maintain the hobbies they enjoyed before they came to our home and even introduce residents to new activities.”
“We had one resident who had been given an unspecified diagnosis from his doctor. He repeatedly had episodes that required a stay in hospital, which was unsettling for both him and his wife. After observing some of his episodes, we managed to identify a pattern of behaviour that led to his becoming ill. This enabled us to instigate preventative measures and protocols, so his episodes now occur with much less frequency, avoiding trips to the hospital. Understanding how to control his episodes means we can work towards a visit to his farm and the horses he loves – something he is very keen to do. It is this type of knowledge and consistent care that means we can offer the best quality of life to our residents.”
As many Barchester homes are nurseled environments, the nurses are responsible for the clinical well-being of the residents. Many nurses enjoy the clinical autonomy offered in our care homes, but also understand the importance of getting to know each resident and their family.
Rebecca explains, “Clinical autonomy can sometimes be a little scary, but it’s also when nurses come into their own. We have to keep calm, utilise our team and use the knowledge we have of each and every resident to ensure a successful outcome. If we have the trust of the residents and their family then we can work together.”
The team at Harper Fields has been structured to support the person-centred care for each resident, with a focus on emotional wellbeing. Rebecca explains, “Our specially trained Care Assistants are champions in certain areas of care, such as skin care and nutrition and hydration, but we also have person-centred care champions who become like a family member to our residents.
Rebecca expands, “Social interaction at any level is important to keep the mind stimulated. Our person-centred champions ensure all residents who want to take part in activities can do so; whether it’s simply going to our in-house cafe or on a day trip away from the home. We have some residents who don’t have family living close to the home, so they can be less likely to take part in activities. We make sure that everyone who wants to, and is able to, can participate. Even if residents don’t want to talk to those around them, just making sure residents are getting out of their rooms and seeing others can make a vast different to their mental wellbeing.”
Working so intensively with our residents means special bonds are created between nurses, care assistants and the residents.
Rebecca explains, “Our residents have fascinating life stories and it is an honour to take the time to listen as well as take care of them. One of the reasons I love this job is that we care about the well-being of our residents and they care about ours. They often check that we are okay and when we are very busy they tell us we should stop for a cup of tea!”
Nora Smith, who reveals she was born in 1925, has been at the home for about two years. With a cheeky smile on her face she says, “I’m not too sure who keeps who on their toes here! I like to tell the nurses and carers what they should do and they support me to get out and about. They are wonderful and help me keep active. I believe that not letting things get you down helps you keep young; I certainly don’t feel my age.”