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Training in care homes

Sarah Reed on why training is so important for care home staff. 

While there is so much about care homes that is good for people, unfortunately there is still much that is wrong.

My experience of care homes as a daughter of a resident, as a friend and as a reminiscence specialist has lead me to believe that the problems are almost all about proper training.

When I am doing reminiscence workshops with care home staff and selected volunteers, part of the aim is to help them to understand what they do from the perspective of the person being cared for.

I tell them to imagine going into a home for the first time as a resident. At the end of this session, most of the staff agree they are fortunate to return to their own homes at the end of their shift. 

Unlike the people they care for, they are not confined to a small single bedroom, chosen by someone else in a decorative style unlikely to be of their taste, and with few personal belongings that have marked their lives so far. 

Why, I ask, are the day rooms usually dominated by a telly showing programmes that have little resonance with an older age group. 

Meals in the dining room, often the most appealing place in a care home, generally consist of food they would be unlikely to cook for themselves, on crockery, placemats or tablecloths chosen by a distant head office or the manager which have the untroubled anonymity of a lower-ranking hotel. 

Add to this a usually kindly care team, many of whom may be from overseas, with scant knowledge of this country’s history and social vernacular.

They will be on basic wages, with limited training, often engaged in cleaning up and moving people and furniture from one place to another.

Those fortunate enough to be properly trained are in the minority and are expected to keep a watchful eye on those less able or less well trained. Although there are notable exceptions, inter-personal skills training is hardly found in care homes.

The result?  A few younger people with little appropriate training in care, looking after a lot of older people in homes very unlike home they have come from.

Training delivers rewarding results 

The training workshops deliver rewarding results for everyone – staff, residents and families. We start with empathising and listening skills. We then move to enquiry techniques and reminiscence as a tool as well as a therapeutic activity.

By sharing their own reminiscences, staff also learn more about one another, which helps them to bond better. They are also able to use reminiscing techniques in their work.

At the end of one of the workshops, one carer described how, when a new resident with deep dementia and no family or friends had come into the home without any background information, she had been able to build a thorough Care Plan by reminiscing together and gleaning fragments of memories.

As a result she had developed a close and helpful bond with the person.

This Care Plan was available for the rest of the team so they could know the resident through the stories that had been recorded.

Outcomes can sometimes extend beyond the outer walls of the home.

The wife of one care leader thanked me for improving his listening skills and helping their family life!

He said that his relationships with those he cares for have improved too and he feels happier in his job as a result. Now that’s care working for people.

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