A Rose by Any Other Name

Sue McGuire asks whether values matter 

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being a bit over sensitive here but I suspect anyone who reads this page will agree with me that it is wrong for a care home to change someone’s name. So why – if it’s so obviously wrong do people do it without the flicker of an eyelid?

When my mother in law went into a care home 7 years ago it was only after a couple of weeks that we realised that some of the staff were calling her Renee. Her name was Irene. She had never been called Renee and in fact (I’m not defending her stance just stating it) she would have considered it rather common and would have objected strongly – when she had been capable of making any objections. We asked them to stop and it didn’t happen again.

I had honestly (perhaps naively) thought that care staff training had moved on and that wouldn’t happen now. But a few weeks ago I visited the friend of an aunt in the care home she had just gone into. My aunt and I asked for Pat and staff looked blank. Eventually it clicked and they said ‘Oh Trish, yes her room is just down there’. Pat has never been known as Trish in her 88 years. Pat has the power to object but said that the staff had explained there were too many Pats so to distinguish her they would call her Trish. So she just let them – mind you she thinks she’s going home, which I very much hope she can but it will depend how good the social work is. I feel the urge to put several exclamation marks in here !!!!!! and one WTF.

Why do I think this is so wrong and yet the staff in the home can’t see anything wrong with it at all? Values. That’s the conclusion I come to. I believe I have a strong sense of individual worth, dignity and the respect that is due to someone. How does that get measured when care providers recruit? Pressure to recruit constantly is massive. Vacancy rates and turnover appear to be high everywhere in the country. According to the NMDS data turnover is 25.1% and vacancy rates across the country 6.7%. Pay is poor. Conditions worsening with zero hours’ contracts becoming more widely adopted. Having the right values may very well be going to the bottom of the pile or requirements.

But the aspirations of the Care Act 2014 will never be delivered by people without the right values. That is a big message for the social care workforce across all job roles and sectors. How can you be committed to ensuring someone chooses for themselves, grows in independence and has care personalised to them if you think that it’s OK to change their name – especially when they are already confused and vulnerable?

No answers here – just questions. Where does this casual lack of respect start? How can it be spotted? How can it be changed if this is the workforce we have? Maybe I have to ask as well – is it just me or doesn’t it matter?