Roger Daniel is CEO at Red Homes Healthcare and son of founders, Michael and Margaret Daniel, who built their first care home in 1985. Having grown up working alongside his parents, Roger has vast experience in delivering tailored care. Here he discusses some of the benefits around compiling life stories.
Residents shouldn’t just be ‘accessing care’, they should be moving home into somewhere they feel comfortable and respected. A key component to a happy care home is offering support that is person-centred and this involves treating people based on their individual requirements.
Our life experiences shape us as a person and establish our sense of identity – no two people are the same and neither are their stories, therefore the care they need in older age can vary greatly. As busy care providers this is something that is easy to forget but is vitally important.
There are many benefits to compiling life stories for each resident who moves into a care home. They help to establish what makes a person tick and how they handle different experiences, which develops an understanding between carers and the person receiving care. This also allows carers to shape a tailored care plan which recognises what they need to help them live well.
Understanding someone’s past
When living in a care home, the little things can make a huge difference to someone’s wellbeing. For example, maybe a gentleman has been addressed as ‘Mr Jones’ his whole life by everyone apart from those closest to him. It’s important this is respected throughout his care and that staff maintain a level of formality he is comfortable with. Life stories can capture these small details and empower us with the knowledge to ensure our residents’ dignity is maintained.
Similarly, investing time learning about someone’s life can help us understand why they may act in a certain way. Consider a resident who gets restless whenever the maintenance man is around and, after checking his file, staff find that he had a long and successful career as a tradesman. After speaking with him and his family they establish his outbursts stem from frustration that he could do the job better. Without referring to his life story the link may not have been obvious, and his carers may not have understood his reaction.
We must also consider residents’ previous experiences and hobbies when planning activities. Just because someone is living with dementia or can’t do the things they once could, their interests, likes and dislikes are still the same and it’s important we provide entertainment and activities they find stimulating. Recognising similarities between resident’s interests can also go a long way to tackling loneliness as it can help them to form friendships within the home.
Working in partnership with families
Families are undoubtedly a vital part of ensuring a person’s well-being and are a valuable tool in understanding the care someone requires. They can often find it hard to come to terms with their loved one moving into a care home, so involving them from the outset allows us to support them, too, as well as giving them peace of mind that their loved one’s needs are met.
Relatives hold a wealth of knowledge around their loved one’s past so it’s important to involve them when tailoring care plans wherever possible. A life story which has been compiled with input from families allows their beliefs, values and their cultural background to be factored in. This ultimately improves the delivery of care as there is a much greater level of understanding. For those living with dementia, this input becomes even more crucial, as without it we may have little understanding of their past experiences or how they would like to be supported.