By Sarah Kean-Price
Panorama’s recent care home expose showed us a withering and despicable side of care. When Care Goes Bad. When it’s no longer ‘caring’ and just…I don’t know. It’s not care. A robotic carrying out of technicalities and bullying behaviour towards helpless people.
I was asked to write this article and flinched when I read the request. The thought of witnessing weeping, confused old people lying in bleak rooms was not something I wanted to do. But it turned out that the program was troubling to watch for more than just it’s upsetting subject matter.
It got me to thinking back to my own career and I faced up to the memories of when my practice stopped being good and instead was not good enough.
Started thinking about the times when my patience was fraying and I was short-tempered. When I too longed to slap my service user because they just wouldn’t co-operate, even when everything I was doing was for their own good.
Because they didn’t understand or didn’t want to or were fed up of their desires being overridden and I was too tired or distracted to resolve this.
Sometimes I was just plain wrong about thinking I knew better than them what they needed.
Late nights after long shifts and being dog-tired.
Knowing that, even if I called my senior, the likelihood of getting help was low because it was midnight, everyone was asleep and I was on the other side of town to the office.
Pride and not wanting to admit I was having trouble and that my training hadn’t been enough.
Barriers caused by environment – for instance, repeated struggles to get a demented woman scared of walking upstairs to her bed late at night.
Understanding ourselves and others
On Panorama, a sergeant wondered why Jonathon Aquino had treated his service user badly despite seeming to be an affable person. The daughter of the service user was horrified at the way that the other four carers talked over her mother and watched TV as they cleaned her and fed her.
Both fundamentally misunderstood how people work.
This frustration, laziness, fear and anger is inside all of us. Carers are not angelic robots, bestowing our heavenly tenderness with perfection. We’re just people; late at night, handling scary medication, wrist-deep in shit, doing our damndest to help and sometimes it goes wrong.
Good care stems from good management. Half the time, people don’t abuse because the CRB wasn’t rigorous enough or because they are ‘monsters’. They grow complacent because they aren’t supported and they feel alone and confused. Indeed, Panorama’s dementia expert noted how difficult care staff find their job, how little they are paid and the problems that occur when care cultures are poor and are left to fester.
Good care happens when the staff are properly supported. More than ever, the care industry need committed management staff with a contemporary understanding of how people work and think about things. Management staff with the refusal to settle for cost-cutting, rota squeezing and profit placed over the people’s needs.
Good care happens when staff care is our focus; regularly and meaningfully carried out. To pull care workers back from the murk of exhaustion and the grind of shift work and to remind them that this is a formal care situation with real people. To stop our businesses making our employees think care is a box-ticking exercise because we treat them like boxes to be ticked.
This is my call-out to you; the experienced, the thoughtful and the devoted.
Care homes do not have to be like Ash Court, nor do they need to become sullen, grey places where minimum effort is overlooked and rewarded.
Take your experiences, your understanding, your training and your whole-hearted love for this sector and keep places like Ash Court from ever allowing to flourish. We all have this force of love and compassion in us, just like we have the monsters of exhaustion, pride and inadequacy in us too.
Let’s take our overwhelming majority of good practice, make it our banner and staff and extend it to our colleagues with the same focus and commitment we show our service users.