Tag Archives: care

Lessons in Loss 15: Losing Touch

This post is from Jamie. I’m not sure how we “met”, but we’re been exchanging comments and tweets for a while now. I feel like we’re on pretty much the same wavelength and his blog is an excellent source of giggles, book reviews and lovely poems. Plus he has an actual, real book! The Fathers, […]

Lessons in Loss 15: Losing Touch

Treasuring Work at 75

“I have seen many changes in the way older adults are cared for over the years, mainly focusing on patient-centered care. Also, there are now more housing options, programs for travel, volunteering and socialization.”

the National Association of Senior & Specialty Move Managers® blog

By: Jane Oderburg, Generations (American Society on Aging) , January-February 2022

I have worked in the field of geriatric social work for 40 years in a variety of settings: senior center, nonprofit mental health organizations, private psychiatric hospitals, assisted living, long-term care, dementia-specific facilities and a cancer nonprofit. When I was in grad school, there weren’t any courses focusing on geriatrics, so I learned by attending workshops, conferences and reading as often as I could. I found I had a preference for dementia patients and their families/caregivers and developed several training programs for family and professional caregivers.

I have seen many changes in the way older adults are cared for over the years, mainly focusing on patient-centered care. Also, there are now more housing options, programs for travel, volunteering and socialization. Of course, people are living longer than before, and most are living an active lifestyle. There were no separate…

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Vic Citarella attends a Belinda Schwehr workshop
Last week I attended a day workshop put on by Community Living Magazine led by Belinda Schwehr. It was entitled Adult Social Care Legal Developments. I had forgotten how much Belinda can pack into a day and I am not going to make any real attempt to relay the contents. If you or your organisation want to learn about social care law then Belinda must be the go to trainer.
To give a flavour here are just a few extracts from my notes before I stopped writing and concentrated on listening. You are always sure of a gargantuan handout from Belinda and note taking is superfluous. She is protective with her intellectual copyright but generous to her customers.  So here goes:
  • Legal literacy can only come from realising that every word matters. Hear here.
  • Social work is a surreal sector. Don\’t we know it – not.
  • Grey hair is good in social work. What goes round comes round.
  • It is not legally true that social services is for everybody. Its legally untrue then?
  • Providers can just stay firm and say \”no\”. If only
  • You can\’t moan about fees if you keep taking them and hide the true consequences. Easy to say.
On carers
  • Assessed eligible unmet need. It is people\’s carers who really give them choice. It is what carers are prepared to do. To work this out social workers need to be able to have grown up conversations for which they need to be legally literate. Who is doing carer\’s assessments? Anyone who provides any free support of practical or emotional use is a carer and eligible for assessment. Respite services are users services. Don\’t drive carers into assessment it is daft. Prevention makes more sense as only a few will give up. Necessary care what does it mean? There is no obligation to care. People cannot be made to care. Carers will not stop caring unless they think their loved ones will be alright.
On assessment, care planning and charging
  • Three things that would make your life better – in priority order. Simple advice for being assessed
  • People who know their rights will get more. Squeaky wheel.
  • When care is being \”mediaevalised\” then the law matters. This applies beyond care.
  • The care plan is the bedrock of the clients rights. You better believe it.
  • Outcomes-based planning without inputs gives away clients rights. Its the workers – how many, how long, how competent – that matter.
  • You can\’t charge for something you are not providing. Some will try it on though
  • Local authorities cannot charge the user more than services costs. Charging is not to be used to redistribute wealth.
  • People must not be left without support whilst a dispute is resolved. Shout it from the roof tops
  • Just because it shocks you don\’t think it will shock a judge. Shocking
  • Never say never…say usually. Words matter
  • Social services managers need to be good at the law in order to be strategic leaders. Or know someone who is?
Belinda runs regular webinars if you can\’t get to one of her workshops. Have a look at http://www.schwehroncare.co.uk/

A Major Oxymoron

Vic Citarella remembers the days before there was social care

Listening to former premier John Major sounding off about Europe on TV this week prompted a memory – one that could be completely incorrect, but nonetheless its mine. The recollection being that he was credited to be the first senior politician to publicly use the term ‘social care’ back in the 1980s. Anyway this was what was said back then amongst those promoting the standing of residential, day and domiciliary care workers. Those arguing for investment in status, training and recognition and the professionalisation of social care as distinct from social work. 

It is now 30 years since Major was Minister of State for Social Security – the most likely time when he would have made a speech about the care sector. In that time since 1986 the cause of professionalising social care has made little progress. It probably peaked with the creation of the General Social Care Council in England in 2001. The code of practice was about social care and the intent was to register domiciliary care workers straight after social workers. By the time the GSCC was closed in 2012 the idea of registering any social care workers was long buried under burgeoning bureaucracy and costs. It remains alive and flourishing in the rest of the UK.

Why is social care in retreat in England? Why did the former Social Care Association struggle with membership? Why do the one and a half million people who work in what we call social care still have low skill, low pay and low esteem standing? Listening to Major again something about his stance on Europe and the NHS made me consider the possible oxymoronic juxtaposition of the words social and care. Like, as in, was he a ‘caring Conservative’?

Consider how far social care is a truth particularly in our times of personalisation and individual care planning. Most people want their care to be private rather than social I suspect. Consider the contradictions in the need for companionship and activity alongside the need to go to the toilet, go to bed, get up, wash, dress and be fed. The one involves groups of people and the other is – or should be – just you and the care worker. Consider many people’s preference to have support rather than care.

Perhaps, with hindsight, it was a mistake to coin the term ‘social care’. Residential, day and domiciliary care had the benefit of less ambiguity, more exactness.  It still does – people know what you mean if you say you work in a care home, a children’s home or if you are a Home Help or work in a day centre. Precision in terminology can put pressure on politicians, be understood by the public and attract investment.  With that comes professional respect and standing for the practitioner.  So out with the Major minor oxymoron of social care and let’s think about the major key alternatives.

Self neglect – Jackie Hodgkinson asks: when does a social worker say enough is enough?

Self neglect is a term that social workers are very familiar with. It often causes concern for both professionals and concerned neighbours and family. I can recall, within my social work career, many individuals who chose to live at home, in a condition that was considered by professionals as unacceptable. Was this their informed choice and was it in the best interests of the individuals? This depends on who you ask?

What is unacceptable? And who are we as a wider society to define how someone should or should not live, often those individuals had been what were considered as “eccentric” or “a bit different”. Using the definition of mental capacity as defined within the Mental Capacity Act 2005 would deem these individuals to have capacity to make what we may consider as unwise decision. Within society we make judgements based on how vulnerable we perceive a person to be.

Champagne lifestyle

If a young executive chose to spend their salary on a champagne lifestyle and then could not pay the bills at the end of the month would anyone pass judgement on this choice? If that person was a 79 year old man with motor neurone disease who enjoyed betting on horses and sometimes didn’t leave enough money for 3 meals a day, home care providers would instantly contact social workers with a safeguarding alert or his neighbours would be stating that he should be in a home! And asking how can we let someone live in this way.

The public expect that the adult social care department should protect all from harm and danger, regardless of the capacity of the individuals to choose how they live. Social work teams receive many phone calls from families or friends stating “it is a disgrace how you let people neglect themselves you should do something to stop it”. This implies we have the power to impose services and support on any unwilling recipient. A greater awareness of our statutory duties and the limitations of these perceived all-embracing powers is required to educate the wider public regarding when we need to intervene.

There needs to be more publicity on positive risk-taking, where social workers actively promote the human rights of the disadvantaged. We often see the potential in individual’s strengths or protective factors within them or their lives, where others see only problems.

Risk averse

In these risk-averse times, it is important to hold onto the concept of choice and respect for decision making. In my opinion as a social worker, it’s intrinsic to what social work should be about and is core to social work values. This requires a recognition at all levels of management and within wider society.

The Department of Health official definition of self neglect is the inability to understand the consequences of that failure. That definition of self-neglect excludes the individual who makes conscious and voluntary choices not to provide for him or herself. The person who denies themselves certain (accepted) basic needs as a matter of personal preference and who understands the results of that decision is ruled out.

Self-neglect implies a lack of wilful intent. Self-neglect is an act of omission. There is no perpetrator. Unlike perpetrator related abuse and neglect, self-neglect is not treated as a wrong-doing or a potential criminal act. Capacity is a highly significant factor in both understanding and intervening in situations of self-neglect. Decision-making autonomy by those who have capacity is widely recognised and respected. There is strong professional commitment to autonomy in decision making and to the importance of supporting the individual’s right to choose their own way of life, although other value positions, such as the promotion of dignity, or a duty of care, are sometimes also advanced as a rationale.

Research into self neglect

SCIE Report 46: Self-neglect and adult safeguarding: findings from research, examines the concept of self-neglect. The relationship between self-neglect and safeguarding in the UK is a difficult one, partly because the current definition of abuse specifies harmful actions by someone other than the individual at risk.

The perceptions of people who neglect themselves have not been extensively researched, but where they have, emerging themes are pride in self-sufficiency, connectedness to place and possessions and behaviour that attempts to preserve continuity of identity and control. Traumatic histories and life-changing effects are also present in individuals’ own accounts of their situation

What can we social workers take from research? Evidence demonstrates that self neglect is reported mainly as occurring in older people, although it is also associated with mental ill health in both older and younger individuals. Social workers when assessing levels of risk need to take into consideration both the inability to care for oneself as opposed to the unwillingness to self care. The other key determinant is the individual’s capacity to make the decision and understand the consequences of this action. The social work response will vary, dependent on these key risk determinants. Professionals will have a tolerance to someone who chooses to self neglect as a life style choice, perhaps that is how they have always lived. I once assessed an older person who chose to eat out of date food to save money even though they had £500.00 in the bank. Professionals, understandably, have a greater level of concern regarding those individuals who have made life style choices but due to onset of mental impairment struggle to understand the consequence of those actions.

Comprehensive risk assessments are core to all interventions. A balanced approach is required to ensure we are not foenough is enough.

cused simply on keeping people safe at all costs; all risk assessments should be person-centred, taking into consideration previous lifestyle choices. They should promote independence, choice and autonomy. They should also be reviewed regularly. Care plans should be lifestyle sustaining. Potential harm has to be balanced with potential benefit. Working in a multi disciplinary team, virtual or otherwise, enables us to gather evidence to make those decisions about when statutory intervention is required. We should check things through a mental capacity lens frequently. The profession needs to engage with the public about people’s rights, the wider duty of care and when

Jackie Hodgkinson is an independent social work practitioner and trainer

Andragogy vs Pedagogy in residential care

Attending a major conference for residential child care practitioners last week in Cardiff it was rewarding to participate in sharing how theory and practice interact. Being a children’s event inevitably the topic of social pedagogy arose with those in favour and against expressing their opinions. Great that there is the space and confidence to do this. What passed through my mind was what would practitioners in older persons home make of all this?

A couple of years ago I had the same thought when undertaking some work on possible implications of social pedagogic thinking in the youth services. At the time I googled around a bit and discovered the notion of andragogy. Returning to these thoughts I am increasingly convinced that social care practice in older persons homes benefits from underpinning vision and clarity of theoretical models. Ideas around andragogy offer such a model based on self-directed and informal learning, the diversity of groups, adults as a resource for each other and the pursuit of self-actualisation.

Whilst andragogic thinking may sound a long way from practice reality it has the potential to give greater credibility to self-directed care and personalisation in care homes. Good practitioners know that choice, dignity and individualised approaches based on relationships is the right way to work with residents. For them practice is not about ‘task and finish’ but about ensuring a valued life experience. Andragogy offers the practitioner the theory to put these beliefs into practice. It creates a platform for debate and discussion to share good practice at conferences and workforce development events. It could create the same space and confidence for care practitioners in older persons homes to learn from the views and opinions of professional colleagues as residential child care demonstrated last week in Cardiff.

Educationalists debate differences between pedagogy and andragogy – between children learning from teachers and instructors as opposed to a more self-directed model for adults. Social pedagogy advocates that children grow and learn in different ways at different times – using hands, head and heart. Social andragogy could be shaped as the theory that (re) introduces lifelong learning, self-directed support, cooperative care and the benefits of group living into all forms of residential care including older persons homes. Find out more and google ‘andragogy’.