One of the most heartening things about the Care Act was its focus on wellbeing. All too often the policy agenda has been focused on a range of physical needs and has ignored the people we are, the things that give us a sense of security, happiness and wellbeing.
I am really delighted to see that the care sector has embraced wellbeing and there have been a number of initiatives that understand the importance of arts and culture in delivering care. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing produced a brilliant report on the importance of cultural activity in both health and care. The co-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, Lord Howarth of Newport, has been a powerful advocate for artistic and cultural activity in care and health. In the report that the group produced, there was a real emphasis on taking this from rhetoric to reality.
There are also some incredibly dynamic and creative people around this agenda and I applaud the work of everyone who is trying to bring arts and culture into care. There is also a real movement to develop purposeful activities in care settings, and I am really inspired by the work of NAPA, Oomph and lots of care groups, who really understand that activities should be meaningful and purposeful are developing a range of diverse, innovative and creative ways to put activities at the centre of care.
We must also remember that when people move into a care setting, we should focus on maintaining their relationships and interests because these are the things which define us as human.
It is great to see that John’s Campaign, which is designed to ensure relatives and friends are an essential partner in the delivery of care and support are not excluded by care services. Just because the person you love goes into a care home, it does not mean that you become any less their husband, wife, brother, daughter or friend. Care services must do all they can to include families and friends as a vital part of delivering high quality care.
I had a very interesting conversation last week with a woman whose husband had recently moved into a care home. This lady told me of the joy of being able to spend quality time with her husband, rather than having every ounce of her energy sapped by the physical strain and relentless emotional burden of caring for somebody who was living with dementia and several other serious health conditions. What was really good to hear in this case was that she told me that she still performed many of the caring tasks that she had previously done and the care home asked her how they could help her to support her husband in the way she wanted to, rather than just taking every caring responsibility away from her. This sensitive approach by the care home ensured that her relationship with her husband was strengthened, and that she and her husband were supported to maintain an intimate relationship, whilst having the support required to make this a manageable, rather than an overwhelming experience.
We must remember that our relationships with others are one of the primary factors that define us as people and these relationships remain central to who we are. If we can maintain these relationships for as long as possible, we will ensure that we maintain our identities, despite the challenges of dementia and other health conditions.
People living with dementia must not be seen as a group apart from society or community. We must do everything we can to maintain relationships and give people purposeful activities because these are the things that ensure we maintain our sense of self and improve our wellbeing