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Care homes need to be different

Caroline J Benham, Founder - Bright Copper Kettles CIC

By this, I mean that they need to be individual

- not the same as each other.

As a professional, I feel - no, I know, that we need a variety of lifestyles available for those in #lateryears (with or without dementia). We are surrounded with choices all through our lives, and each individual chooses their own path as soon as they may. Take a look at our school leavers, some stay close to home and choose a local college, local university, local job, get married and/or start a family (even staying in one place offers variety) others will travel for a year, go to a university miles away from home, even abroad, they may settle away or come back home.

Some choose the armed forces, whether for the discipline, structure or for the opportunities (of training or travel).

Their choices regarding housing are vast and varied too - in the city, in the town, by the sea, in the country. A flat, an apartment, a shared house, a cottage, a houseboat, a large modern home. Some will stick to their initial path in life, others will make changes (both small and big), marriage, children, divorce, new work opportunities, illness and redundancy, all open up new options, new ways to live our lives and can cause us to lose touch with old friends as we make friends with new ones.

We have a much wider scope for the way in which we may work or the type of work we do. Some crave company, others prefer to work alone. Some will prefer manual work, in a factory or outdoors, Some to work with animals, others to work in the care sector. Some prefer to work in an office, retail sector, teaching, the list is endless ( ask any student choosing their options for 'A' levels).

As we age, these opportunities, likes and dislikes regarding life style, do not abandon us (even when we are no longer able to express our needs). A variety of options is still open to us, stay at home, live with family, go on cruises, go to day centres, have someone come in to help, move home. Of course, not all of these options are available to everyone, it can often depend on the circumstances of our families and our own health. Moving into full time care is sometimes the only option available. This is why we must offer many different styles of living accommodation within that sector. Professionals must stop the disagreements about what is right and what is wrong.

We really don't want every care home to look and feel the same, the choice to move into a care home should be on par with choosing to down-size, or move into a bungalow, or ground-floor flat. A decision that we make because we feel it would be better for us, making it easier to maintain both our living areas and our lifestyle. If care homes weren't so scary, when they are inclusive of and included in our communities they become, more naturally, a place to consider for many older people.

Moving home is a huge decision, whatever our age. There will be ties to our 'old ground' and memories that bind us to our current homes. But, moving into a care home should hold that same excitement of a 'new start' and fresh living accommodation, whether we choose to take our own furniture with us, or choose a new look. - And the whole family should feel this. The home should have some familiarity about it, attending events and the invitation to drop in 'anytime' for a coffee before the move, open to anyone.

The feel of the home we choose is important to us, some may love the grand hotel style, others may feel it is 'too much' for everyday living, and prefer a more homely style, some may relish the idea of something modern and ultra stylish. For some the busy community centre feel will be welcome, but not everyone wants to feel that they've got to be ready to join in at a drop of a hat. The home owner(s), manager and staff should all be clear about the type of home they are running, the style of the care/support they are offering, and this should be evident to any visitors.

There is nothing wrong with having a corporate 'style' to care homes, but that should not include a 'clinical' feel to the individual home. Imagine, a mother moving from one part of the country to another, to be nearer to her family. She may have visited friends in her local care home and decided that is where she would like to be. Her son tells her there is a care home owned by the same company near him, when she visits, it looks very similar and has a similar vibe about it, she is happier about the move.

We need to ensure that the choices, as we grow older, are REAL choices, as varied as we are, and that the style of housing doesn't change once we move in (unless, collectively, we have chosen to make those changes). I can't imagine how it must feel to have moved in to a grand hotel style home, to wake up one morning and find yourself living in a theme park.

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