Opinion

How is housing responding to the diverse care needs of older people?

Jamie Lewis, Head of Quality Assurance and Commissioning, Housing 21

Jamie Lewis, Head of Quality Assurance and Commissioning at Housing 21, a specialist provider of housing and care for older people of modest means.

In February 2021, the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on housing and care for older people reported on its inquiry into housing and dementia. The session was addressed by the Housing Minister, The Right Hon Chris Pincher MP, where he spoke about the building of new homes for our ageing population, including issues around planning, accessibility, and upgrading homes for older people to meet their needs.

At Housing 21, we undertake annual care surveys to hear from our residents in Extra Care. This year we are asking our residents how well we meet their cultural, as well as care and physical, needs. This is the first time we will ask this question and I anticipate the feedback will help us shape culturally appropriate care guidance that will be provided to our employees.

We have started to consider minority groups more carefully and how this might affect the type of care we provide, for example to the LGBTQ+ community. We have started to provide training in this area, but our intention is to weave these types of conversations into the care planning process; they should not be considered a separate issue and providers need to take a holistic approach to planning older people’s care. Supporting people to maintain their relationships, whatever that looks like, is a critical element for their wellbeing.

The well-publicised increase of people living with dementia is also very much on our minds. We are a dementia-friendly organisation and incorporate dementia-friendly design in all our new schemes, however we are aware and constantly looking at how we can do more! We are in the process of developing a strategy to improve how we support residents and their families and have partnered with Worcester University to create a ‘Dementia Coach’ role. By 2023 there will be a Dementia Coach based at each of our Extra Care schemes who will be considered the on-site expert. They will be raising awareness around supporting residents to obtain early diagnosis, to champion person-centred care as well as providing training to employees and local contractors, with the vision of our schemes becoming centres of excellence in dementia care in their local communities.

Dying and death is still a taboo subject for a significant number of people – both employees and residents. End of life care, and enabling more people to pass away at home, is something we are achieving through the Gold Standards Framework. Currently 10 Extra Care services are undergoing the process and will be accredited next year. Our plan is for all care services to take part in this; however, an important starter is for our employees to begin to have the confidence to speak with residents about these needs and preferences.

Our conference at the International Convention Centre (ICC) in Birmingham, on Wednesday 6 October brings together experts in the various aspects of equality, diversity, and inclusion to challenge the housing sector and explore changes which are needed, to provide the right care and support for older residents.

Tickets to the Housing 21 conference are £50. View the full agenda and book your space here: https://www.housing21.org.uk/about-us/events/housing-21-conference-2021/

Housing 21 is a leading, not-for-profit, national provider of Extra Care and Retirement Living to older people of modest means and we provide over 38,000 hours of social care each week. For more information about Housing 21, visit www.housing21.org.uk.

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