Opinion

Supporting Families

Professor Martin Green OBE, Chief Executive, Care England

In recent years there has been a far greater acknowledgement of the role of carers and without them our system would collapse. What is often less recognised is that the role of a carer does not stop when the person you love moves into residential settings. What you do and how you deliver support to the person you love may change, but the emotions never go away.

It is important that we continue to support carers when their loved ones move into residential care and we must acknowledge that the carer is probably the person who knows our residents best. They are a vital resource to the social care team in delivering high quality bespoke personalised care.

The emotional challenges of caring never go away and just because the person you love has moved into residential care does not mean you have less of a connection to them, or that all the worries of caring are over. In many cases, a move into residential care can exacerbate the stress of a carer because they are always worried about what is happening to the person they love when they are not there to deliver the care themselves. This is also not helped by the way in which care is reported and it is only negative stories that ever see the national media. The impact this has and the concern it causes to carers is immeasurable and I wish the media was more cognizant of the impact their stories have. We need them to be balanced and present a true picture which is that the majority of care is good and transforms people’s lives.

As residential care providers we must acknowledge this and we must do everything we can to build trust with our residents and also with their families. I do not underestimate how difficult this is because it involves a complex series of emotions and you must navigate through sometimes very complex relationships in order to support both the resident and their carer.

We must also acknowledge that there are often conflicts that exist within families and so the dynamics between different family members can also be difficult to balance. Despite these challenges I would urge every service provider to see the support of carers as essential to delivering good quality care.

Over many years The Relatives and Residents Association has done a lot of good work supporting both residents and their families to navigate the system and ensure that services meet their needs, they can testify that you see care staff and families working in harmony to support a person you really see the benefits to everyone of collaboration.

Some time ago Care England supported the production of the book called “Honoured Guests” which was written by Julia Jones and designed to help both care homes and families to understand how to get the best out of the relationship. Julia developed the John’s Campaign, to remind both hospitals and care services of the importance of engaging in supporting relatives when someone is either in hospital or a care service.

The decision to give up independent living and move into a care setting may be one of the hardest decisions a person can make, the implications of this are felt not only by the person themselves, but also by their families. In social care we must acknowledge that people come into our services with a range of both family and social networks and that people’s well-being is very dependent upon maintaining these relationships.

In very pressurised and busy services it may seem like an extra requirement to engage families, but I regard it as essential if we get it right, it can impact immeasurably on the lives of the people we support and it can lead to a much better relationship between the care service and the family.

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