On 29th February 2012, ‘Delivering Dignity: Securing Dignity in care for older people in hospitals and care homes. A report for consultation’ was released by NHS confederation, Local Government Association (LGA) and Age UK.
Jenny Byrne, one of FaithAction’s interns, shares with us her views on the report.
Faith groups approach individuals as being unique and valuable at whatever stage in life they are going through and older people are valued as offering wisdom and experience to those who are younger.
In the last generation respect in the general public has deteriorated to such an extent that older people are seen as a burden to society and as disposable; often needs are put down to age rather than being investigated as they would be for a younger person.
The riots that sprang up across Britain last summer alerted many of us to the lack of values, respect and thought for others that the perpetrators exhibited; however they are a microcosm of today’s generation – not just hooded youths, but people of all ages.
The measures this report recommends are the basic needs for anyone of any age – to be treated with love, care, respect and dignity. We are all responsible for the well-being of those we come into contact with and communities need to be reminded to value those around them. Throughout the report identity, respect and dignity are used as buzz words, these are not imposable – they are a natural expression of how we, as faith based organisations, feel about others.
High profile cases in the news over the last years have raised serious concerns about patients in hospitals and care homes. The crux of the issue is not medical it is a lack of humanity. Anyone working in these environments must be employed first and foremost on their ability to care enough not to let others suffer but to lead the most fulfilled life that they can manage.
Older people, who have medical needs, are admitted to hospitals or care homes have more acute needs as they know they may need to face not just the medical need but a loss of their independence – something that has been a major part of their life. How would we cope with our freedom being withdrawn from us? There may be fear, anger and frustration – often compounded by a lack of communication from their carers. Care should embrace all of these needs, not just the medical.
“Person-centred care champions compassion and respect and puts the individual at the heart of all decisions” and “It is vital they are seen as an individual and not defined by their illness” – Quotes p11. This should be at the heart of any institution that wants to see people recover from any of life’s ‘knocks’.
Dignity can come from providing suitable access to facilties – single sex accommodation, toilets and bathrooms – when they are needed rather than having to face the indignity of not making it or being left in soiled clothing or bedding. A compassionate, caring service would do it’s utmost to address these situations as quickly as possible. The government needs to ensure that a caring service can be offered by manning wards or homes with adequately trained, caring staff.
A ‘Schwartz round’ adopted from Healthcare in Massachusetts gives care staff scheduled time to openly and honestly discuss social and emotional issues. UK hospitals are increasingly adopting this.
Discharge summaries are not routinely shared with patient’s GPs. This needs to happen. GPs should arrange a follow up assessment after six weeks – p20. Surely, this is too late if a person is not coping but is too scared of losing more of their independence to contact a hospital?
Why isn’t the government doing more to regulate the quality of staff and facilities at care homes? If carers are receiving a minimum wage they must feel undervalued and that what they do mustn’t be important to society.
The dignity of older people is suffering because of two major factors, one that impinges on the other:
- Money – the lack of it is often seen to be the cause of inadequate care at hospital and in care homes. Enough money must be fed into these new recommendations to offer staff (particularly those in care homes) pay that reflects how much we value our older people, and a budget with a compulsory allocation to ensure all members of staff are appropriately trained.
- Compassion – high levels of care come from people who believe what they are doing is valuable and their patients are important. This comes from employing individuals with these values. However, for these individuals to hold onto these values they must feel supported by their management and no tolerance for abuse, neglect, bullying must be allowed.
To respond to the consultation with your thoughts, click here