I’ve had many interesting meetings and conversations with people in the last few weeks about ‘person-centred’ and ‘relationship-centred’ care, especially when working with people over sixty.
Both terms are definitely on the rise in health and social care, though everybody seems to interpret them differently. If I had to choose, I would say that relationship-centred care gives better outcomes – but then I would not say there is a perfect model of care at all.
Having worked as a care worker for many years, one theme repeats itself over and over, regardless of which of these approaches is taken. In either case, it is that ‘person-centred’ and ‘relationship-centred’ care is so often considered from the perspective of those delivering or paying for it, and not the person who actually receives it.
In my experience, even when the best intentions and training, and innovative treatments and technology are used, we seem to push our ideas of what good care and good quality of life and wellbeing are on the people we work with. Supported and informed by research, for example, we know that exercise and activity may help alleviate depression, improve or maintain physical health, and help us live longer. So we get on with implementing these studies and ideas in the care provided, and enforce it on people receiving care.
Even though we have the best intentions in helping someone, we have to be very conscious and self-reflective in how we go about it. Though we have our own ideas of wellbeing, we should not force these on others – not least those who have lived a long and experienced life. Those we care for have and deserve every right to decide about their activities, or the lack thereof.
When providing care, I’d invite you to ask yourself:
Have I considered that my choices in care might have something to do with my own feelings and responsibilities, rather than the person I am tending to?
Is it possible that the drive to be the most activity-minded care home or best manager means that I sometimes forget about looking at people as individuals?
Is it possible, though I have just learnt an amazing new therapy, that it might not be the best option for everybody?
Do I take stock, stop and check with those I care for, and make sure that they are happy?
Is it possible that innovative technology might not always be the best way to care for everybody?
To me, caring for people means putting your ambitions, views, and presumptions aside. It means getting to know the person and their story before suggesting changes, or new therapies and activities for them to try. Even with all our training and experience, there is only one person who can judge if what we do truly works – and that is the person we care for. Their feelings come before research, preconceived plans, and demands of friends and family. We owe it to them to find what makes them truly comfortable and cared for. Our training and experience can can achieve nothing greater than that.