Being Truly Person-Centred

Jill Hyland, activities manager at Walmer Care Centre, explains some of the clever ways they’ve developed a whole-home approach, and shows how this has really made a difference in turning their vision of person-centred care into a reality…

There is no ‘them and us’ – we are a family, we are making the home a family home for all.

It’s something you hear all the time: “It’s a home, we are family, we provide person-centred care.” Sadly, sometimes, these are just words – but not for us. At my care home we truly are we what we say we are. We want to be person-centred, and we try to be as much as we can. We call our residents our family, or our family members, and we truly feel that this is who they are. Breaking down the barriers is really important in our home. There is no ‘them and us’ – we are a family, we are making the home a family home for all.

Breaking Down Barriers

As a part of our leisure, lifestyle, occupation and wellbeing programme we like to include the team as much as possible. To do this, you need the team to believe and follow what is put in place. We started with removing uniforms from the team, which removed that first barrier that gave a sense of ‘them and us’. Instead, we are one. We noticed big changes quickly, and also a reduction in ABCs. We carry this approach through to the night time – all our night staff wear pyjamas and nightwear, which is to help orientate family members that it is night time. This helps with sleep patterns, reduces walking with a purpose, and just gives the home a homely feel and makes everyone very relaxed and happy. The wackier the style of pyjamas the better, as this helps start conversations too – the brighter, the better for all!

Sharing Their Passions

The whole-home approach we have here also means the team bring their passions in to work – sharing their hobbies or their interests with residents. This makes for a fun afternoon and a real sense of a shared experience. Staff sit and knit, play games, read papers, go out in the garden, go out walking, wash up, prepare food and make drinks – all with the family. The team also join in on day-to-day activities or use their initiative to do an activity themselves.

At present we also have three volunteers who all work in our care home as part of the family – and they all bring something different to the team. One is a friend to them all, they sit in the communal areas and just talk to everyone, while another joins trips, and helps out with crafts and parties. Another volunteer comes in regularly to read to family members, or just sit and talk to them one on one. The difference this makes to all family members is huge. It’s someone different to the people they see each day, and it’s someone with nothing else to do but spend time with them.

Days Out

Our volunteers also often help on outings, which is wonderful. The more team members who volunteer, the more family members get the opportunity to go on the trip. A recent trip to the zoo had 16 staff volunteering in their own time to make sure as many family members had a chance to go as we could manage; while for the fairground, which needs a 1:1 carer:resident ratio, we had 10 staff volunteer. All the help they give makes things possible. We have done some great trips and days out. This includes the zoo, a boat trip, fairground, carnival, local gardens, castles and tea rooms – but also simple things, such as popping to the shops or going to the pub. Going out doesn’t have to be a big, challenging exercise – if a member of the care team needs to go shopping, we encourage a family member to join us, for instance.

Everyone’s Wellbeing

It’s not just about activities and what we do in the home, but also about how we feel and how we support each other with the emotions of our daily lives. This is in the family, but also in the team, and for relatives too. Person-centred means every single person. We need to understand emotions to understand why we see changes in people’s behaviour. As a manager, I need to understand and support the needs of the family and the team. The work they do under the daily pressure of the job is challenging and stressful, as much as it is rewarding. We need to look after the wellbeing of everyone in the family, and to do this we complete wellbeing checklists, have regular supervision and appraisals, which includes a person-centred appraisal we use to monitor that staff are following, and really taking on board, the family ethos.

We get to give them an amazing chapter in the journey of their life.

Believing In The Whole Home

Of course there are barriers, and we did have to consider all sorts of concerns, from dignity and infection control to resistance to change, but working in a way that is essentially a whole-home approach helps a lot – and this is from volunteers to the manager. Crucially though (and I know some of my AC colleagues will echo this), if the manager is not on board, it will not work. They need to enforce the changes with the help of their team, and be open to new change or developments that might come along, or that are considered a bit more ‘outside of the box’.

For our home, there is still so much more to do and we have a lot to implement still, but the whole-home approach is now embedded in the home, and staff follow the ethos. It is in our induction process for any new starters, so everybody is aware of why we do what we do. All the time, this is helping to improve the lives of everyone living with dementia and improving their wellbeing. We get to give them an amazing chapter in the journey of their life. We are so proud to be taking this journey with them.

Jill Hyland is a manager at Walmer Care Centre – a small home registered for 37 residents. She began her career in care in 2003, working her way up to a senior team leader and deputy, and then manager of the homes in 2010. She says: “I’m always learning and finding ways to improve the lives of the family who live in our homes”.