Guest blog by Sara McKee, Evermore Founder & Director of Market Innovation
I recently took part in a 2020health debate exploring how
we can restore trust and confidence in health and care services for older people. It’s a big issue and rather than tackling the whole system, I’ll focus on housing and support – an area that can cause heartache and heart break for older people and their families.
The UK residential care market is fragmented. The big players like BUPA, Four Seasons, HC1, Care UK & Anchor account for less than 10%. The remainder are small, independent providers with one or two homes, where they know customers and team members well.
In my experience it’s the bureaucratic practices of the big organisations that strip the personal relationship out of the care, which then leads to the failures that dominate the headlines. Although we shouldn’t forget that there is great care, love and companionship happening everyday across the country.
The focus on process over relationships impacts the way larger organisation are run and the care people receive. For example, there is a hierarchy of roles that are all task-based in a traditional residential care home setting. Consequently there could be up to 100 staff to cover all daily activities in an average 60-bed care home. They’re busy ticking boxes not getting to know their customers in a meaningful and impactful way, which is demoralising for staff and a poor experience for residents.
Why is it like this? When we look after our parents, we don’t do it on a task basis, nor do we have forms to fill in. Instead, we do everything we can to meet their needs and ensure they live a happy and meaningful life. Like Nike, we just do it.
It’s this personal approach that needs to be taken when it comes to creating an environment where older people can flourish. It’s time to cut the bureaucracy so staff have the autonomy to spend more time doing what’s best for the customers and spend less time doing paper work.
Let’s also focus on the individual and stop this paternalistic approach of doing things to and for them, rather than with them, In the existing model users of residential care are treated as recipients of services, and often their power to make decisions and contribute is taken away.
People must be given the opportunity to continue living their life in the way they want, albeit with help available if they need it. If they want to muck in to make dinner, do the ironing, or help with the household budget then let them. These are things people dread giving up as it symbolises a loss of independence, so why take them away? This extends to their health and care – provide older people with the information, tools and support to navigate the system rather than making decisions for them.
It’s really quite simple. It’s time to provide older people with what they want – an environment that allows them to live well, happy and secure but with a safety net. And an environment that is just like a normal family home, instead of an institution. That means no nurses stations, staff notices on walls, or sterile restaurants serving food cooked in industrial kitchens.
We’ll only change older people’s perceptions and build their trust in the sector by changing the way we do things! At Evermore, we’re going to focus on getting rid of the bureaucracy and the institutionalisation that has removed the personal aspect of care to the detriment of customers and staff. We’ll celebrate small households where family settings are created and customers truly cherished, focusing on what’s important: living happy for longer.
Are you with us?