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Relatives and Advocates – A Force for Good?

Professor Martin Green Chief Executive Care England

When someone moves into a care service, it is not only a life changing moment for the person themselves, but it also has significant impacts on their family, friends and other loved ones.

What I think is sometimes not clearly understood, is that just because someone moves into a care home, it does not mean that your connection with them, or your role as a carer is over. It may mean that your role changes, and you go from someone who has delivered direct care on a 24-hour basis, to someone who now is the supporter and advocate, for your relative or loved one.

In the past, when someone moved into a care setting it was assumed that their families were no longer the primary carers, and all responsibility would now be transferred to the care home. Thankfully, those days are long gone, and care homes realise that one of the most important ways in which we can maintain people’s identity, and ensure a good quality of life, is to make sure that they maintain and strengthen good relationships with their families and friends.

In the 21st-century, we understand care so much better, and we understand that relationships have to be the basis of high quality care. That of course includes the relationship between the person who receives a service, and the person who provides it.  However, the relationships and networks are so much broader than that and people’s quality of life and maintenance of identity, is so bound up with maintaining the relationships they had before they entered care.

It is really important to care providers to see relatives and friends as an essential part of supporting someone to live well in a care home. One of our greatest needs as human beings is the maintenance of good quality relationships, and by nature, human beings are social creatures and need to have connection with others in order to maintain identity and well-being.

Relatives and friends are also a very important resource for care providers because they understand the person and know their history. Relatives and friends have often known the person for a lifetime, they understand their likes, wants and preferences and they are able to provide a rich and diverse picture of the person, that enables the care provider to deliver a much more personalised and high-quality service.

I think we as care providers might need help to understand how best to connect with families and friends, to ensure that everyone’s experience is enriched by their involvement. I have seen so many good examples of care services which have embraced families and local communities and this really does enhance the experience of the people who live in care and also of their families.

I am really committed to this partnership approach, and have recently talked to the journalist, writer and carer, Julia Jones, who founded John’s Campaign and we are planning to write a book that will help care providers get the best out of working with relatives and friends.

In an era of scrutiny and media challenge to care providers, one of the best ways we can protect ourselves is to be open and transparent and by welcoming into our services members of the community and friends and families. The more people know about care the more people there are to champion what we do, and show a positive picture of our services to the world.

It is my view that if we work together we can make a real difference to peoples’ lives and families and friends are a vital resource, which can help the care provider to deliver personalised care and champion the care services to the wider community.

 

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