Personalisation in residential care: Beyond the Obvious

Featured article - 10 November 2016
By Rich Watts, integrated personal commissioning advisor

Head-shot of the author, Rich Watts, integrated personal commissioning advisor

Most people thought it was the peacock. Though there was a comfortable lounge area, decent food, and a setting of acres of beautiful woodland, most people who visited Albert at his residential care home thought the peacock they saw freely roaming the grounds was the unique selling point of the place Albert now called home.

For Albert, though, the best thing about his care home was that he could hear through an open window in his room the hum of the M5 motorway. For most this would be annoying – perhaps even a reason to move rooms. But for Albert, it was a reminder of his work days travelling across the Midlands, and the particular enjoyment he found in navigating the motorways, A-roads and smaller tributaries in the quickest or shortest routes possible. In a time before satnavs or Google Maps –Albert wasn’t a young man – his roads knowledge was of considerable use, and it made him a valuable and respected part of his company’s business.

Whilst it was difficult to miss the peacock, it could have been very easy to overlook the sound of the M5 close by and what it meant to Albert. But because of a dedicated staff team who took time to listen to Albert and so what was important to him – what we might call a “person-centred team” – that chance wasn’t lost.

As a result, Albert’s experience – and that of the staff who supported him – was outstanding. This shows why personalisation in residential care homes is “beyond the obvious”. It is less about big initiatives such as cocktails for “residents” or peacocks roaming the grounds, but more about encouraging and supporting staff and managers towards a mindset that means they focus every day on the person in front of them whilst ensuring high quality care.

This is not always easy to do in a pressured environment, the details of which are familiar to us all: less money, less time, high staff turnover, the fundamental driver of CQC regulation.

Some work SCIE and TLAP are currently bringing together recognises the characteristics of this environment, and aims to make personalisation in care homes more practical and easier to achieve. The work will create an enhanced resource hub for managers and staff to support them with personalisation, drawing on the experience of fellow managers, staff, and people who live or have lived in care homes in order to create personalisation case studies, videos, learning tools, and a personalisation action planning tool for providers. What’s more, the hub takes account of – though isn’t driven solely by – CQC’s key lines of inspection enquiry.

Whilst it therefore reflects the reality of CQC to every provider, it also ensures personalisation isn’t seen as simply an “add on”, but a significant contributory factor to what makes for Good or Outstanding care.

This, ultimately, was the difference for Albert and his experience of care: the peacock was nice enough, but it didn’t impact the day-to-day realities of where he now lived. Instead, the difference came from a set of people encouraged and supported to take the time to discover why an open window and the sound of the M5 were important to Albert.

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